Royal Philips and Green Sense Farms (GSF), a Chicago-area commercial grower, have partnered to develop one of the largest indoor commercial farms using LED grow lights. This farming method allows them to harvest 20-25 times a year by using ‘light recipes’ optimized for their produce and uses 85 percent less energy, Philips said in a release.
“Different plant types have different light needs and working with forward-thinking growers like GSF, Philips is building up a database of ‘light recipes’ for different plant varieties,” said Udo van Slooten, director of horticultural lighting at Philips. “GSF is using vertical hydroponic technology with Philips LED growing lights, enabling them to do what no other grower can do: provide a consistent amount of high quality produce, year round.”
Philips said that it has worked with research institutes, universities, growers and partners such as Hort Americas, which supported the installation of the GSF project, to meet a grower’s unique needs. LED technology has enabled the fine tuning of tailor-made light recipes optimized to the needs of specific crops, and since they run at cooler temperatures they can be placed closer to the plants and optimally positioned, ensuring complete uniform illumination of the plant.
Green Sense Farms has renovated and equipped a million-cubic-foot indoor growing area with fourteen 25-foot growing towers. Housed in two climate-controlled grow rooms, the company uses Philips' energy-efficient LED solutions tailored to their specific crops. According to the GSF website, the farm uses less water and energy than conventional framing and doesn't use pesticides, herbicides, GMO seeds or preservatives in its farming process. This results “in produce that is organically grown and virtually chemical free,” says Philips.
Proximity to local markets means the produce travels fewer food miles. “Our proximity means we can deliver faster and fresher, using less fuel and creating fewer emissions,” says the GSF website. The company also claims that in “one-tenth of the land of a traditional farm, we can produce up to 26 harvests per year, which means we can harvest every other week.”
“Through our joint R&D efforts with Philips, we continue to innovate and perfect LED lighting for indoor growing systems that can maximize plant photosynthesis, while minimizing energy use for the most delicious and nutritious vegetables grown in a sustainable manner,” said Robert Colangelo, founding farmer/president of Green Sense Farms. “By growing our crops vertically, we are able to pack more plants per acre than we would have in a field farm, which results in more harvests per year. We produce little waste, no agricultural runoff and minimal greenhouse gases because the food is grown where it is consumed.”
“GSF’s vision is to build farms at institutions, such as college campuses, hospital complexes and military bases that can serve large worker populations, reducing the miles their food travels and improving freshness” said the press release. In a video, Philips explains the need for urban farming — in 2050, there will be 2.5 billion more people than today with 80 percent of them living in cities and 70 percent more food required.
A similar operation has taken root in London, in the previously vacant tunnels beneath the city's Northern Line — Zero Carbon Food has set out to grow leafy greens, herbs and microgreens underground with the aid of low-energy LED lights and a carbon-neutral, renewably powered, integrated hydroponics system. The startup says the immediate benefit for Londoners is reduced food waste through increased shelf-life, elimination of food miles, bringing employment to inner cities and helping to reducing the carbon footprint of the capital.
Philips has also been innovating with LEDs in other areas — its new 40W LED bulb resembles a traditional, incandescent bulb in terms of looks and quality of light, but is designed to appeal to incandescent-holdouts.