A Plan for the Future

The development of Light Emitting Diode (LED) technology has revolutionised the horticulture industry, particularly in high latitudes where sunshine hours are short, and less intense, and where commercial greenhouse growers are in a relentless drive to reduce energy costs and improve crop quality and productivity. Since its development for horticulture applications, the benefits of LED technology have been weighed in terms of energy efficiency and utility costs. Until recent times, little was known about the effect of light on plants, or what combination of LED light spectra to use to optimise crop quality and yields.

However, we are at the dawn of a new horticulture science with novel LED lighting research that is revealing ideal ‘light recipes’ for individual crops, in supplementary and sole-source lighting environments. This research has also led to light recipes that enhance flavours and nutritional values in crops such as broccoli, lettuce, tomato and basil.

In this issue, we take a look at this novel research by universities and research institutions, in collaboration with commercial growers and lighting companies. Of particular interest is the new Philips GrowWise Research Centre in the Netherlands, that promises to develop light recipes for any crop, an investment into the future of ‘City Farms’.

There are many reasons why LED technology in horticulture will explode over coming years; not least, because of the need to feed a growing global population, mostly located in urban environments. The need to reduce fossil fuels and energy consumption, and using less water to grow crops, are compelling reasons why food production in city farms will become commonplace across the world in years to come. They can already be found in Singapore, Manhatten, Chicago and London. In the aftermath of the Japanese tsunami in 2011, plant factories using sole-source LED lighting are a food lifeline for the population in regions where the soil can no longer be cultivated because of radiation.

In Australia, where there is an abundance of sunshine and space, LED lighting technology is more of a curiousity than a plan for the future. It’s difficult to see LED lighting surplanting natural solar radiation to produce important food and flower crops. With new legislation across several states to legalise cannabis production for medical use, sole-source LED lighting is the way to go in research laboratories and production facilities to ensure consistent, high-quality pharmaceutical products. LED lighting in plant factories will also find a place in the production of neutraceuticals for the health food market, for the same reason.

In this issue we have introduced an exciting new element to the digital magazine—video! It’s not a new concept, it’s been around for years. It’s mainly used in video game magazines and on websites. We thought we would try video inside the digital magazine to help illustrate some of our stories. Videos inside this issue give a progress report on a Flavorite glasshouse being converted to flood and drain nurseries, a tour of the new Philips GrowWise research facility, and a company explanation about the new Valoya LightDNA dynamic lighting system.

I welcome video stories for publication with a focus on hydroponic, aquaponic, greenhouse, IPM, plant management and horticulture lighting technology. For our advertisers who make this magazine possible, what better way to promote your product or service than with a video display advertisement that lasts in perpetuity—our 24-years of back issues are an industry chronicle and leading resource for soilless culture and protected cropping information. Supported local video file types are mp4, flv and mov. Mp4 offers the best compatibility for all devices/browsers.  Ω

Steven Carruthers

PH&G November 2015 / Issue 161