Don’t let the lights go out

SOARING energy and fuel costs have a direct knock-on effect for industries heavily reliant on ‘keeping the lights on’. Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) growers are no exception – they are at the forefront of combatting such rises.

In this latest knowledge exchange webinar, CHAP aimed to provide an insightful overview of key innovations and technologies available for CEA growers to tackle current challenges and futureproof sustainable production.

Chairing the webinar was Dr Andreea Stroia who was joined by two industry experts in the field and Oliver Baker, CHAP’s Horticultural Research Officer.

The first presenter was John Matcham of Light Science Technologies, who spoke about how growers can and at present need to ‘do more with less’ by highlighting some of the latest developments in lighting and sensor technologies for indoor produce growing.

“Do we have to keep the lights on non-stop if there is no need? Utilising the minimum amount of energy throughout any season is possible in current indoor modern environments. However, this depends on how you can integrate all the various technologies and monitoring systems to complement what nature provides – this is how CEA works.

“Now, more than ever, we have more questions coming forward and with them new challenges. All these technologies coming together is wonderful and will enable growers to fill in the gaps where nature cannot and ultimately keep growing sustainable crops.”

Next, John was followed by Charlie Guy of LettUs Grow, who discussed the importance of reducing current energy requirements for crop production in CEA and highlighted some of the key innovations in the industry to help address this.

“The energy crisis has undoubtedly impacted growers and we have seen a number of vertical farming companies making substantial cuts or having to scale back operations.

“It is no secret that energy is essential for anyone working in CEA and there has been a rise in the adoption of renewable energy systems to enable price stability. The type of energy used to power a CEA farm is critical, not only from the economic standpoint but also for its sustainability.”

Concluding the webinar session was Oliver Baker of CHAP. He provided a guided virtual tour of the Natural Light Growing Centre and walked us through the benefits of Ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) in alleviating energy efficiency challenges.

“This prototype greenhouse was developed around ETFE and has already trialled a series of experiments highlighting its benefits. Not only does it allow the full spectrum of UV into the growing area which boosts crop yield and health, but it is durable, recyclable and has self-cleaning properties.

“With the UK’s food demands rising, there is a need for more greenhouses to be built. By utilising ETFE instead of glass, it will reduce the amount of materials and energy use for the controlled environment horticulture sector.”

To view a recording of the webinar, visit CHAP’s YouTube channel.

Interested in being involved in CHAP events, webinars or knowledge transfer? E-mail enquiries@chap-solutions.co.uk.

Light Science Technologies and LettUs Grow are both members of CHAP.