As Brexit and Covid bring food (in)security to the fore, glasshouse innovators confirm how LED grow lights could be the key to feeding UK consumers with delicious fruit and veg — grown locally. Signify (formerly Philips Lighting) shares learnings to address this.
Empty supermarket shelves, labour shortages, broken supply chains: Brexit and Covid have exposed the weaknesses within the UK’s food system. In August 2020, the NFU showed that the nation is only 64% self-sufficient in all foods, including 18% in fruit and 55% in fresh vegetables.
Shift to LED grow lights in the UK
With Brexit challenging “just in time” international supply chains, coupled with the desire for home-grown produce, artificial grow lights are reaching a new level of attractiveness.
In recent years, there has been increasing awareness and experience among UK growers in using LED grow lights and custom light recipes to significantly improve results for popular crops such as strawberries, tomatoes and lettuce. With LED grow lights you can increase yield, shorten growth cycles, improve quality, reduce energy usage and even steer certain plant characteristics.
For growers currently producing without lights, the switch to year-round growing not only promises the opportunity for increasing the value of their business by capitalising on the lucrative winter market but also streamlining administration and operations. Workers are no longer seasonal, meaning full-time contracts can be deployed, helping growers benefit from a more experienced team.
In order to take the step to year-round production, lighting is a key part of the solution. Here are some learnings that could be taken into consideration.
Nathanael Dannenburg, commercial leader, horticulture, Signify
Learning #1 - Light recipes
One big advantage of using Philips LED grow lights is that they come with tailored light recipes for specific crops. With a custom LED grow light recipe, growers have seen improved elongation in strawberry plants and year-round production. Next to that, large-scale growers have achieved significant energy savings by using LED instead of high-pressure sodium to grow vegetables or fruits in their greenhouses.
Learning #2 - Growing tasty tomatoes for supermarkets all year round
Growers such as FlavourFresh, who have to manage the high demands that come with supplying major supermarkets, are among those paving the way for LED grow lights in the UK. In the past few years, they have installed full LED solutions to keep growing tasty locally grown tomatoes even in winter.
“The lighting and heating work hand-in-hand to reduce the need for ventilation, which reduces the total energy requirement by up to 35%,” says Andy Roe, production manager, FlavourFresh.
Learning #3 - Summer sweet strawberries can be grown year-round
UK strawberry consumption has risen by up to 150% in recent years. This is great for strawberry growers, but puts more pressure on supply chains, which source 95% of their mother plants from continental Europe.
In the past years, large-scale greenhouse growers have achieved significant energy savings, crop results and year-round production using LED grow lights and a custom light recipe for strawberry crops. In the autumn of 2020, Dutchberries became the world’s first strawberry nursery with a full LED greenhouse. The cooler LEDs make it easier to maintain the desired climate, resulting in delicious strawberries, year-round. After the first full winter season under LED, 6-7 kg/sq m was harvested. These examples demonstrate the power of LED to make the UK food system more sustainable. Signify is excited to help drive these new opportunities with its Philips Horticulture LED grow lights.
For details, please visit: www.philips.co.uk/horti or email: firstname.lastname@example.org