How the right artificial lighting can improve your vertical farming set-up

How the right artificial lighting can improve your vertical farming set-up. One of the key components of vertical farming is the use of artificial lighting to provide plants with the energy they need to grow. In this blog, we'll explore how the right artificial lighting can improve your crop growth and productivity.

Written by
Paul Terrell
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How the right artificial lighting can improve your vertical farming set-up

One of the key components of vertical farming is the use of artificial lighting to provide plants with the energy they need to grow. In this blog, we'll explore how the right artificial lighting can improve your crop growth and productivity.

How light affects plant growth

Light is obviously one of the most crucial pieces in the growth and development of plant life. It's their primary source of energy for photosynthesis, and the intensity, quality and duration of light exposure can significantly affect the growth and characteristics of crops.

Blue light, red light and other light spectrum colours impact on plant growth

Blue light is essential for regulating plant growth and development because it stimulates chlorophyll and influences the opening and closing of stomata.

Red light is also important for photosynthesis and flowering, as it promotes the production of phytochromes, which are photoreceptors that control the plant's response to light.  

Red and blue wavelengths are essential for crop growth, but other light wavelengths, such as green light, can still play a role, contributing to the overall health of the crop.

White light contains all the wavelengths of the visible light spectrum, including blue and red light. Therefore, white light can be used for plant growth, but it may not be the most efficient light source for all plant species.

Light intensity impact on plant growth

Light intensity is the measure of the amount of light that reaches a plant's surface, and it significantly impacts plant growth.

If the light intensity of a growing area is too low, plants may become weak and thin as they are forced to stretch towards the light source, because they are trying to increase their light exposure to compensate for the low light intensity. If the light intensity is too high, it can cause leaf burn and reduce the plant's ability to absorb water.

Different crops will also have their own unique light spectrum requirements. Take as an example crops that grow leaves, such as spinach, they will require a lower light intensity to promote stem elongation and reduce leaf thickness. Compare this to plants that are grown for their fruits, such as tomatoes or peppers, which will require a more intense light.

Natural light vs artificial lights for crop growth

Natural light provides the full spectrum of light wavelengths, including the necessary blue and red light for plant growth. However, natural light is not always consistent, and it depends on the time of day, the season, and the geographic location. Some crops may also require specific light conditions that aren't always available in natural sunlight alone.

Artificial lights provide a consistent light source and can be customised to provide the specific light spectrum that plants require, whilst also allowing for year-round growing. Being able to control the light energy used for your crops, you can grow crops with greater uniformity and shorter growing cycles, leading to less wastage at harvest and the ability to meet fluctuating market demand.

How light is used in modern controlled environment agriculture

In controlled environment agriculture (CEA), artificial grow lights are a crucial factor that is carefully managed and controlled to optimise plant growth and yields. IGS takes CEA a step further with Total Controlled Environment Agriculture (TCEA). Offering you total control over climate variables, such as precise control of your multi-spectra lighting.

This total control allows you to customise the light spectrum to provide the optimal wavelengths of light at various stages of plant development.

Blue light, for example, is more important during the vegetative growth stage, whereas red light is more important during flowering and fruiting. By adjusting the light spectrum, you can encourage plant development, increase yield, and control crop quality.

The light distribution within a vertical farming system is also important for optimal plant growth. You can ensure that light is spread equally across all plants to avoid shading and to ensure that each plant receives adequate light exposure.

Finally, you can also control the length and amount of light exposure for your plants. Plants require a certain amount of light exposure each day in order to efficiently grow and develop. Vertical farmers can increase daylight hours for plants compared to the natural day through artificial lighting systems that provide extended and controlled periods of light, promoting optimal growth and productivity.

Vertical farming with grow lights

Vertical farming is the process of growing upwards in vertically stacked layers rather than horizontally along the ground like in traditional agriculture. Our solution (Growth Towers) employs patented technology in the areas of electricity, control, and automation to produce a finely tuned growing environment for growing crops and plants 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

At IGS, for our vertical farms, we don't use broad-spectrum lights, but rather narrow-band wavelength LEDs, which research has demonstrated to deliver the results we require. We use photon optimisation in our research and development to enhance and control the conditions for each crop variety.

Photon optimisation is the process of giving a precise lighting spectrum to the plant at each step of its growth cycle. Unlike many vertical farms that use white light throughout the cycle, our towers can have various coloured lights on each grower tray. This is due to the fact that white light is inefficient and has limited control and crop flexibility, which is why other systems cannot economically scale to industrial capacity like an IGS vertical farm.

IGS' patented three-phase power and management platform is extremely efficient. With three-phase balancing, our technology dynamically controls LED consumption. Simply put, the system only gives the precise light frequencies required for each growth stage to the plants. This also lowers power requirements considerably when compared to competing systems that use non-variable spectrum LEDs with a broad wavelength (white light). The airflow from the lighting strip vents actively cools the LEDs, increasing their lifetime.

Lighting is critical for influencing photomorphogenesis, which is the process of regulating plant growth through the use of light stimulus (in this case, LEDs) and the production of secondary and tertiary metabolites that influence flavour, aroma, nutritional quality, and, in some cases, resistance to pests and disease.

This can be accomplished with intense white lighting, but it takes more energy. White light also limits the ability to alter crop characteristics beyond what a fixed broad spectrum can accomplish. We use variable and precisely controlled wavelengths at IGS to influence appearance, structure, nutrition, and taste in an assortment of ways while using less energy.

Not only is IGS' patented three-phase power and control platform extremely efficient, but it also enables you to grow a diverse variety of crops predictably and consistently. The industry standard for kWh of energy per kg (head lettuce) in other vertical fields is 38.8 kWh. IGS Growth Towers use 11.8 kWh less energy than the industry norm.

To put this into perspective, here are the growth periods for different crops under IGS' three-phase lighting systems:

  • Micro leaf 3 to 8 days (average is 14 to 21)
  • Baby leaf 14 to 30 days (average is 25 to 40)
  • Herbs 13 to 38 days (average 45 to 60)
  • Lettuce (head) 30 to 50 days (average 70 days)

The time it takes for plants to grow varies depending on several factors, but this is a much improved time frame when compared to growing these plants in more traditional methods.

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At IGS, we are committed to providing innovative and sustainable solutions for vertical farms, and our Total Controlled Environment Agriculture (TCEA) system is designed to give you ultimate control over your crop's growing conditions. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you take your farming operation to the next level.

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