Why Are So Many Indoor Farmers Crazy About LEDs?

Posted by Amy Storey on January 20, 2016

LEDs, LEDs, LEDs. Maybe it's just being part of a vertical farming company that makes me feel like I hear about them all the time, but I also hear pieces on NPR's SciFri and get articles on LEDs delivered to me through Google News discussing LEDs and their rapid evolution.

Altogether, the industry is growing an incredible rate, producing not only more LEDs every year but better quality and lower-priced LEDs every year. Imagine that a painter who has only ever used printer paper to create oil paintings is finally given a stretched canvas to work with. The potential of that painting he holds in his mind is suddenly three times as strong. 

This is how indoor farmers feel about the improvements made to LED technology lately. Each time a farmer can improve how he (or she) delivers nutrients or light to his crops, he removes a bottleneck that keeps him from getting more yield. (CO2 is an example that we've discussed before.) LED certainly improves light delivery to crops, and so removes a bottleneck for many farmers.

Not only do LEDs deliver light more precisely, but they come with some other fantasitc benefits.

As farmers, we're practically giddy with excitement. (Just look at how much Dr. Nate waves his arms around in this video. That should convince you of how thrilled we are!)

 

We're stoked that LEDs produce less heat.

Traditional lighting types like HID heat up filaments and gases to produce light. LEDs, on the other hand, are “solid state”: they consist of an anode, a cathode, and something between them that emits photons of a specific spectrum. Rather than using heat directly, LEDs function by a flow of electricity. They still produce heat, but much less. For indoor growers especially, even a small change in heat production helps. 

Read more: How heat, air movement, and layout interact.LED-lumigrow-closeup.jpg

When it comes to sturdiness, LEDs crush it.

LEDs are basically chips attached to an aluminum core board. This makes them relatively simple and wonderfully rugged; there’s just not much you can do to hurt them. This means that you can hang them, strap them, or ziptie them (see our Seedling Cart with LEDs) without worrying that they're going to fall and be destroyed. This makes setup a whole lot more convenient. We love being able to talk to a home grower or classroom grower on the phone and telling them that setting up lighting is easy.

Compared to other kinds of lights, which can be shattered or harmed even by skin oil, sturdiness a really nice feature.

The versatility of LEDs is headed in the right direction.

LEDs are versatile- they can be made long, short, oriented almost any way we want. (We use everything from LumiGrow Pro 325 to long LED rods like the ones that Phillips makes.) This means that your facility or equipment set up - whether it's vertical, horizontal, or some crazy layout- is much less likely to limit your lighting.

phillips-seedling-rack-led.png

Better pricing makes the future look brighter and brighter. Literally.

The one drawback of LEDs is that right now upfront cost is higher than other lighting types. We concluded that the low operational costs and the benefits of LEDs make up for the upfront costs, but you should do your own research to decide whether LEDs are right for your operation.

The great thing here is that even if LEDs aren't affordable for your operation today, that might not be true 6 months from now. Because LED manufacturers are getting better at what they do, and because more big players are moving into the LED industry, prices are consistenly dropping. 

In conclusion: 

If the benefits like reduced heat, verstaility, and sturdiness don't get you excited about LEDs, we don't know what will! LEDs are an wonderful opportunity that are growing better and more affordable each day.

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