For more than a century, the global lighting major has constantly been busy in innovating ways that lighting solutions can be used for purposes other than illuminating spaces. Signify Innovations (Erstwhile Philips Lighting) has been developing ways to apply lighting technology to crop farming for over 75 years. With cutting-edge LED innovations at its command, the technology giant can offer custom-build a science-based solution to meet specific requirements.
With the aim to let optimise the growth systems with LED lighting for sustainable crop cultivation, a dedicated team develops customised light recipes for horticulture that combine crop growth knowledge with lighting technology. This approach allows growers to harvest a better quality and higher and more predictable yield throughout the year by using a light strategy optimised for their specific produce.
The objective is to develop and offer tailor-made light recipes that are meant for faster growth, bigger harvests, and higher quality plants. To know more on how this technology is picking up in India, we at LED World tried getting hold with Sumit Joshi, Vice Chairman and Managing Director, Signify Innovations India Ltd. He then responded to our queries over an email interview, the excerpts of which are here:
How are the acceptance and the scope of horticultural LED lighting in a country like India?
The world’s population growth and ongoing climate change are just two of the challenges that will have a major impact on food production and horticulture in the 21st century. A new scientific understanding of the effects of light on plant growth and greenhouse management can be a key contributor to safeguarding a steady supply of fruits, vegetables and flowers. These can now be easily grown indoors, thanks to technologies like horticulture lighting. As per a report by Mordor Intelligence, the horticulture lighting market in the Asia Pacific region is expected to record a CAGR of 22.7% by the year 2025.
Light is essential for plant growth and photosynthesis. Natural sunlight is the cheapest source available, but for horticulture it is not always attainable in sufficient quantities. Therefore, the use of artificial light has become very common in order to increase production and quality. Plants have a completely different sensitivity to light colours than humans. Every plant has its own sensitivity for colours and intensity of light. Using the efficient light sources for plants, effective light recipes are important to obtain the optimal results in plant production. This offers several advantages such as increased production, shortened total growth cycle, better plant uniformity and quality, energy savings and overall higher profits.
A growing demand for high quality, fresh and organic food and an increasing interest in sustainable farming solutions in countries with arid climates such as India have resulted in an increased interest in indoor farming techniques that use horticulture lighting solutions for growing plants. Furthermore, because of its economic feasibility and ability to serve as a possible solution to India’s dwindling availability of fertile soil or clean and surplus water, this practice of agriculture resolves many of the issues that challenge year-round growing. Combined with drought conditions and the vagaries of global warming, Indian agriculturalists are fighting a drastic reduction in the availability of locally grown food for India’s large and ever-growing population.
There is a viable market in India for these solutions due to its rapidly growing population that is ready to purchase hydroponically grown food. This customer market includes retail and hotels, fast food chains, railway catering, foreign food service companies, NGO’s, and defence establishments. These factors hint at a growing potential for such farms in India in the coming years.
What major challenges are coming in the way? What measures are you taking to combat the same?
One of the biggest challenges faced by this sector is the lack of awareness around horticulture lighting solutions and their advantages for indoor farms. While several indoor farms have emerged in the country, at the moment their understanding about the potential of using the right lighting solutions for higher production yields is fairly limited. We are taking steps to meet more and more customers to understand their unique requirements and present tailor-made solutions for them. While the industry has really grown rapidly in the western world, there is still a lot of potential for growth in Asia.
Which all solutions do you have in your kitty under this segment?
We have been developing ways to apply lighting technology to crop farming for over 75 years. With cutting-edge LED innovations at our command, we advocate custom-building a science-based solution for each requirement. Globally, some of the solutions offered by our company are:
Philips GreenPower LED Toplighting: This solution delivers a very high light output, while radiating less heat. This means light and temperature can be controlled separately from each other to gain more control over growing conditions. This product combined with our dedicated light recipes opens up new opportunities for every greenhouse grower to increase their quality and yields and move to year-round production. LED toplighting can shorten growth cycles, increase yields, reduce energy usage and enable more economic use of space.
