Philips has over 75 years of experience in horticultural lighting and is now applying its expertise in the field of vertical city farming. With this definition a fully controlled facility is meant, where vegetables and herbs are grown on stacked layers without the use of daylight in, or close to a city. The purpose of this method is to provide fresh, healthy, clean and locally grown produce. Drawing on its fundamental knowledge of LED lighting technology and the role of light in plant biology, Philips’ dedicated ‘light recipes’ – optimized to the needs of specific crops – help to increase yields, to provide fresh and nutritious food the whole year round.
Philips’ first commercial city farm project in Japan at Osaka University has been opened on September 17. This large facility in Tokyo will grow several leafy vegetables and herbs in a multilayer system lit by Philips GreenPower LED modules.
Recently another unique project has been started in the Netherlands. Philips is realizing its own city farm for research purpose on the High Tech Campus in Eindhoven. Here it will investigate further how diverse crops react in a high tech, multilayer and climate controlled environment.
Next phase – commercialization
In May, Philips carried out its first commercial full city farm project, installing a horticultural LED lighting system for Green Sense Farms in Chicago. Using tailored LED grow lights, herbs and greens are organically grown indoors all year round. Crop yields and quality increase, while using 85% less energy than conventional lighting.
And Dutch lettuce producer Deliscious is using a Philips LED lighting solution to grow lettuces from seed to full-grown plant within a closed environment cell for some years already. The cell contains seven lettuce growing layers, one on top of another – allowing Deliscious to grow crops with a constant quality in a sustainable way every day a year. The LED lighting system has also reduced water and pesticide usage.
Plants use certain wavelengths of light more efficiently and respond in a different way to different sets of wavelengths. Working closely with globally recognized research institutes, universities, growers, breeders and other partners, Philips is able to offer horticulturalists highly efficient LED lighting solutions with customized growth light recipes comprising precisely the composition of light that their plants make best use of.
By applying LED-based solutions with dedicated light recipes in multilayer stacks in indoor vertical city farms, growers will enjoy increased crop yields and reduced operating costs, while providing consumers with locally grown, fresh fruit and vegetables throughout the year.
A key role in Philips’ city farming approach is played by the company’s plant physiologists and technical application engineers, who have been trained in the key horticultural countries to provide full support to growers and breeders.
Philips is also collaborating extensively with technical and research partners to explore the use of light to influence factors beyond growth: things like a plant’s disease resistance and the nutritional value of fruit and vegetables.
“Indoor growing systems based on LED lighting can maximize plant photosynthesis, while minimizing energy use, for the most delicious and nutritious vegetables grown in a sustainable manner,” says Gus van der Feltz, Director of City Farming at Philips. “Growing crops vertically makes it possible to pack more plants per acre than would be possible with a field farm, which means more harvests per year. And there is little waste produced, no agricultural run-off and minimal greenhouse gasses because the food is grown where it is consumed.
“At Philips, we are open to serious partners who are already active in the city farm segment to see how we can bring this new business to the next level. We are also looking forward to discovering what else can be achieved through this new form of high-tech horticulture. We have already seen that we can increase the amount of vitamin C in tomatoes through the use of LEDs. And that it’s possible to grow new varieties. So we certainly have an interesting future ahead of us.”