pH Balance: Health Benefits of Hydroponic Growing

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Readers, partners, and colleagues want to know where the name “PowerHouse” came from. In a nutshell it came from the pH balance required for optimum hydroponic growing.

pH: Power of Hydrogen

Our name PowerHouse Hydroponics was inspired while working in the indoor gardening industry, and was based on the significance of pH balance in our water to promote healthy growing. “Powerhouse” is synonymous with efficiency, strength, and authority. “Powerhouse” is also strongly tied to healthy food and living. These two elements formed the perfect representation of our vision to be the world’s best resource for food security through hydroponic growing.

At The Core

pH is an indicator of the level of performance in whatever is being measured. In our purpose, pH became an emblem of the healthy cultivation of plants.

Benefits of pH Balance

Proper pH balance can be seen as a restorative balance between humans and our food. A city infused with urban agriculture refines and softens the lines between earth and human by growing food close to where people consume it.

pH-balanced hydroponic solutions bridge the gap between the human need for agriculture and technology through sustainable, scalable, and tailored growing solutions.

With food security and hyper-local food production, we focus on those who will ultimately benefit from hydroponic growing.

Such benefits include closely monitored pH levels for optimum production, water conservation, decreased energy if applied correctly, improved social conditions and community, and enhanced health benefits.

Trending vs. Sustainable

Our instinctual need for strong relationships with our food in order to perform at our happiest and healthiest human levels moved us to find sustainable agriculture solutions. Living in the city, we need food production to be closer to home. Growing healthy also means implementing systems that will produce and will last.

Though we explore trending initiatives and innovative ideas, our message will always return to that which is at our core: sustainably integrating soilles urban agriculture methods into urban development. It’s vital to our future and the fate of our planet that we ensure a pH balance, and that our implemented solutions continue to improve the quality of our food, air, and essentially our health. 

Stocked with educational and solution-based information and stories, PowerHouse Hydroponics is helping cities, businesses, and individuals learn how to sustainably achieve their symbiotic pH balance for a more organic state of existence.

Organic Hydroponics as a Hybrid Growing Method

Walt Disney Hydroponics

Is hydroponics necessarily organic? Is there such a thing as organic hydroponics that produces strictly organic produce? Yes, there is, and it can, by using the hybrid farming method known as bioponics.

Bioponics can be defined as a “hybrid” farming method, as it combines hydroponics practices with organic methods in order to produce the highest quality food.

It might be difficult to balance between these two techniques, each seeming to be significantly unique. Hydroponics is a soilless growing method through which plants are grown in water using mineral solutions. On the contrary, organic production does not involve the use of additive chemicals or manufactured “petro-” fertilizers to feed plants, as they would rely primarily on the natural nutrients of the soil.

Bioponics, like hydroponics, is a soilless, organic production method that provides nutrients to the plants from biological sources – an organic hydroponics growing system!

Organic Hydroponics

The combination between these two elements (“organic hydroponics”) has been patented in 2004 by William Texier of General Hydroponics Europe. Texier did your years of research and testing to develop Bio Sevia, an efficient plant feed supplement that can be used in hydroponics and is certifiable for organics. Of course, the nutrient isn’t the only component needed to feed the plants. Indeed, a healthy, well-oxygenated, microbe-rich ecosystem is also required to activate all the biological processes needed.

Bioponics. Hydroponics meet organic

Bioponics. Image via GHE.

The Benefits of Bioponics

Bioponics is clearly one of the most sustainable forms of agriculture production, as it’s quite evident that its usage creates many environmental benefits, and its products have the same (or even better) taste, quality and nutritional values as the best organic soil-grown ones.

Advantages Provided by Bioponics

  • Organic product: no use of chemical fertilizers
  • Soilless production: less land usage and labor than is associated with soil production
  • Water efficiency: uses a closed-loop system and require less water than traditional or hydroponics production
  • High levels of nutrients and minerals: essential for the human body providing optimum health and performance
  • Reduced waste: the process recycles nutrients into liquid fertilizers
  • Microbial population: acts as a barrier against pathogens
  • Affordable: Bioponics requires a fraction of labor hours, water and expenses in “nutritive products” than does hydroponics

Integrated Food Production Techniques

Bioponics can also be integrated with other existing food production techniques. It can be used to make aquaponics more sustainable, allowing a system to supply its own feed to raise fish in order to eliminate the dependency on manufactured feed sources.

