LED Lights Poised to Revolutionize Food Agriculture

The U.N. estimates the human population will exceed 9.7 billion by 2050. Industrial agriculture, which relies on fossil-fuel driven machinery and harsh chemicals, contributes to the pollution of our waterways and aquifers. Climate change only adds to and exacerbates these existing obstacles: unpredictable weather patterns, flooding and ideal conditions for fungi and bacteria to thrive. Some would argue outdoor agriculture cannot provide the food needed for the future; for some crops, the best choice is to move indoors.

Growing Green

At Green Sense Farms, which began in Portage, Indiana, harsh Midwest winters do not prevent a yearlong abundance of leafy greens. The indoor farming pioneer provides fresh vegetables to grocery stores and restaurants, even partnering with the popular Italian market Eataly. “We take weather out of the equation,” explains the farm’s founder, Robert Colangelo, in an interview with Al Jazeera. “We’ve created groundhog day here. Each day is consistent and it’s the same, so we always get perfect plants every day.”

Green Sense Farms are laying the groundwork for an environmentally friendly future of agriculture by utilizing vertical racking and LED lights — an effective combination of intelligent design, cutting-edge technology and sustainability. They currently oversee farms in the U.S. and China, hoping to eventually expand into Scandinavia and Canada.

LED Lights Simplify and Satisfy

Anyone who has tried to maintain an indoor herb garden can attest to the difficulty of finding the right sunlight. Whether the light is too warm and direct, or your plants shrivel in the shadows, it can be exhausting chasing that perfect spot for photosynthesis. Furthermore, conventional incandescent bulbs do not offer the full spectrum of light plants need to thrive. While relying on sunlight has long been the only option since humans began cultivating edible plants, LED lights offer a new solution that empowers the farmer. Simply, it makes our role easier and results in healthier harvests.

LEDs are ideal for growing vegetables for a few primary reasons:

  • LEDs achieve a full light spectrum. This technology allows the grower to encourage flowering or help seedlings quickly reach maturity. At Green Sense Farms, agriculturalists have found the perfect light to grow a head of lettuce in 42 days — that’s 3 to 17 days faster than the average outdoor-grown lettuce.
  • If you’re looking to grow large quantities of food, LEDs are key. These lighting fixtures are able to provide an equal and high light density across square footage.
  • Traditional lighting technology often runs hot. This can result in burning the plants, as well as evaporating precious water. With LEDs, facilities are able to maintain a comfortable temperature and save water.

Feeding the Future

It’s undeniable that humans have had a lasting and devastating impact on our environment. Industrial agriculture has played a huge role in carbon emissions and pollution. But, thanks to technological advancement and an enormous push for sustainability, much more of our food may be grown indoors with LED lights and a smaller environmental impact. As more people move to urban centers, LED technology may bring fresh produce to the heart of the city, where it may have been previously hard to find.

Green Sense Farms, while playing an important role in this LED-driven revolution, aren’t the only ones who have caught on. One experimental indoor facility in Japan grows 12,000 heads of lettuce at a time under LED lights. At a supermarket in Berlin, shoppers can find fresh produce growing before their eyes in an innovative structure looking a little like a LED-lit telephone booth.

Growing vegetables with LED lights represents a revolutionary step in the right direction for agriculture, human health and the environment. It’s probably only a matter of time before most of the vegetables on your plate will have started off beneath the glow of LED lights.