Artificial Lighting in Vertical Farming

What is Vertical Farming?

Traditional, horizontal farming is being replaced by a method known as vertical farming, which entails nurturing crops on vertical surfaces. Farmers can grow more food on the same piece of land by using vertically stacked-up crops.

Types of Grow Lights

Plants need water, sunlight, and nutrients to produce food. Farmers use artificial lighting in the form of grow lights in place of the sun.

There are three major types of grow lights: fluorescent, HPS and LED.

Fluorescent Grow Lights.

Fluorescent grow lights come in two varieties, the tubes and the Compact Fluorescent Lights, commonly referred to as CFLs. 

 There is a wide range of tubes with varying brightness levels available. 

These bulbs are longer lasting compared to traditional incandescent bulbs, which were previously a staple in homes. They also use lesser power. 

Since they are so thin, they can easily be tucked away in smaller areas. 

The drawback of fluorescent grow lights is that they need a ballast for current regulation, and there must be a support stand.  These two plummet the installation cost, which may be beyond the reach of a small-scale farmer. 

CFLs, the second type, are commonplace in homes, not just in urban farming operations. Compared to traditional incandescent bulbs, CFLs use only 20 to 30 percent of the energy, and their life span is six to eight times longer. 

Since CFL bulbs don’t produce as much heat, farmers can place them closer to the plants. This low-heat feature is also highly energy-efficient. 

HPS (High-Pressure Sodium Lights)

HPS lights are taking over fluorescent tubes and bulbs in popularity. Commercial and experienced indoor growers use these lights more often, and the technology that powers them is well-established, having existed for more than seven decades already.

Their downside, however, is lots of heat emissions. Farmers are advised to keep the lights safely from the plants. 

They are ideal for large-scale farming, and small-scale farmers should avoid them.

LED Lights

LED technology dates back to the 1900s, but it wasn’t until the early 2000s that the red and blue LEDs ideal for indoor farming were discovered and developed.

As per research and vertical farming trials, LED grow lights are the most energy-efficient of the three main types of grow lights. Compared to CFLs, vertical LED grow lights are almost 50 percent more efficient. These grow lights produce close to no heat. 

They are the most effective at creating the ideal indoor environment for the preparation of virtually any type of food.

Vertical farming is well-suited to modern LED systems.

Today’s LED lighting solutions are perfect for indoor vertical growers in several ways. As previously indicated, LED lighting systems can be anywhere from 40% to 70% more energy-efficient than systems that employ HPS or metal halide (MH) lamps (two of the most common lighting types used in indoor farming). LEDs also have a far longer lifespan than other types of lighting. At this time, the standard LED bulb is expected to last roughly 50,000 hours of use or nearly six years.

LEDs and vertical farming are a fantastic combination for various additional reasons.

Crops are often grown in a succession 

of multi-layered, multi-level grow trays in vertical farming operations to maximize the use of available vertical space. 

Traditional HPS and MH lights, which produce too much heat, are not practical in these small spaces. However, LED lights have a lower heat output, which means that they can be used in vertical installations without damaging crops and can be used to scatter light evenly among the crops.

Due to LEDs’ significantly minimum heat emission, they can be placed near the plants, so it is feasible to “stack” plants in a growing space.  This is arguably the most intriguing advantage of LEDs: the ability to double crop output (or triple, or quadruple, or quadruple, etc.) without increasing the growing space size.

LEDs produce less heat since they radiate significantly less infrared heat as an output, which is why they are more energy-efficient.

One thing to keep in mind is that the height of the growing space is a consideration.

This type of stacking functionality is not possible with other types of grow lights.

There is no requirement to purchase reflector equipment to increase efficiency.

HPS/MH systems frequently require reflectors to help re-direct light illuminated to the walls and ceiling rather than toward the plants.

However, the price of LED bulbs is higher than that of the other two types. Indoor farmworkers must also wear eye protection due to the potential harm that LEDs can do to the eyes.

Vertical Farming and Conservation

Since farming is soilless, vertical farming conserves water and nutrients while reducing waste. In short, vertical framing makes it easier to keep carbon emissions down and make less pollution in the world.

Since standard grow lights such as HPS or MH lamps try to mimic sunlight, they end up exposing plants to more light spectrums than they require, wasting energy in the process. As a result of their ability to emit only the red and blue spectra, LED lights can produce that distinctive purplish hue by efficiently cutting out the unneeded wavelengths, saving on energy.

Most Appropriate Grow Light for Farming or Farmer Type

For beginners, compact fluorescent lights are the way to go. CFLs are available in a wide range of wavelengths, making them ideal for all phases of plant growth. Small farms will appreciate the fact that CFLs produce less heat.

On the other hand, LEDs are an excellent long-term investment if you plan to grow food for large produce. Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) can lower energy consumption by as much as 70 percent. LED grow lights are also superior to natural light in many respects.

Take-Away

When it comes to creating the best conditions for vertical farming, LED illumination is quickly overtaking all other options. 

LED technology has made it feasible to grow vegetables on a big scale with shorter growing cycles and higher yields because of its ability to generate the ideal atmosphere. 

However, the most significant hindrances remain evolving technology and start-up costs.

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