The science behind cultivating perfection
For a long time, creating the perfect plant recipe has been a mere pipe dream for indoor growers as they look to achieve optimal crop yield while reducing CAPEX and OPEX costs. While Controlled Environment Agriculture is still relatively embryonic in its development, already there has been an advancement in creating the perfect recipe for growers by utilising the ‘art’ of science in a lab.
Inside the lab
The word ‘lab’, especially in the context of growing food crops, often evokes the idea that there is some form of meddling with nature or something more sinister at play. As it is, there is still some way to go to fight the general misconception that vertical farming is just a bunch of scientists interfering with genetics. However, the only cloning taking place is the original growing conditions of a plant, rather than the plant itself, in order to solve the riddle of why, for instance, an indoor farmer’s lettuce yield just isn’t cutting the mustard.
It is now possible, through a test and replicate process, for lab conditions to effectively mimic a grower’s closed indoor environment and test new crops in controlled environment chambers managing temperature, humidity and CO2. The next generation of vertical farming is now a reality, and is where a team which includes in-house scientists and top-level industry experts can actually harness historical and real-time data to help create the right recipe.
What is the ‘right recipe’?
Firstly, it’s about the right light. Take LST’s lighting systems for instance, which can identify the right spectral wave forms and PPFD levels required for any species of plant or microbiology and can validate the performance of a grower’s existing set-up or compare new solutions independently, using its own Quantum PAR Photo-Goniometer testing facility. Built inside a 22-metre bespoke light tunnel using its 2021 SSL Spectral Photo Goniometer, it can accurately measure PAR (400nm-700nm) Quantum PAR (250nm-1040nm) and CIE.*
However, just having the right lighting is only part of the equation, in the same way that while wind shear is a key ingredient to a thunderstorm, this alone can’t create one without throwing moisture, instability and lift into the mix. Therefore, the analysis of all the elements which constitute the optimal indoor growing environment, including CO2, light, water, nutrition, energy, and temperature is required.
Yet, having a lab to help recreate the perfect growing environment is one thing, but financial commitment is another. One of the biggest pain points for CEA farmers and growers is spending significant sums of money when they haven’t even had a remote whiff of the ideal recipe. This is why it’s essential for growers to be given the opportunity to prototype new crops before investment.
A taste of the future
Both food safety and nutritional quality should also be key factors in creating the perfect recipe. Naturally, growers want peace of mind knowing that their crops are safe, as well as having packed flavour and superior quality to promote to wholesalers and supermarkets. Now, companies such as LST can carry out simple, quick and highly accurate tests in an independent lab to check for all types of food safety, quality and chemical contamination.
The wheel of innovation in indoor farming has only just started turning, and while the CEA industry will continue to evolve over the coming years, one thing that must remain a constant is our reliance on science to help grow better food and more of it, for less.
*Source: PAR (Photo Synthetic Active Radiation 400nm-700nm), Quantum PAR (Quantum Photo Synthetic Active Radiation) CIE (Commission Internationale de L'Eclairage, 01/01/1978 – the human visual perspective of light)
About Light Science Technologies
Light Science Technologies delivers lighting, science and research-proven plant monitoring technology and software in partnership with world-leading university research teams. LST works across multiple indoor applications including vertical farming, greenhouses and medicinal plants, delivering the right solution no matter what environment. LST has a real time monitoring and control, links technicians, farmers, and facility managers with their crops to provide instant production enhancement data. Its integrated technology solution for Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) applications for next-generation scalable farming helps customers grow more with less. For further information, visit: www.lightsciencetech.com.
About Light Science Technology Holdings
Light Science Technology Holdings Ltd brings together market leading controlled environment agriculture technology (Light Science Technologies) and quality led UK based electronic manufacturing (UK Circuits and Electronics Solutions) to help our customers grow more with less. It specialises in creating and manufacturing bespoke solutions for global clients across agriculture, electronics, audio, automotive, AI technology and pest control industries.