Vale: Dr Keith Garzoli

28/11/1934 - 20/9/2010

Kieth GarzoliDr Keith Garzoli was a respected pioneer in greenhouse design, energy and water conservation technology. His extensive research played an important role in the development of an economically viable and sustainable protected cropping industry in Australia.

Graduating from the University of Melbourne as a mechanical engineer, Keith started his career with General Motors in the UK, USA and Australia before joining the CSIRO as a research scientist for a protected cropping program. Until then, the Australian greenhouse industry relied heavily on overseas experience and expertise, with a focus on Northern Europe where large scale commercial greenhouse cropping began soon after the Second World War. Keith and his team recognised early on that the climate in Australia was very different to that in Northern Europe and their valuable work led directly to better greenhouse design and management for Australian conditions.

During his time at the CSIRO, Keith carried out extensive research into greenhouse climate control and energy conservation technologies for greenhouse heating and cooling. He was awarded two degrees for his work in these fields – his Masters degree in 1970 for his thesis Glasshouse Climatology and Cooling Methods, and his doctorate in 1985 for his thesis Solar Greenhouse Design and Performance. In recognition of this work, he was awarded the International Horticultural Congress Trust Award in 1982. By the time of his departure from CSIRO in 1989 Keith was the Principal Research Scientist and Project Leader of its Greenhouse Technology Project.

Keith’s contribution to Australian agriculture and horticulture covered both the fields of water and energy. In the early days of drip irrigation, together with John Blackwell at CSIRO Griffith, Keith was researching the potential of the system for the watering of tomatoes during the 1969-70 season. Results from these trials were reported in 1971 and included the following description of the drip system used: “Trickle irrigation was carried out with a plastic pipe of 3/8 inch diameter, laid on the ground and running down the centre of each row. The outlets consisted of 0 .020 inch diameter microtubes placed every 2 feet. Each microtube was 2 feet long and 0.5 mm in diameter. Holes of 1/32 inch diameter were drilled at every foot of pipe. The output was 0.2 gph.” Drip emitter technology has progressed a long way since those days.

The installation of Australia’s first polythene film greenhouse at CSIRO Griffith in 1971 by Keith and John Blackwell was another highlight in Keith’s career. The demonstration of this protected cropping technology illustrated to horticulturists the great potential for a low-cost shelter, which could provide crop advantages both in terms of yields and earlier harvest times.

This led to Keith’s involvement in far more sophisticated greenhouse production facilities and solar greenhouses. A solar air heated greenhouse, using rock pile storage, was built at CSIRO Griffith in 1979, as part of a greenhouse energy conservation and solar research program.

Keith made a significant contribution to greenhouse technology internationally. His fundamental greenhouse environment and solar greenhouse research is recognised as an important foundation for research around the world.

In 1983 Keith presented to 250 greenhouse scientists at Columbus, Ohio, on the underlying scientific principles of how the greenhouse climate is determined and the way in which solar energy use can be optimised. This presentation was very important, as it laid the foundation for future research at a time of rapidly expanding research programs, many with an energy focus. It was a courageous effort by Keith as he dissected complex processes involved in greenhouse environmental modification and highlighted to the audience the underlying scientific principles involved. It was delivered with simplicity, clarity, authority and good humour. All traits of Keith’s way of doing things.

Keith also achieved an enviable reputation as a workshop organiser. In 1986 he organised an international greenhouse workshop to be held in Australia. This event attracted 15 international greenhouse experts from around the world, probably the largest group that has ever visited Australia. It was considered to be an outstanding success, both socially and technically. Australian tax payers generously subsidised the workshop, which commenced with a stay at Brendan Edwards (ex-AFL footballer) Health Resort on the Gold Coast. Very relaxing and very much enjoyed by our international guests. The workshop involved further meetings and seminars at Griffith and Burnley College in Melbourne. Under Keith’s leadership it was a fun event, but also very significant in terms of aiding the development of controlled environment production in Australia. Proceedings of this workshop were published, in 1996, as an Acta Horticulturae Number 257, which was edited by Keith.

In 1995 Keith received a Winston Churchill Memorial Fellowship. He studied internationally and was able to apply his breadth of knowledge and experience to a wide range of projects, including those for the European Economic Community and the United Nations Development Program. Before his retirement, Keith was Chairman of the International Working Party on Greenhouse Design, an initiative of the International Society for Horticultural Science (ISHS). In 2003 he was awarded the industry’s highest award for Most Outstanding Contribution to the Australian Hydroponics and Greenhouse Industry. Although retired in name only, Keith continued to act as a consultant for various companies and organisations in the greenhouse industry, including the Australian National University as a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Sustainable Energy Systems, developing energy-efficient solar heating systems for space heating, commercial drying processes and greenhouses.

Like most researchers of his day, Keith relied on government research funding, but when funds were no longer available, he carried on regardless, self-funding his own projects. His legacy to the industry is enshrined in his two books, Greenhouses (AGPS Press, 1988) and Greener Greenhouses (Casper Publications, 2003).

Graeme Smith, President of Protected Cropping Australia, said that Keith’s passing is a great loss to the Australian industry and his past research and support will resonate for many years to come.

“Our industry largely emulates the Dutch technology, however Keith made it possible for Australian greenhouse growers to better utilise it in our harsher climate.”

Keith leaves behind four children – John, Lyn, Karen and Anne – and nine grand-children. Vale Keith Garzoli.

By Geoff Connellan and Steven Carruthers