How can CEA growers improve energy eff.?

15-04-2019    02:45   |    David Kuack/GLASE

Researchers with the Greenhouse Lighting and Systems Engineering (GLASE) consortium at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., are studying the use of control algorithms to optimize the light used on controlled-environment crops while reducing the amount of electricity used to operate grow lights.

“These control algorithms that deal with lighting were developed over 20 years ago,” said research associate Dr. Kale Harbick. “Unfortunately, this technology, which was under patent until about four years ago, never achieved large scale commercial use.

“The algorithms are related to delivering a constant amount of light to the plants every day, which is called daily light integral (DLI). Controlled-environment crops like lettuce prefer to receive a constant amount of light every day. This enables the plants to maximize their growth and helps to avoid problems with tipburn, which can make the crops unsalable.”

Even though this technology is off patent, Harbick said some growers are still hesitant to incorporate it into their environmental control systems.

“As part of the GLASE research program we are putting this control technology into two commercial pilot facilities in New York,” he said. “We are going to run multi-year experiments so that the growers in those facilities can compare the performance under our control system with what they are currently using. Incorporating this technology, we are looking to demonstrate a large amount of energy savings for the crop yields produced.

“We’re specifically focused on lettuce, tomato and strawberry. The first two pilot facilities are growing leafy greens, primarily lettuce. Lettuce is the crop the Cornell controlled-environment agriculture group has studied the longest and we understand the best. Tomato and strawberry are newer crops to us so we are doing a lot of greenhouse experiments right now with these plants to analyze the relationship between light, carbon dioxide and growth. We have the information well established for lettuce, but it’s not as well established for fruiting crops. We would eventually like to roll out pilot programs for tomatoes as well. We have some tomato growers in the state who have expressed interest in using the technology.”

Harbick said New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), which is financially supporting GLASE, is interested in trying to meet greenhouse gas emission production targets. CEA has the potential to use a lot of energy. Any energy savings that the GLASE research can realize has a corresponding large reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

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Photo credit: GLASE

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