There are a lot more vertical plane producers out there these days, and they have unique lighting needs. Theyre growingin unprecedented ways, and impacting their communities like we’ve never before seen.
And yet vertical farmers are still stuck using lights that are less than adequate in terms of coverage and arrangement, and paying for repairs in shipping and replacement costs.
Because we believe strongly in the impact that these unique farmers can have on their communities, we believe that they deserve to work with equipment that suits those unique needs. Up to now, however, vertical farmers have been forced to use lights designed for horizontal applications. This limits set up and maintenance, among other things, and represents huge costs and opportunity costs for the farmers!
Thats why we redesigned grow lights for the needs vertical plane farmers.
Having farmed using wrongly applied lights (lights designed for one application, but forced into a different application) for several years, were familiar with the frustrations and needs of vertical farmers. There are two important things that farmers need from their lights:
1. Complete coverage of plant canopies
2. Ability to fix lights without shipping them back to the manufacturer
Lighting for vertical plane production: Coverage
Coverage refers to how well light is distributed to crops, across the plant canopy, and penetrating through to lower leaves. Great coverage means that each plant and each part of the plant is receiving the light it needs. This results in evenly grown crops with consistent shapes, sizes, and coloring. When it comes time to sell produce, uniformly handsome crops make a big difference!
Traditionally, coverage was limited because grow lights had set angles, and coverage had to be calculated assuming a certain distance from crops. But vertical farms are meant to be flexible and are often tightly spaced. Big boxy lights with narrow coverage area limited how growers could hang and arrange lights, and made growing vertically awkward.
What vertical farmers really need are light bars to offer good coverage. Those bars need to to be double-sided if theyre going to follow the legacy of being space efficient. (Which presumably is pretty important to vertical farmers, who are growing in tight and unconventional spaces!)
Light bars need to be long enough to correlate with the height of the growing towers (7-foot Towers). They need to be able to be spaced closely to penetrate canopies and offer flexible coverage to different crops and crop sizes. This meant that they need to have broad light angles so that light would overlap. It also meant that they need low heat output so that they dont burn the plants that theyre close to.
So, we knew we wanted:
- Light bars
- Double-sided lights
- Long lights
- Broad light angles
- Low heat output
This seems like quite the wish list, and many wereskeptical about the chances that such a light bar could be designed. Thankfully here at Bright Agrotech, we have a habit of tackling problems that most people write off.
So we decided to design our own light bar — but not before adding a few more items to the wish list!
Our experience with grow lights not only made us long for a versatile light bar, but also for equipment that we didnt have to ship back to the manufacturer every time that something broke.
The next two items that we added to the vertical farming grow light wish listwere:
- Sturdy, rugged lights
- Lights that farmers can fix themselves
Lighting for vertical plane production: Tough to break and easy to fix
Before the conception of the CoolBar, we used a dozen different kinds of grow lights.
As we experienced traditional lighting in our farm, we grew frustrated with how hard it was to fix a simple problem with the lights. If one part of the light went out, we had to ship the entire light back to the manufacturer. We didnt like spending money on shipping a 20-30 lb light fixture every time something broke!
Adding a few weeks to every fix also impacted our production. For a few weeks, while we waited for the lights to be delivered to the manufacturer, fixed, and sent back, part of our farm wasnt getting light. That impacted our production levels, which is a huge deal to farmers trying to maintain a production schedule and deliver produce to markets.
When we started to design the CoolBar, we made it a priority to make it first tough and hard to break, and second easy to serviceby the farmer with just a phillips-head screwdriver.
To do this, we made the light bar easy to take apart. The boards of the LED are covered by a shroud that is capped at both ends. Take out the screws to get the caps off, and the shroud can be pried out fairly easily.
Remove a couple pins, click the new board in, and the board is good as new. Growers can identify a broken board, take the light bar into their shop and have the bar back in production ten or twenty minutes later. No loss in production, no expensive shipping costs.
Lighting for vertical plane production: Whats next?
The CoolBar broke through the conventional limits placed on lighting and did the impossible. If we can do that, then other limits to more profitable and more productive vertical farmers are obsolete. So tell us:
What is on your vertical farming wish list?
Leave a comment and let us know. Our R&D team will be reading through your comments. Your feedback matters to the development of cutting edge technology in the vertical farming industry.
Learn more about lighting for vertical farms
Artificial lightingisn’t a simple solution to find, especially when there are dozens of light types out there that claim different benefits and metrics. Let us help you understand the basics in layman’s terms.
In this guide, learn about:
- Types of indoor lighting
- Measurements of light intensity and how to use them
- How light-emitting diodes (LEDs) work
- Considerations of LED form factors such as box, panel, and bar lights
- Information from farmers, for farmers.