LED to enable agriculture 356 days a year in an urban setting

By Scott Patterson

Who says crops can only be planted on vast farms in the Midwest. It is possible to grow crops in isolated city warehouses without sunlight and soil says LEDinside. By implementing LED artificial light source, this innovative idea of urban farming has been developed and quietly making progresses over the past decades. Most of these urban farmers are used to be nonprofit organizations, schools and restaurants, but a new generation of city farmers is gradually coming into existence. They are business motivated with ambition to take a chunk of the profit of local food supply. With supermarkets in urban settings showing an increasing demand for safe, organic and locally grown food, LED lights’ energy efficiency and long lifespan making urban farming a growing new business idea.

Vertical farming technology solutions

It comes to our attention that a farm of such opened last September in Vancouver. TerraSphere, a company provides vertical farming technology solutions, have successfully grown lattice and spinach in an 8000 square-foot warehouse with a hydroponic system replacing soil and using high efficiency LED lighting as an alternative artificial light source. They are said to supply 8 supplies of Choices Markets, chained natural food stores in Vancouver.

These evolutionary unban farming utilizing the LED lighting technology is said to be clean, safe and eco-friendly. Now new indoor farms are scheduled for New York, New Jersey, Rohde Island and Ontario. The demand for locally grown and organic food is not to be ignored. With the advancement and improving LED lighting technology, without a doubt food despite its species and variety can be produced everywhere.

Finding spaces for grow crops will no longer be a problem, for that the America is full of abandoned warehouses and stores due to the current economic downtrend. According to the government approximately 11 of the commercial and real-estate nationwide are empty, statistically doubled the vacancy than 4 years ago.

Finding a buyer for your products are also fairly easy from Wal-Mart to Whole Foods, they have made selling locally grown foods a priority. Urban agriculture is a growing industry with high-tech greenhouses equipped with LED lights. Despite critics said they are afraid this trend will be short-lived and soon give in to their electric bills.

The application of LED lighting is the key to cut back electricity bill

It was considered too expensive due to the amount of light people underestimated to grow a plant, but this did not stop entrepreneurs from trying making urban warehouses into farms. The application of LED lighting is the key to cut back electricity bill. New LED lights are said to make big different in improving energy efficiency from 40 to 60 percent. This gives hopes to making farms factory-like where all the factors can be carefully controlled. This technology, if successful, is possible to produce food 365 days a year.

With $2.44 million funding from the USDA and equal amount contribution in service and equipment from industry partners, a new agricultural project titled “Developing LED Lighting Technologies and Practices for Sustainable Specialty Crop Production” has been grand to Cary Mitchell, a professor of horticulture at Purdue University.

This four year project is aimed to improve and evaluate the use of LEDs as an artificial light source in greenhouses. The ultimate goal is to improve greenhouse productivity and reduce energy consumption. The electricity cost of traditional artificial light sources (incandescent, florescent and sodium) in greenhouses can really add up to an astonishing number.

This project will provide specialty crop producers with the information, tool and technology they needed to grow successfully, maximize production, and produce high quality and market safe products. For example, a typical hardwired tomato can grow up to 22 feet in height and traditional light source have difficulty reaching the lower parts of the plants. The increase of light on the sides of plants can improve photosynthesis in flowering, and thus improving yield.

Roberto Lopez, an assistance professor of Agriculture at the Purdue University, point out that they will work with 20 different species of plants to test the ability of LEDs to establish new plants from cuttings and seeds because low winter light means producers need more expensive overhead light sources to establish new plants. It is important to learn the benefit and cost associated with using LED lighting.

To create specification of wavelength and color for farming

Having a set of standard for testing commercial lighting will be crucial. These researches aim to create the specification of wavelength and color best to establish new plants and transplants, and the best color and wavelength of light for different flower initiation on ornamental crops. As part of this project outreach, the result of this study will be provided to create LED products that meet these requirements.

Seoul Semiconductor and Philip Lighting have been reported to supply companies in New York, Canada, and Japan with red and blue LED lights for farming purpose. Another Project organized by Japan Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), said the purpose for these projects are to advance the application of LEDs for agricultural use. Incandescent, florescent and sodium lamps have been the prevalent choice for artificial light sources for agriculture. Use LEDs as an alternative artificial light source have been popularized due to its low electricity consumption and long lifespan.

By eliminating transportation costs and fertilizer, a 10,000 square-foot green house can produce $500,000 in profit and approximately 20 to 30 tons of food a year. This will produce for the food supply for the local farmers’ market, supermarket and corporate cafeteria. Locally grown food has advantage over farms in the Midwest by providing equally excellent quality and nutrients but longer shelf life.

According to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) official, deputy secretary Kathleen Merrigan, the specialty crop industry plays an important part of American agricultural and estimated to be worth approximately $50 billion a year.

Who says crops can only be planted on vast farms in the Midwest. In the future grow crops in abandoned city warehouses, rooftops without sunlight and soil will be a viable and prevalent option with the advancement of LED technology. “LEDs enable crop production 365 days a year” says LEDinside.

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