Philips lights the way for indoor commercial farming

Philips, in partnership with Chicago-based Green Sense Farms, has created one of the largest indoor commercial farms using an innovative lighting technology that consumes less energy while producing higher and fresher yields.

Food security and rapid urbanisation are the key global issues that Royal Philips aims to address with their new LED lighting, which is tailored to grow specific crops in a sustainable manner.

The global firm announced on Saturday that it has partnered with Chicago-based commercial grower Green Sense Farms (GSF) to develop one of the largest indoor industrial farms that uses Philips’ LED grow lights, which emit wavelengths of light tailored to the unique needs of specific crops. This will allow the latter to harvest 20 to 25 times in a year. This ability to increase yield means that similar indoor farms could become an agricultural model that could help farmers cope with decreasing land area for cultivation and a growing population to feed, said Philips.

The lights – installed in a million cubic foot climate-controlled area with 14 25-foot tall growing towers –  enable plants to grow without sunlight, an innovation which Philips says makes the technology suitable for use in indoor environments close to, or within cities. And because these are LED, which run at cooler temperatures, they can be placed closer to the plants and positioned well so that uniform illumination is ensured, Philips explained. This set-up also does away with the need for harmful pesticides and fertilisers, producing crops that are organic, they added.

Udo van Slooten, director of horticultural lighting at Philips, said: “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.”

“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,” added Robert Colangelo, Green Sense Farms founding farmer and president.

Philips plans to continue collaborating with GSF to work on different lighting needs for other various plant types, which the company will then compile into a database of ‘light recipes’. Meanwhile, GSF’s vision is to build farms in college campuses, hospitals, military bases and other institutions to cater to the food needs of large working populations, thereby increasing the freshness of food available to people, and reducing the carbon footprint generated from transporting food over long distances.

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