An article in the independent highlighted just how a Japanese physiologist managed to turn a factory ‘into one of the world's largest indoor farms, cultivating lettuces with LED lights.' Shigeharu Shimamura the ‘head' of the operation wanted to devise a way in which man could create a food source that could keep up with the high levels of human consumption, all the while by passing the risks brought on drought, crop disease and natural disasters.
Speaking to the paper Shimamura said, "I knew how to grow good vegetables biologically and I wanted to integrate that knowledge with hardware to make things happen" - and things certainly did. On average the farm (which is about half the size of a football pitch) is churning out 10,000 lettuce heads a day (that's a lot of lettuce).
The room in which the lettuce grow is climate controlled, is powered by LED fixtures that emit light at wavelengths said to be best for optimal plant growth. Another great benefit of using this particular method is that it gives producers the power to control the night and day cycles. "We want to achieve the best combination of photosynthesis during the day and breathing at night by controlling the lighting and the environment" Shigeharu explained.
Led lighting used in this way could really have far reaching potential especially as the human population increases and our climate becomes more unpredictable. With the ability to control temperature, humidity and irrigation the lights most definitely serve a great purpose. Experts claim that this Light efficient design (LED get it?) in actual fact helps the lettuce to grow at two and a half times faster than those grown in outdoor fields.
The product of American firm General Electric (GE), the farm comprises of 17,500 led light bulbs operating on ‘18 cultivation racks reaching 15 levels high.' Bunkered down in their waterproof hub, the lettuces are well protected. The farm is also incredibly water - efficient too, cutting down water usage to 1% of that needed by conventional lettuce farms with same production rate.
It is hoped that farms like this could be used as a weapon against world hunger and food shortages. "Finally, we are about to start the real agricultural industrialization."
Could we be on the cusp of a new means of agriculture? If Shigeharu's plans are anything to go by then all our fruit and veg could most certainly be grown entirely indoors.
Speaking In an interview with the National Geographic Shigeharu went into great detail about the fruits (or rather vegetables) of his LED labour. In regards to food shortages, he commented, "Using this method, if we can build plant factories all over the world, we can support the food production to feed the entire world's population. This is what we are really aiming for."
For the full interview please click here.
Initiatives like this spell a step in the right direction, but. Phillips (global electronics giant) have partnered up with Green Sense Farms (GSF) based in Indiana. The green-fingered company (like GE) use LED lighting to produce herbs, leafy greens and of course lettuces. With sustainability in mind, GSF are dreaming big and growing even bigger.
Exactly what the future holds for global agriculture is anyone's guess but with project like this and others sprouting up around the world things are certainly looking a lot more greener for all of us.