Food, glorious food… To help increase crop yield, modern farming has started adopting up to date technology. To increase the crop yield in an indoor farm, the crops are stacked. Vertical farming allows a farmer to plant more than ten times that acreage in the same area as an indoor solution. These vertical farms are already a reality in Japan, Singapore, Canada and America. The main requirement of vertical farms is each shelf needs it’s own light source.
Does your lettuce taste Red? Some food grows better in certain hues…
Given LED lighting consume less energy than any other light source and generate no heat, they are the obvious choice for lighting vertical farms. Research has shown that lettuce can be grown in just red light, but, it’s been discovered that by adding a bit of blue light helps the crop grow faster.
Caliber Biotheraputics in Texas has built a 150,000 square foot “pink house” mixing blue and red light and growing 2.2 million plants. By using bespoke LED lighting developed to match the photosynthetic requirements of the plants, they’ve found a near 20% increase in growth rate and a massive energy saving.
By using LED lamps in two colours and not the entire lighting spectrum means a bigger energy saving. By recycling all their water usage, the crops they’re growing use up a dramatically small amount of natural resources.
The other advantage to using LED lights is they generate almost no heat allowing the lights to be placed right next to the plants. Cary Mitchell and Celina Gomez of Purdue University designed a 9 foot tall tower of LED lights and grew a tomato plant right next to it. As the plant got taller, they turned on the higher light panels until, roughly 2 months later, they had a 9 foot tall tomato plant.
Some of these experiments are using LED lights to supplement natural light, some to replace it completely. Clearly there’s a long way to go in developing energy efficient ways of using LED light to boost crop growth in vertical farms and help accelerated crop growth in indoor facilities. However, these are just two examples of steps in the right direction farmers, academics and scientists are making that will have some great benefits to the food supply of future generations.