The Fruits (and Veggies) of LED Lighting in Indoor Farming
Any farmer will tell you that planting, growing and harvesting crops can be a tricky proposition. Too much or too little rain, a surprise cold snap, swarm of locusts, dramatic weather or geological upsets or just plain bad luck can easily destroy any healthy crop overnight. Access to healthy, fresh produce is essential for any community especially those trying to rebuild after a cataclysmic event. Recent innovations in LED technology have revolutionized the way we look at agriculture and opened new doors for providing communities with fresh vegetables.
After the Miyagi Prefecture in eastern Japan was hit by the powerful earthquake and resulting Tsunamis in 2011 it had been struggling to get back on its feet including providing its population with fresh uncontaminated food. Shigeharu Shimarmura, a Japanese plant physiologist got creative and using innovative LED technology and a repurposed semiconductor factory, set about building the world’s largest indoor farm.
The farm is around 25,000 square feet, and opened in July of 2014. Now it is producing nearly 10,000 fresh heads of lettuce each day. The LEDs used were specially designed by General Electric and emit light wavelengths that are optimal for plant growth. The LED lights are the key part of the farm as they simulate night and day cycles of growth.
Using this LED system, Shimamura is able to grow lettuce that is nutrient rich two and a half times faster than an outdoor farm. The closed environment also helps minimize waste, reducing it from around 50% (the average for outdoor farms) to just 10%. Additionally, the ability to control temperature, humidity and water use has made the farm extremely water efficient, using 1% of the normal water usage in outdoor fields. Shimamura believes that this technology can help solve foot shortage problems throughout the world. He plans to continue to work with this technology and bring about the next big revolution in agricultural science.
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