Part 1 – lighting systems
As worldwide demand puts steadily increasing pressure on land, labour and water, more food and floral production is moving into greenhouses where controlled environments can improve productivity through evolving technology and management knowledge. By taking this approach, horticulturists can produce plants all year round and meet consumer demand for out-of-season produce.
As a greenhouse operator, you are constantly looking for ways to maximise your profitability and combat stiff competition. This calls for maximum energy efficiency – energy consumption is second only to labour in operating costs - and optimised productivity, or yield per square metre.
You can fulfil both these objectives by installing a suitably automated climate control system and by replacing outdated equipment. Technology is continuously evolving: energy efficiency is improving, and sophisticated IoT installations can lead to lower labour costs and increased yields.
Productivity optimisation depends significantly on effective lighting management. However, it is also essential to ensure that your greenhouse’s internal climate is constantly monitored and managed in terms of irrigation, temperature, humidity, and CO2 levels, and that its crops are kept free of invasive pests and diseases.
Greenhouse lighting schemes
A fundamental consideration for any lighting scheme, you decide to implement is the technology used by the luminaires. LED or LED/HID (high intensity discharge) hybrid lighting systems are of increasing interest to growers, because they offer the best reductions in energy consumption. They may also qualify for energy efficiency rebate programmes.
Horticultural lighting management is essential to optimal crop growth. With the right system in place, lighting schemes can be quickly and easily tailored, and lighting periods extended or amended to specific crop requirements. Some plants, commonly known as ‘long-day plants’, thrive on 14-hour lighting days, but they do not require full lighting intensity for the entire daylight period. You can make significant energy savings first by moderating your lighting output to appropriate levels, and secondly by replacing inefficient incandescent lights with LED luminaires: LEDs are not only more efficient while producing less heat, but also more controllable.
However, high-intensity lighting may be necessary for young plants to optimise their photosynthesis activity. Again, you can use LED technology here to reduce energy usage: it will provide high-intensity lighting which boosts the number of photons delivered to young plants, making them healthier and faster-growing.
You can also utilise supplementary lighting to increase crop production during times of low solar radiation. This is mainly used to ensure that plants flower successfully over winter, but can also be employed on cloudy summer days.
For more detailed information on horticultural lighting issues, including spectral power distribution as well as photon flux density, please see our ‘Good light for growing vegetables and fruit’ blog post.
LED installation support
Whether for supplemental lighting or other lighting applications, you want to be sure that your LED installation can facilitate consistent production and successful operation.
One possible solution is available from IGS. The company originally brought together decades of farming and engineering experience to create a technology business with a vision to revolutionise the indoor growing market through vertical farming technology. The commitment to innovation has continued apace and IGS has evolved the applications of this technology to create the Intelligent Grid – a product that is also suitable for greenhouse environments due to its robust, flexible, and future proof design.
While supporting and powering the LED luminaires, it can also accommodate a wide range of IoT sensors necessary for your lighting control schemes and other environmental management tasks. With its IoT connectivity, it allows you to set up your smart greenhouse environment.
Please look out for our next post, which discusses some other important aspects of glasshouse environmental control.
To learn more meanwhile, please visit our Horticulture and IoT farming page.