GreenPowerLED Production Module: Especially designed for vertical growth systems, the GreenPower LED production module is the best solution for new or existing installations. Due to its high energy efficiency and long lifetime, the GreenPower LED production module is a cost-effective way to improve climate and crop control for indoor cultivation environments. It is optimized for closed, climate-controlled cultivation facilities, such as city/vertical farms, propagation and research centers that use multilayer growth systems to grow crops such as lettuce and other leafy greens, soft fruits, herbs and young plants.
GrowWise Control Systems: This solution allows growers and researchers to easily create and run custom LED light recipes to meet the needs of specific crops to improve quality, productivity and efficiency. The control system has been developed to work with the GreenPower LED production module “Dynamic.” It can be used as standalone system or integrated into a climate or logistic computer system to steer specific plant characteristics, from compactness, color intensity and branch development to flowering and more to improve results. With the GrowWise Control System, growers can give all the plants in their facility exactly what they need when they need it with just one LED system to enhance cultivation.
Who are your target customers? What steps are you taking to educate them?
We are in contact with a lot of indoor farmers and people in the food industry who are looking for new ways to produce healthy, organic food while reducing food wastage and their carbon footprint at the same time. Our customers are people who are interested in starting or upgrading their indoor farming facilities, who want to produce close to cities in a sustainable fashion all year round, while being able to maintain a positive bottom line. This is where we see our solutions playing an important role in propelling city farming to help grow the right quality and quantity of fresh food. By optimising cost per crop and focusing on the added value of the plants grown, we can help retailers and growers improve their offering for a growing and discerning urban population.
Have you supplied your lighting solutions to any of your clients recently? How has been the response so far?
Some of our recent success stories are as follows:
AppHarvest: Our solution helped the company increase its efficiency and boost yields using significantly fewer resources in their 25 hectares greenhouse in Morehead, Ky., USA. The greenhouse is fitted with a hybrid LED lighting system, utilizing Signify’s Philips GreenPower LED toplighting compact and Agrolux high pressure sodium lighting. AppHarvest will grow tomatoes and cucumbers in its facility, which will be completed in the second half of 2020.
Prime Delica: We are helping Japanese food supplier Prime Delica to grow high-quality lettuce varieties, spinach and coriander all year round using the Philips GreenPower LED production module range and offer customers of 7-Eleven, crops with higher vitamin levels and nutritional value. Prime Delica has been a longtime premium delicatessen supplier to 7-Eleven. To meet the increasing demand for fresh, healthy and pesticide-free food, Prime Delica built a new large-scale vertical farm in the city of Sagamihara in the Kanagawa prefecture, Japan. This new vertical farm facility ensures year-round supply of high-quality lettuce, spinach and coriander.
Jardins Réunis and Cheminant have both installed Philips GreenPower LED toplighting and Philips GreenPower LED interlighting in their new cucumber greenhouses in the Nantes region of France. The growers are the first to grow high-wire cucumbers with LED lighting in the country, showing their leadership as members of the Océane grower cooperative.
What are the health implications for food grown under such LED lights? Please discuss.
The production of high-value nutritional compounds like pigments and secondary metabolites can be achieved with LED Lighting. The horticulture lighting technology gives cultivators control over the kind of light that the plant is exposed to. As it turns out, vegetables grown using such technologies have softer leaf tissue and more uniformity than the vegetables cultivated in the field, due to the controlled production environment. Another advantage of LED light fixtures is that unlike sodium based lights, they do not have any heavy metals or glass. As a result, the plants produced under artificial lighting are absolutely safe for consumption, because no toxic contaminants are released into the air even if the LED fixtures get broken by accident.
Does the same light work for all types of plantations or different solutions are required based on the nature of the plant? Please explain.
We’ve studied the needs of wide varieties of plants and flowers and analysed how they respond to changes in lighting. This intelligence was used to develop what we call ‘growth recipes’ i.e. the ideal set of conditions for each of the varieties, to create the specific characteristics – including what makes them taste better, look better and in some cases even makes them healthier – as well as increase the yield. Lighting is one of the crucial parameters that defines the success of an indoor horticulture unit while others are climate, nutrition, irrigation, software and sensors. All of these factors come together in a scientific, data- backed manner for a tailor-made lighting solution.