How LED is Lighting Up Trends in Indoor and Vertical Farming

By WPG AmericasNovember 13, 2018

The Future of Farming is Indoors

Besides planting fruits and vegetables in sunny fields, growers across the world are taking crop production inside to artificially-lit facilities, saving water and producing faster, high-quality yields. Agrilyst’s 2017 the State of Indoor Farming report found that indoor growers boast a yield 10-15 times higher than outdoor farms.

The increasing need to intensify production, rising consumer demands for locally-grown, non-GMO food, and a lack of arable land are some of the major factors driving the adoption of indoor and vertical farms. As a result, the indoor farming market, previously valued at USD 435.8 million in 2016, is now estimated to see a CAGR of more than 14% by 2023.   

The term ‘indoor farming’ is often used interchangeably with vertical farming, but it’s actually an umbrella term that covers everything from greenhouses to horizontal flood trays and vertical towers. Vertical farming, on the other hand, is a specific type of indoor growing facility where racks of plants are stacked vertically. This maximizes space utilization for growers, making this type of facility ideal for farming in small spaces and even in places where previously one couldn’t think of growing crops — such as old warehouses, shipping containers, and idle factory spaces.

Vertical farms are not only making urban areas fit for growing high density crops, but also increasing access to fresh produce in areas where they are scarce or expensive. The ability to set up vertical farms practically anywhere can lead to critical benefits like shortening of food supply chains and decreases in fuel emissions. This is helping in decreasing the environmental impact of agriculture as well as the time it takes for the produce to reach the consumer’s table — some reasons why vertical farming is being heralded as the next-generation of agriculture.

LED Lighting in Indoor and Vertical Farms

Indoor farms are based on hydroponic, aeroponic, or aquaponic systems, which is a reason why this type of facility is less resource-intensive. What these farms need, however, is to be set up entirely with horticulture light systems.

Although the use of horticulture light systems increases the upfront investment for growers, the low operational cost — thanks to reduced irrigation, chemical and labor expenses — and long-term savings, make up for it. Using LED-based grow lights can lead to further cost savings. Plus, for large-scale crop productions, LEDs can be a great long-term investment as they offer maximum energy-efficiency.

While energy efficiency is important, thermal performance is critical, as well. Options like HPS lights generate a lot of heat, and the excess heat can negatively affect plant growth. Because heat production by LED lighting systems is near zero, growers can place the lights closer to the plants without undermining yield or quality of growth.

The small size of LED lights allows growers to have tighter control over the amount of light each plant receives. By combining LEDs of different spectrum, intensity and lighting, growers can adjust growth cycle, manipulate plant growth, and increase resilience for plants of various species.

Despite the benefits, the cost of LED lights is a major deterrent for growers to use LED-based lighting systems in their facilities. but that is changing, too. With advancement in LED technologies and decreasing costs of switching to LED lighting for horticulture applications, the economics of indoor farming are looking more lucrative in the future.

To learn more about horticulture lighting market trends, lighting design considerations and the leading horticulture lighting products for your indoor farm project, download our new eBook — “Farming in the New Light”.