This is our first guest blog post By Rory Wilding. Rory is Commercial Director at Which LED Light.
At Which LED Light we are big fans of all things LED and the applications of LED technology in horticulture continue to showcase just what we can do with light.
LED lights can be tuned to specific wavelengths. This means that hypothetically we can adjust light output to maximise plant growth, crop yield, and shorten growth cycles. On top of this LED lights use less electricity so are a more sustainable alternative to other indoor lighting options. To date growers have not made the full switch over to LED as there is still some confusion around performance and optimisation. Philips has engaged in trials with pink and blue LED lighting to augment plant growth with promising results in lettuce and strawberries. More investigation is needed to tailor standardised protocols so growers know the effective dose of light in both wavelength and duration for specific plant species.
There are instances of LED being applied in commercial settings by growers. 33 metres below the ground in London Growing Underground have used LED lighting as part of an urban grow programme to take the food from growing to restaurant tables in under four hours. The team raised £580,810 through crowdfunding in 2014 so clearly there is demand to see more sustainable urban farms like Growing Underground and Farm Urban.
LED lighting is not limited to growth beneath the streets, its perfect for other areas requiring a low energy option that can assist with plant growth, like space! NASA have experimented with growing vegetables in space using LED lighting to help astronauts meet their nutritional requirements in a challenging environment. With discussion of space migration from companies like Space X food security will become serious issue for potential space bound colonists with sustainability at the core.
Back down on the earth we are becoming more mindful of the damage pesticides like Glyphosate as research continues to suggest chemicals like this are neurotoxic and carcinogenic. Again LED lighting is offering an unexpected helping hand for growers who want to take an organic approach and avoid using chemicals with questionable safety profiles. Again with development harking back to a NASA. A spinout (who have driven brilliant innovation in the LED lighting space) called Lighting Science has developed pesticide technology based around LED light. Bug zappers to control insects are nothing new and have been in operation for years but this is a little bit better than that. The idea is known as a “photonic fence,” and uses lasers to identify and shoot down mosquitoes in mid-air. The photonic fence was designed to fend off mosquitoes which are a problem in the developing world as they spread malaria. Lighting science the fence could re-calibrated to target the wingbeat frequency of almost any flying insect. This specificity could allow insects that are conducive to a healthy growing environment to survive whilst removing pests that can destroy crops.
So from 33 miles beneath the streets through to outer space we can see that LED lights are having an impact on horticulture. It is still early in the development and application of LED lighting as a growing technology but we can see a bright, LED lit, future ahead.