Bioponics represents a perfect example of how it can be possible to combine the existing techniques with the biological processes in order to provide a sustainable solution to address global challenges like the water and land scarcity or the waste issue, and at the same time produce healthy organic food.

These two agricultural foundations – sustainability and organics – have to be seriously taken into account by producers as they can provide a significant additional value to their production. In fact, there’s a fast growing number of people who are becoming aware of the importance of these two aspects of food production, and who are willing to pay a premium for it. The success of organic foods and the hastening of the development of new sustainable techniques in recent years confirms this trend.

Ultimately, bioponics offers a great alternative for producers, especially for the small-scale growers,  to carve out their space in this niche market. At the same time, it’s a good way for people to reduce their ecological footprint and make a conscious choice to eat healthy.

Organic hydroponics is growing..Featured Image: Walt Disney Hydroponics. Image via Antony Pranata.

 

DIY Organic Hydroponic Wheatgrass System (Plastic-Free)

A friend asked me if I could build him a hydroponic wheatgrass grower, but he had some specifications.

  • No plastic
  • No soil
  • All organic

No soil and organic was no problem, but I had to kind of break into uncharted territory with the choice of container.

As you’re probably aware, almost every hydroponic system, weather commercially built or DIY, is entirely made from plastic components. NFT (Nutrient Film Technique), DWC (Deep water culture) in all forms are mainly composed of plastic.

His desire to stay away from plastic made a lot of sense to me. The idea of growing healthy food in a toxic material that could leech chemicals is obviously a legitimate concern when trying to grow healthy food.

The first step in the project was to determine the best material. Something easy to maintain, wouldn’t leak, light-tight, and affordable, were the bullet points we wanted to hit. Brainstorming resulted in a BUNCH of ideas; waxed wood, welded metal, and glass – all of which would have worked, but were impractical for any number of reasons. Welding a custom container came up, but the price of a one-off weld job was out of the budget.

After about a week of thinking, it hit me! “A chafing dish”. It comes with its own stand, is light tight, non-plastic, and conveniently had a pan to hold the plants that fit into a larger pan that would serve as the reservoir.

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A chafing dish is used for warming food but repurposed as a hydroponic wheatgrass container.

Perfect. All we had to do was drill some holes in the pan so the nutrient solution could pass through to the medium and the roots could reach down to meet the solution as they grow.

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The pan that came with the chafing dish. Holes were drilled into it to allow for the nutrient solution to flow through.

The next step was to lock down the growing medium. We even looked into the idea of not using any (which we had seen online a few times). But the obvious choice was coconut mat. It would hold enough moisture to keep the roots happy and be able to wick just enough water to germinate the seeds.

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Coconut mat used as the wheatgrass grow medium.

We cut a piece of mat that fit perfectly into the pan and filled the reservoir up until the solution was 2mm above the bottom of the pan.

An airpump was installed and an airstone placed into the reservoir to provide oxygen to the roots for faster absorption of the nutrient solution. We used a silicone hose to keep everything plastic-free.

The easiest part was the nutrients. General Organics makes a great line of organic hydroponic fertilizer. We simply mixed per the manufacturer’s instruction for CalMag, Bio Root, and Bio-Thrive for seedlings.

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A line of organic nutrients from General Organics.

We soaked the seeds overnight in ph balanced water to speed up the germination process then spread the germinated seeds on the coconut mat. Placing the lid of the chafing dish on the system provided some dark for the first day of germination.

After the seeds fully sprouted we popped the top off and put the unit in a windowsill.

We were amazed at the growth. Seed to harvest took just six days. The volume of the system allowed for about six servings of weatgrass juice. As one “Patch” is harvested, new seeds can be placed in that open area, creating a perpetual system.

Hydroponic-gardening-Wheatgrass-system

The final result – an organic and plastic-free hydroponic wheatgrass system.

Needless to say, my friend was very happy and has more wheatgrass than he can handle.

Components Used and Approximate Prices

  • Chafing dish with lid – $17.49
  • Coconut mat – $12.00
  • Airpump and airstone – $17.99
  • Nutrients ( 1 year supply) – Bio Root – $19.00 – CaMg+ – $20 – BioThrive – $20
  • Seeds – $5.00

Total: $111.48

Have you built a similar or unique hydroponic garden? Send us your system and it could be featured on PowerHouse Hydroponics.

