LED advances challenge for glasshouse dominance

"We expect LEDs will take over in glasshouse lighting," Philips horticultural lighting specialist Esther van Echtelt told the British Tomato Growers Association conference. "By 2020, more than 75 per cent of new installations will use them."

The Dutch electronics giant announced a partnership with Cambridge HOK at the Four Oaks Trade Show last month as a route into the UK glasshouse sector. "One or two LED projects involving British tomato growers are starting this year," said van Echtelt.

However, she cautioned: "The energy saving isn't necessarily high enough to justify installation. But the range of light recipes is large and with the right spectrum you can control germination or get better young plants. And because they don't radiate heat, you can arrange them around the crop as you see fit. They are longer lasting and more robust."

The technology continues to expand in different directions within horticulture, she added, with Wageningen University & Research in the Netherlands currently looking into how lighting affects the production of vitamins in fruit.

Commercial developments include Dutch young lettuce plant producer Deliscious, whose new production unit, financed through a leasing deal with Philips, is being built this autumn.

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