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The Light Sabers of Growing Food – Hydroponic Grow Lights

At a recent conference with Protected Cropping Australia we were treated to several commercial farm tours.One of the farms which has been growing for well in poly and glass over a decade was experimenting with hydroponic grow lights for their crops. This was fascinating to say the least and certainly opened my mind to the use of hydroponic grow lights for growing crops in controlled environments. [heading] Hydroponic Grow Lights – The Future? [/heading] In these experiments they trialed, side by side some eight different types of lights, Halide, Fluro, LED. You name it they tried it. While specifics about the results were not made known due to some understandable commercial value to the grower, they were generous enough to give us the gist of their trials. To be honest I was amazed and impressed. The hydroponic grow lights were trialled in a closed container and out in the green houses with the same crops running the same nutrient solution and the difference in growth was stunning.  In the lights that worked better than others, the produce was greener, grew much quicker and denser. So much so the growth time for basil was almost halved. That is a significant difference and one the grower is taking to the next level. The need for growing with lights in a controlled environment where the local climate or natural environment is too harsh or hostile to grow food is understandable, like in space… Using lights to grow indoors in urban fringe areas close to market where farming land is not available and inexpensive warehouse facilities are available makes some sense provided the electricity/energy demand from the system is financially viable and sustainable. The use of LED hydroponic grow lights, to me, only makes sense if you can curb the electricity costs for production possibly through solar storage. On the other hand, light optics are being used with great results that may move us past the use of hydroponic grow lights into another realm altogether. One of the challenges with using hydroponic grow lights on the market today is, one the cost of replacement and energy and two most of what is available now will be obsolete in 12 to 18 months time. While I am not entirely convinced about the use of lights, especially in countries that have plenty or sunlight, I am optimistic some of the great minds working on these types of solutions will come up with something that has the balance of natural energy and sustainability, while maintaining financial vigilance. I think watch this space……

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