How LED Grow Lights Can Help Improve Plant Production

As Brexit and Covid bring food (in) safety to the fore, greenhouse innovators are confirming that LED grow lights could be the key to providing UK consumers with delicious fruits and vegetables that are grown locally. Signify (formerly Philips Lighting) shares insights to address this issue.

Empty supermarket shelves, labor shortages, disrupted supply chains: Brexit and Covid have exposed the weaknesses in the UK food system. In August 2020, the NFU showed that the country is only 64% self-sufficient for all food, including 18% for fruit and 55% for fresh vegetables.

Switch to LED grow lights in the UK

With Brexit, which challenges international supply chains “just in time”, paired with the desire for self-grown products, artificial plant lamps have reached a new level of attractiveness.

In recent years there has been an increased awareness and experience among UK growers of using LED grow lights and custom light recipes to significantly improve results on popular crops like strawberries, tomatoes and lettuce. With LED grow lights you can increase yield, shorten growth cycles, improve quality, reduce energy consumption and even control certain plant properties.

For farmers who are currently producing without light, the switch to year-round cultivation not only promises the opportunity to increase the value of their company by using the lucrative winter market, but also to streamline administration and operations. Workers are no longer seasonal, which means full-time contracts can be used so growers can benefit from a more experienced team.

In order to take the step to year-round production, lighting is an essential part of the solution. Here are some lessons that could be considered.

Nathanael Dannenburg, Commercial Director, Horticulture, Signify

Learning # 1 – Easy Recipes

A big advantage of using Philips LED grow lights is that they come with customized light recipes for specific plants. With a custom LED grow light recipe, growers have noticed improved elongation in strawberry plants and year-round production. In addition, large-scale growers have made significant energy savings by using LED instead of high pressure sodium when growing vegetables or fruits in their greenhouses.

Learn # 2 – Grow delicious supermarket tomatoes year round

Growers like FlavourFresh, who have to meet the stringent requirements of supplying large supermarkets, are among those paving the way for LED grow lights in the UK. In recent years, they have installed full LED solutions to help grow tasty, locally grown tomatoes even in winter.

“Lighting and heating work hand in hand to reduce the need for ventilation, which reduces total energy requirements by up to 35%,” says Andy Roe, Production Manager at FlavourFresh.

Lesson # 3 – Summer sweet strawberries can be grown year round

Strawberry consumption in the UK has increased by up to 150% in recent years. This is great for strawberry growers, but it puts pressure on supply chains, which source 95% of their mother plants from continental Europe.

In recent years, large greenhouse growers have achieved significant energy savings, harvest results and year-round production using LED grow lights and a custom light recipe for strawberry crops. In autumn 2020, Dutchberries became the world’s first strawberry nursery with a full LED greenhouse. The cooler LEDs make it easier to maintain the desired climate and make for delicious strawberries all year round. After the first full winter season under LEDs, 6-7 kg / m² were harvested. These examples demonstrate the power of LED in making the UK food system more sustainable. Signify is excited to help promote these new opportunities with its Philips Horticulture LED grow lights.

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