Kalera announced the publication of a new study, “Effect of End-of-Production High-Energy Radiation on Nutritional Quality of Indoor-Grown Red-Leaf Lettuce,” conducted in partnership with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. The Kalera-sponsored study found that by using high-energy LED lighting prior to harvest, red-leaf lettuce significantly increases the production of antioxidants and especially of anthocyanins, compounds in plants that may offer health-promoting benefits by protecting cells from free radicals — exciting news for health-conscious consumers. By only using high-energy LED lighting for the last few days before harvest, both yield and quality could be maximized indoors, indicating promising and cost-effective future practices for the vertical farming industry. The entire study can be read here.
While numerous studies have evaluated the effect of high-energy light as a means to increase nutritional quality of lettuce grown in vertical farms, most research has focused on providing constant light quality or quantity throughout the production cycle, which typically reduces yield or increases production costs. In this new University of Florida study, Dr. Celina Gómez, Assistant Professor of Controlled Environment Horticulture at the University of Florida, who led the study, evaluated the use of end-of-production (EOP) high energy light as a cost-effective, pre-harvest practice that can allow growers to manipulate product quality and increase market value of lettuce without negatively affecting yield.
“Dr. Toma approached me to discuss the possibility of leading the study, which resulted in exciting findings for the vertical farming industry and consumers of healthy produce alike. The objective of the study was to compare growth and accumulation of secondary metabolites such as antioxidants from two popular red-leaf lettuce cultivars grown indoors and exposed to different strategies of EOP high-energy lighting. In general, EOP with blue or high-intensity lighting increased anthocyanin content and antioxidant capacity,” noted Dr Gómez. “Considering potential implications on production costs, EOP with additional blue light is an effective strategy to increase the quality of indoor-grown red-leaf lettuce plants.”
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