Vertical or indoor farming is increasingly becoming one of the best ways to grow food in small spaces and is the future of modern agriculture. With so many options for lighting it can be confusing to know which is best and for what application. Here are some handy tips and breakdowns to help solve this puzzle.
What are the different types of Grow Lights?
A grow light is an artificial source of light, commonly an electric light, which is designed to stimulate the growth of plants by emitting an spectrum perfect for photosynthesis. Such lights are commonly used where there is a lack of natural light or additional light is required. It helps grow vegetables and fruits grow indoors as well.
In large scale, indoor farming operations, grow lights can completely replace direct sunlight. However, grow lights don’t always have to mimic sunlight exactly. In some uses, they can outperform sunlight.
There are three types of grow lights used for indoor urban farming these are - Fluorescent grow lights, HPS or HID grow lights, and LED grow lights.
1. Fluorescent Grow Lights. Fluorescent grow lights are used for growing herbs and vegetables indoors. They are two types, including fluorescent tubes and Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs). Fluorescent tubes come in many different intensities. They last longer and are more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs, these are the common bulbs that have been lighting homes for decades. Fluorescent bulbs are very thin and can easily fit into small spaces.
On the other hand, CFLs have become more common in household usage and not just in indoor urban farming. CFLs use only 20 to 30% of the energy consumed by traditional incandescent bulbs and they last six to eight times longer. They are by far the cheapest among all three major types of grow lights. One notable advantage with CFL bulbs is they don’t emit excess heat, allowing farmers to keep the lights closer to the plants. This low heat feature makes it very energy efficient as well.
2. HPS Grow Lights: High-Pressure Sodium (HPS) lights have grown in popularity and are overtaking fluorescent tubes and bulbs. These lights are more common among commercial and experienced indoor growers and the technology behind them is well established over 75 years.
The problem with HPS is that it produces a considerable amount of heat. As such, you must keep the lights a good distance from the plants. They require a significant amount of investment to set up and maintain. Therefore, HPS is not recommended for small growers.
3. LED Grow Lights:
LED grow lights are the most energy efficient among all three basic types of grow lights. These sources can be placed farther from plants while still producing enough light without consuming much energy. CFLs are almost 50% less efficient than LED grow lights. The heat production by LED grow lights is near zero. Most importantly, LED performs best to create a perfect indoor environment to create almost any kind of produce.
If you are new to indoor farming set ups and practices, CFL is the best fit. It is widely available in many wavelengths, and CFL is perfect for use at all stages of plant development. Less heat generated by CFLs too is a good advantage for small farmers.
But if you want to grow foods in large scale, LEDs can be good long term investment as they are the most energy efficient. The use of LEDs can reduce energy use up to 70%. In many ways, LED grow lights are way better than daylight for plants.
The Role of LED Grow Lights in Vertical Farming
The advances in LED technology have made it possible to create the perfect environment to grow vegetables at a large scale with shorter growing cycles and higher yields. LED is seen as the best source of lighting to create the most controlled environment for indoor farming. The advances in LED technologies have made indoor cultivation of vegetables very energy-efficient.
While most indoor farms use LEDs these days, many are yet to completely convert to LEDs due to the relatively high price tag. But the gradually decreasing prices of LEDs should help those farmers convert to LED as it offers a significant energy cost saving.
Lighting is the most important aspect of creating a perfect indoor farming environment. Spend enough time planning and designing the layout of your plants and lights.
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