30 SEPTEMBER 2017 LEDsmagazine.com
lighting | HORTICULTURE
for foodies and chefs to ingredients not typically grown in the area.
When we visited the store, the product offering had already expanded quite a
lot. There was kale mix, mizuna, and some
additional herbs. Fig. 4 shows some red lettuce. The store stations an employee near
the store-grown display on a regular basis
to mind the plants and answer questions.
That employee said the produce department
is still monitoring what resonates with consumers, and with relatively short growing
cycles the local farm can adapt quickly.
Other container installations
The Central Market project is certainly not
the only container-based vertical farm in
operation. In the article we mentioned at
the top of this story, we covered an operation called Local Roots that is using container-based vertical farming in the heart
of downtown Los Angeles to supply local
chefs. That company has also contemplated selling fully-operational container
farms to others.
Still, Greentech Agro may have the most
experience in the area. The company was
partnered with the horticulture department at Texas A&M University for a few
years and worked with the university to
install two Growtainers. That relationship
has come to an end.
Greentech Agro also supplied two Grow-
tainers to the Community Food Bank of
Eastern Oklahoma near Tulsa. Those Grow-
tainers were funded by a grant and are
allowing the food bank to supply fresh pro-
duce all year long.
Perhaps the most interesting installation
was at the Spanish facility of the biotechnology company Bioibérica. As HortiDaily
chronicled, Behrman worked with Dutch firm
Stolze on the project located near Barcelona
( http://bit.ly/2vMmXiz). The biotech company is initially using the Growtainer to produce greens for its onsite cafeteria. But Behrman told LEDs Magazine that, long term,
the company is studying the capabilities of
container-based vertical farming and would
potentially use the technology to grow some
of the plants that are used in pharmaceutical
formulation in such Growtainers.
Still, it remains to be seen whether
hyper-local farming can compete with growers like Green Sense, who combine the scale of
traditional farming in warehouses with locations near the consumer. Green Sense has its
products in customers’ hands within 24 hours
of harvest, including chefs and through retailers such as Whole Foods. And the transportation distance is well under 100 miles.
Behrman, however, said Central Market
will consider adding Growtainers to other
store locations depending on the success of
the first installation. The grocer repeatedly
declined our request for an official interview. Ultimately, it seems that the entire
H-E-B chain would benefit from access to
locally grown greens. One thing’s for certain: The horticultural lighting world will
remain a dynamic and exciting space in the
FIG. 5. Spanish biotechnology firm Bioibérica may use Growtainers for plants that will
be developed into pharmaceuticals.
A new generation of farmers is leaning
toward LEDs for horticultural lighting.
Earlier this year, we’d written that
the Horticultural Lighting Conference
Europe in Eindhoven was a success in
attendance and participation, bringing
together academics, growers, and
professionals in the LED lighting supply
chain ( http://bit.ly/2umuHU8).
As Maury Wright has demonstrated
here, operations large and small can
benefit from applying
the science of SSL
to their horticultural
ventures. But suppliers
and growers still need
to learn and collaborate
to ensure that quality products generate a
quality food supply.
Novel ideas such as the container
farming method explained in this article
are placing new demands on lighting and
other systems that enable plant growth,
especially in smaller urban spaces.
Other needs are also clamoring
for attention in this expanding
application area — from addressing the
fundamentals of SSL for the grower, to
the more complex problem of how to
characterize and measure the utilization
of LED light for optimal crop benefits,
and what role UV LEDs can play in
establishing healthy, robust plants.
(For more background on UV LEDs in
horticulture applications, read a Q&A
with DNA Group’s Emily Vaughn on p.
44.) These are just a few examples
of how science and technology can
converge for incredible results that
extend beyond the business economics
of the LED and lighting markets — even
as far-reaching as a positive impact on
Look for that model of inquiry and
alliance to continue, and seize the
opportunity to mold the discussion
this October in Denver, CO during the
US Horticultural Lighting Conference
at the Denver Marriott City Center. ◀
— Carrie Meadows