LED Lighting in vertical farming

A 2 dimensional fudge for a 3 dimensional problem.

This week at the seminar at the RAU I gave an idea of what might happen with regards to lighting in the future for vertical farms.

For me when I see current LED lighting solutions, it is like going to a 2020 car sow and find out they are still talking of horse and carts from 1920.

Anyone in the industry knows that the cost of energy and initial CAPEX costs are a major holdback for the industry and yet despite all the advancements in LED lighting in other industries we are stuck with what shod be museum, pieces by now.

Current LED lighting is a ladder of losses and wasted energy, and light.

Converting AC to DC not only wastes energy but produces waste heat which we then have to pay to remove. Then we have the wasted energy turning electricity into light, sadly the waste does not end there, as we still have light radiated that does not hit its intended target which are the plants we are trying to grow. Any photon of light that does not hit a plant is wasted energy that we are paying ridiculous amounts for.

I am glad to see that we are now moving away from bigger and brighter lights as people finally realise that bigger and brighter is the wrong way to go and we should be concentrating instead on being more efficient in delivering the light we produce to the plant.

Even then we are using a 2 dimensional device on a 3 dimensional body of changing shape and size, and if a thorough PAR map was produced it would be found that the light intensity reaching the plant is grossly uneven, and even a few inches from the perpendicular there is a massive difference of light received.

Basically the current design of LED lights are highly inefficient.

So what is the alternative, is there even one?

Right now no, you are stuck with what is on the market, but in my humbl opinion that will change over the next 3-4 years.

Now that we realise big and bright is not the answer it is time to look again at OLED. They are bendable and shapeable which means we can get closer and get a more even distribution.

Yes they are not as efficient at the moment compared to LEDs but they possibly make up for that in being more efficient in delivering photons to plants.

OLED currently might be more expensive than LEDs, but they dont need huge heatsinks, they are cold and can run on 3v DC. I am also told their price is artificially to limit demand, how much that is true I dont know, but small OLED films can be mass produced far more easily than LED bars.

We are also coming close to mini and micro LEDs coming on the market which again can bent and shaped, and mass produced, and importantly far more efficient than current LEDs and OLED.

These alternatives makes VF economically viable for a wider range of plants, and also resolves the scalability issues caused by the limitations of the local power supply.

Just my thoughts, I might be wrong, but there is a very good chance I might be right.

This article on mini/micro LEDs is a must read.