Vegetables move up with LEDs in Iceland

If you want to grow commercial vegetables in Iceland, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to build a naturally lit greenhouse and pump in some of the country’s ample geothermal heat. Better yet, says Andri Björn Gunnarsson, build a windowless vertical farm, and pump up the LEDs. That’s what Gunnarsson and his company Vaxa have done.

Working with lighting provider Signify, Vaxa is growing lettuces, greens, and herbs across 17,200 ft2 stacked up and down six layers of racks in a 16.5-ft-high facility in Lambhagavegur, about 8 miles east of Reykjavik. The crops never see the sun while they grow.

Rather, they get their photons from Signify’s Philips GreenPower LED fixtures mounted roughly 10 to 12 inches above the plants. At that distance, conventional high-pressure sodium lighting would be unsuitable because, as a less efficient light source than LED, it would emit excess heat that would damage the plants.

Vaxa, founded in 2017, started construction of the 10,800-ft2 facility in 2018, planted and lit its first run on three layers later that year, and started delivering products to market in February 2019. It subsequently lit and planted the other three layers, all in 2019.

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