Greener greenhouses

C&I Issue 5, 2018

A German company is promising that its LEDs will slash electricity costs for greenhouse owners by 65%, compared with high-pressure sodium lamps – and better replicate the light from the sun.

FUTURELED’s new lighting kit includes a tunable control to program daily sequences of light and adjust brightness as needed for plants. Light sensors allow growers to turn down the light intensity dial on bright days.

‘Our system can be set at a certain intensity and will then automatically regulate the brightness of the lamps depending on say whether it is a bright or a cloudy day,’ says managing director Oliver Arnold. ‘The LEDs are special because the light spectrum closely matches that of the sun… the light source with millions of years of proof that it works well for plants.’

The LEDs also emit UV-A and UV-B, which is important for pollinators such as bumblebees and for bringing out colour and taste in some crops. ‘UV light is used for navigation by bees and other pollinators. This is important for tomatoes grown in greenhouses, which still must be pollinated by bees,’ Arnold explains. The company is working with scientists at Humboldt University of Berlin to study the effects of the LED lighting on bees.

Arnold says agricultural workers can also benefit as the LED light is more natural than the orange light in many grow tunnels with HPS lamps. For now, the system is being delivered to universities, but the company is working on a leasing model that will see growers pay a small upfront fee to use it.

Thomas Brueck at the Technical University of Munich, Germany, focuses on growing algae to generate lipids for bio-kerosene or cosmetics or valuable pigments such as beta-carotene. ‘We tested the new sunlight LEDs in the lab here and we found it was very good and it reduced our energy consumption,’ he explains.

‘The spectrum of light being emitted and the intensity of the light at low voltage is key for us. So light performance and energy input… is very favourable with this new LED,’ he added.

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