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Budding New Business for LEDs

Philips LED bulbs with specially tailored light recipes are helping Dutch growers produce roses with longer, heavier stems and bigger buds.

These features command higher prices, so the new roses hold real promise for the indoor horticulture industry.  Philips’ new toplights which are being used to power the growth of the supersized flowers are very energy efficient, and the company guarantees they will last 35,000 hours.

Tunable LED lighting is increasingly being used to improve the appearance, potency, smell, and taste of plants, including fruits and vegetables.  According to a recent market research forecast from Technavio, the global indoor farming market will grow nearly 20 percent over the next four years.

This post is based on the LEDs Magazine article, Philips Says LEDs Make a Rosier Rose, by Mark Halper, April 17, 2018; and the Monitor Daily article, Global Indoor Farming Technologies Market to Grow 20% by 2022 (no author cited), April 30, 2018. Image sources: © 68/Ocean/Corbis; choness/Getty Images.

Discussion Questions:

1. How do advances in LED lighting technology stand to impact global food availability, sustainability, productivity, and quality?

Guidance: This amazing, sustainable technology allows food to be grown indoors in urban areas, increasing the availability of fresh produce amidst a growing global population.  Crops like lettuces can be turned multiple times a year without risks of damage from weather, insects, or chemicals.  The food industry trend of “clean” food, largely driven by the purchasing preferences of millennials, makes it a promising farming alternative in developed countries.  It also offers great potential in developing markets where dense, urban populations may have limited access to freshly grown produce, or that which is available must be transported in from agricultural areas.  Indoor, vertical city farming results in less transporting of produce and lower fuel usage, resulting in greater sustainability.  Indoor farming can also save on water usage, since evaporation is less of an issue and temperature and humidity can be better controlled. LED lights are also more energy efficient than many traditional artificial lighting sources.

Similarly to what was demonstrated with roses, food crops grown with tunable lights and specially developed light recipes produce higher yields and excellent quality fruits and vegetables, such as strawberries and tomatoes.  LED lighting allows plants to grow up to two and a half times faster than traditional growing methods.  Furthermore, automated packing systems mean no crop wastage in the packing process.  Some observers also believe that the recent legalization of marijuana in states like Colorado and California may result in indoor farms developing to meet increased demand.

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