Artificial Light Versus Sunlight
Our climate is changing, and providing both the adequate quantity and quality of food for our rapidly growing population is an enormous challenge that Freight Farms and other Agtech companies are working to solve. In traditional agriculture, the sunlight provides energy through the process of photosynthesis for plants to thrive and grow. However, in order to increase agricultural production, artificial lighting in the form of LEDs (light-emitting diodes) present an incredible opportunity to improve plant growth, especially in areas in the northern latitude with limited access to sunlight.
Light sources, such as the sun or a light bulb, emit energy in the form of photons. Photons, along with carbon dioxide and oxygen are essential components in photosynthesis, the process by which plants convert light energy into carbohydrates and oxygen. LEDs mimic sunlight to provide the photons needed for uniform plant growth of photosynthetic organisms such as kale and other leafy greens.
The sun produces white light, which is made up of all the light spectrums. At first, designers in the agricultural industry experimented with grow lights that mimicked natural sunlight, but these early products had poor results due to the heat emitted by the grow lights and resulted in burned leaves. Using only the specific light spectrums needed by plants during their life cycle significantly cuts down on the amount of heat released by grow lights. Additionally, as LED technology advances, these lights are becoming more and more energy efficient and will only continue to improve as time goes on.
LEDs in the LGM
The Freight Farms' LGM is designed and built for cultivating leafy greens, so we use LED lights that produce the exact spectrum of light optimized for those kinds of plants. In addition, we use specific ratios of red and blue light for different stages of the plant lifecycle in order to maximize growth. Leafy greens such as lettuce, kale, and herbs, need more blue light during their seedling growth stage, and as they mature they need more red light in order to bloom. The seedling table in the LGM comes equipped with LED lights optimized for early stage growth (more blue than red light). Once the seedlings are transplanted into the crop columns, they receive a different ratio of red and blue light for mature crop growth. This section of the LGM comes with 128 flexible LED lighting strips that hang between each row to provide evenly distributed light to all crops in the growing columns.
Lighting schedules can be programmed based on the crop that is being grown, and typically mimic the hours of sun on the perfect summer day. If the crop you're growing does best with 18 hours of sunlight, you can program the LEDs to be in daylight mode for the ideal amount of time. In order to cut the cost of electricity, we schedule the farm's "daylight" during the off-peak hours for your electrical grid, so when it's nighttime for you, it's the middle of the day for your plants.
The (often overlooked) value of light
Whether your using LEDs, sunlight, or some combination of the two, it's important for growers to keep in mind the economic value of light. If you're only using sunlight, this is an easy aspect to overlook since it's a free natural resource, and most people don't place a monetary value on things they don't pay for. However, it's one of the main production inputs, just like seeds, nutrients, and water.
Controlled-environment agricultural technologies such as freight farming, other hydroponics systems, aeroponics, aquaponics, and greenhouse growing provide complementary methods of food production, particularly in areas with limited access to sunlight, limited space (such as urban areas, or spaceships), and regions with environmental conditions that are not conducive to food production (such as droughts, floods, unsuitable soils etc.) By decentralizing the food supply chain and bringing production closer to consumers, Freight Farms is committed to empowering any individual, community or organization to sustainably grow fresh produce year-round, no matter their location, farming experience, or geography.