Often seen as the holy grail of vertical farming, creating the perfect plant recipe has baffled growers in their quest to achieve optimal crop yield while controlling costs. Now, there just may be the solution available.
Light Science Technologies (LST) established itself as a start-up just two years ago, and has wasted little time in establishing how to create the right growing recipe. So much so, it purposely constructed its own in-house laboratory last year at its Derby site, dedicated to the ‘art’ of plant science and spearheading the development of horticulture lighting and environmental technologies.
The lab, which opened earlier this month, has four fully equipped scientist workstations, and the company has not let the matter of coronavirus affect its objectives. It is one of the first in the world designed to allow its own scientists to continue working safely even through a pandemic.
What the lab effectively does is, through a test and replicate process, mimic a grower’s closed indoor environment and test new crops in its controlled environment chambers managing temperature, humidity and CO2. By running up to 12 concurrent trials in 6 chambers, a team that includes in-house scientists and top-level industry experts harnesses historical and real-time data to help create the right recipe.
Then there is of course the other vital element of light; specifically, the right light. This is often a grey area and can become a serious issue for many growers who are unsure of what the right type of light is for their requirements, as Simon Deacon, CEO of LST explains: “Without growers understanding their complete environment they can easily waste light and ultimately cost. That is why we offer a field visit to assess their environment, and provide practical ways to improve yield and reduce cost.”
Thanks to its specialists, LST can identify the right spectral wave forms and PPFD levels required for any species of plant or microbiology through its lighting systems and can validate the performance of a grower’s existing set-up or compare new solutions independently, using its own Quantum PAR Photo-Goniometer testing facility. Built inside a 22-metre bespoke light tunnel using its 2021 SSL Spectral Photo Goniometer, it can accurately measure PAR (400nm-700nm) Quantum PAR (250nm-1040nm) and CIE.*
Simon continues: “Lighting is one vital piece of the jigsaw but what about the other important parts? We analyse all the elements which constitute the optimal indoor growing environment, such as CO2, light, water, nutrition, energy, and temperature. It’s an integrated, energy efficient solution which also reduces CAPEX and OPEX cost. Our approach is to help grow better food and more of it, for less.”
What the state-of-the-art testing facility gives access to for CEA (controlled environment agriculture) farmers and the industry at large is a multi-faceted solution which lends itself to being a potential game-changer: not just recipe development for higher density and profit margin crops, but a pathway to industry-leading scientist s in different plant species and equally importantly, an opportunity to prototype new crops before investment.
“One of the biggest pain points for CEA farmers and growers is spending significant sums of money when they haven’t even got to that eureka moment of achieving the ideal recipe. What our lab does is help recreate the perfect growing environment before they commit to large investments.”
With food safety and nutritional quality as important as ever, this is also something LST recognises as being an important factor in creating the perfect recipe: “The question we get asked a lot now is “how do I know my crops are safe and that I have the superior taste and quality I promote to my wholesalers and supermarkets?” We can carry out simple and quick tests which are highly accurate in an independent lab to check for all types of food safety, quality and chemical contamination. \ This in turn provides peace of mind and total control over the growing environment.”