New LED strategies to make VF less costly
Added on 21 February 2023
The close-canopy and focused-lighting strategies developed by PhD candidate Fatemeh Sheibani and professor Cary Mitchell, both in the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture in Purdue’s College of Agriculture, capitalize on LED lighting’s special properties.
“One is that they are relatively cool at the emitting surface, in contrast with other lighting choices,” Sheibani said. Thus, the lighting system works closer to plants without scorching them. LEDs are also current driven, unlike many energy-intensive, voltage-driven lighting sources.
Their work is part of a project called OptimIA (Optimizing Indoor Agriculture). The project, led by Michigan State University, includes collaborators at Purdue, University of Arizona and Ohio State University. OptimIA is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Specialty Crop Research Initiative.
In vertical agriculture, produce grows using LEDs as the sole lighting source.
“It is the fastest-growing sector of controlled-environment ag,” Mitchell said. “There are new startups going on in urban and para-urban areas all the time, and worldwide.”
Fueled by an enthusiastic investment sector, the U.S. is a worldwide industry leader. But labor and energy costs, totaling about 60% of running an indoor farm, threaten the startups’ future. Inflation and rising energy costs have made an already fragile industry even more so. Startup costs are also high, both for land in urban areas and for LED lighting system installment.
Photo: Michael Gildersleeve, a graduate student in Purdue’s Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, works with lettuce plants grown under close canopy LED lighting to maximize energy efficiency and crop yield. (Tom Campbell//Purdue University)