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High Tech Urban Farming Taken to the Next Level with LED Lighting

LED lit urban farms

An urban farm in London has been granted planning permission to build the UK’s first commercial-scale aquaponic urban farm, combining salad and herb growing with fish rearing in a 550m2 disused warehouse. The farm will incorporate a stacked vertical growing system with LED lights to grow the plants, and when complete, will produce over 20,000kg of leaves and 4,000kg of tilapia fish throughout the year, most of which will be sold to local restaurants.

LED Lighting and Urban Farming

Co-founder and chief executive Kate Hofman said: “Our business model is for a range of crops. We could make a lot of money just growing micro-greens for restaurants, but that wouldn’t meet the aim of providing healthy sustainable food in volume. The majority of the revenue will come from salads – 25 per cent will be everyday salad and herb mix bags to the local area.

Urban farming using LED lighting based methods are becoming more efficient, meaning that they could soon be mainstream in the UK. 2015 will see high-tech urban farming moving from demonstration projects to full commercial-scale developments.

There are other businesses in the UK that are embracing LED lighting too, including an aquaculture system combined with conventional greenhouse growing in Lincolnshire. And in Clapham in London, a company began growing hydroponic, LED-lit micro-leaves and herbs in a disused air-raid shelter last summer.

LED Light Based Crop Growing

Stockbridge Technology Centre has been trialling LED-based growing of a range of crops since 2012.  Its science director Martin McPherson says: “Plants don’t use the full solar spectrum and at times the intensity of the sun’s energy is damaging to plants, so energy is wasted protecting the plant. Instead, we can use specific selected optimised light wavelengths much more efficiently to provide bespoke light regimes for optimised quality production of a wide range of food crops.”

McPherson’s view of LED based crop growing for the future is positive. He continues: “Large-scale adoption will depend on the rate of success of the early start-ups but I am convinced that it can aspire to have an impact on UK food production, so long as we accept we may have to pay more for high quality year-round locally grown pesticide-free produce.”

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