03-02-2020 | | By Nnamdi Anyadike
The use of LED grow lights for horticulture purposes is growing in importance within metropolitan areas and a number of ‘smart’ lighting systems are coming on to the market. The world population has been growing for many years but much of that growth is concentrated in urban areas, especially in the new ‘mega cities’ whose populations are approaching 20 million. The advantages of LED lighting to cultivate crops in urban spaces where land and sunlight is scarce are obvious. Using specialised lighting, plants can be grown in a space-saving manner and with significantly more yield. A recent report from BIS Research said, “Artificial lighting is essential for running an indoor farm. LED grow lights offer energy efficiency, better plant growth, and more yields as compared to traditional grow lights.” Key players in the LED agricultural grow lights market include: Apollo Horticulture, Opto-LED Technology, Illumitex, LumiGrow, Everlight Electronics, Fionia Lighting, Grow LED Hydro, Sanxinbao Semiconductor, Syhdee, Philips, Netled, GE, Epistar, Osram and Valoya.
Osram GmbH, the Munich headquartered high-tech company, recently unveiled its new generation of LED lighting for horticulture. The ‘Oslon Square Hyper Red’, which Osram describes as “the currently most efficient LED for horticulture lighting” has a wavelength of 660 nm. It is capable of illuminating different plants with the precise light composition that they need. The company explained, “Plants mainly require red (640 to 700 nm) and blue light (400 to 490 nm) to grow and if they do not get enough, or the ‘right’ light, their photosynthesis does not proceed sufficiently.” Red light, for example, is necessary to promote the production of biomass. For applications with high-efficiency requirements, the Oslon LED delivers 78% efficiency with a driver current of 350 mA, or 80% efficiency at 250 mA. Yong Sheng Chew, Product Manager at Osram Opto Semiconductors said, "The significantly improved efficiency values help our customers to save energy and thus reduce the total cost of their systems." An added bonus is that greenhouse operators who have the earlier iteration of the Oslon Square, whose dimensions are 3.0 mm x 3.0 mm, will be able to integrate the new LEDs into their existing systems.
In January, Signify the new company name of Philips Lighting unveiled its latest ‘GreenPower’ LED toplighting compact production module. It is specially designed for a vertical growth system and can be used as either a new solution or existing installations. The company said, “The GreenPower LED module is optimized for closed, climate-controlled cultivation facilities, such as city/vertical farms, propagation and research centres that use multilayer growth systems to grow crops including lettuce and other leafy greens; soft fruits; herbs; and young plants.” Colour and light levels can be adjusted with the ‘GrowWise’ control system. The new GreenPower LED range will be available in the European markets as of the second quarter and the North American markets as of the third quarter. The launch follows on from Signify’s first toplighting compact that was put on the market in 2019. Udo van Slooten, Business Leader Horticulture at Signify said, “We’ve never seen such an enthusiastic response for a new product in such a short time. We sold over 100 hectares of toplighting compact grow lights in the first year alone.”
Also in January Barron Lighting Group, the parent company to Growlite the indoor and greenhouse horticultural lighting specialist, announced the addition of three new LED spectrum products: the GLE-GL ‘green LED’ vapour tight luminaire; the GLE-S ‘green LED’ exit sign, and the GLE-GL-RKU ‘green LED’ retrofit kit for horticulture lighting. Heather McCune, Vice President, Sales Operations of Barron Lighting Group said, “The new soft green LED product line has specifically been designed for horticulture applications to provide plant-safe, green egress, and task lighting.” The GLE-GL is a task light designed for safely lighting the dark cycle when growing short-day plants. It is available with a UL 924 compliant 90-minute battery backup option and features 1,069 lumens in AC operation and 715 lumens in battery backup operation.
Meanwhile, a recent study carried out by researchers at Rutgers University has revealed what it describes as information gaps in the LED lighting sector. Lead study author Timothy Shelford, part-time research specialist at Rutgers, and Rutgers graduate Claude Wallace said that while LED lighting can enhance plant growth in greenhouses, standards are needed to determine the optimal intensity and colours of light. The study recommends using a spectroradiometer, an instrument that measures light output across a specific range of wavelengths to calculate various light ratios. The researchers hope that their work will contribute to the development of standard definitions for specific wavebands (ranges of wavelengths) that are important for plant growth and development.
BIS Research projects the global LED grow lights market increasing at a significant CAGR of 23.15%, between 2019 and 2024. A key driver, says the report, is how to cater for the food needs of a growing global population, which is being made all the more difficult by global climate change.