On-Site Soilless Gardening for Restaurants

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With local food growing as a concern for many urban residents, restaurants are beginning to respond to consumer demands. By hyper-locally growing organic food, restaurants not only attract and retain a new and growing customer base, but they also feel positive economic impacts of this practice too. By growing their own produce, “Roof-to-Table” restaurants can feel major savings in their supply costs.

Benefits of On-Site Soilless Gardening for Restaurants

An initial investment of course must be made to design, install, and operate a soilless garden or greenhouse in a restaurant. Over time however, the restaurants performing their own urban agriculture will start to feel the return.

Not only is the food fresher and of better quality, but the peripheral benefits of on-site soilless gardening for restaurants also include a noticeable improvement in indoor air conditions. All of these small impacts lead to creating a better overall customer dining experience.

On-Site Soilless Gardening Systems for Restaurants

The Urban Cultivator is a product specially designed to support restauranteurs who wish to capitalize on the on-site soilless gardening practice. This free-standing, controlled hydroponic garden allows chefs to harvest their own micro-green supply mere steps away from their customers.

Aeroponic Gardening for Restaurants

Another practical method for on-site soilless gardening for restaurants is by way of aeroponic tower gardens. Bell, Book, and Candle is a restaurant in New York City that prides itself on it rooftop garden. Throughout the year the restaurant harvests over 30 different varieties of herbs, greens, and other produce. The 60 aeroponic tower gardens help the restaurant reduce their own carbon footprint by limiting their reliance on importing food from surrounding areas.

Indoor Hydroponic Gardening for Restaurants

Nana in Chicago, is a restaurant that prides itself on being locally and sustainably sourced. To proves it commitment to urban food production, the restaurant installed its own 100 square-foot hydroponic garden in the building’s basement. Here they are able to harvest their own greens and herbs offering their clientele the freshness they demand.

New Product: Art Garden Brings Families Together Over Food

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As the consumer demand for sustainable food security solutions continues to rise so do the available at-home gardening systems. Many of these systems provide families and individuals with the opportunity to cut down their grocery bills, take charge of their health and nutrition, and experience the positive effects of growing your own food. Additionally, these systems today are designed for your convenience, by maximizing space and saving on water and energy costs.

One of the newest gardening solutions on the scene is the Art Garden – a vertically designed soilless growing system that uses aeroponic technology to produce more crops in a smaller space. The Art Garden has the potential to grow up to 90 plants in just 4 square feet of space. Developed by the husband and wife team Benjamin and Sara Staffeldt, the Art Garden fills the need that a growing number of families have not only for better nutritional options for their children, but for supplemental income as well.

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Sara and Benjamin Staffedlt, creators of the Art Garden, believe that growing food is an important way to bring families together.

In fact, family is the primary drive behind the creation of the Art Garden. As a young couple, the Staffeldts are looking to design their lifestyle so that it may be focused on the raising of their family in a healthy and positive setting. Gardening and producing your own food is truly an ideal foundation from which they can make their vision a reality.

“This system is about family staying together and creating income together.”

The efficiency of the Art Garden allows Benjamin and Sara to produce enough food that they are able to rely on its sales as supplemental income. Despite the cold Wisconsin climate, the family can continue to grow year-round with the Art Garden even in less than ideal conditions. The Art Garden’s light refracting technology allows them to recreate a spectrum of light necessary to produce healthy yields faster.

Believing in the solutions and benefits they’ve created through the Art Garden, the Staffeldts have launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise capital in order to increase production and provide solutions for other growers who, like Benjamin and Sara, want to support their families.

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By pledging to their Kickstarter campaign you will receive your Art Garden so that you may begin growing your own food in any climate as well. With your pledge you may also be eligible to receive organic and non-GMO seed packets, a PPM meter for testing your nutrient solution, and Art Garden swag including t-shirts and key chains.

To learn more about Benjamin and Sara and the passion that fuels the Art Garden, check out their video below or visit their Kickstarter page for the full story. You can also check out their YouTube channel to see the healthy produce grown using the Art Garden.

Measuring pH Levels in Hydroponics

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If you want to achieve optimal growth in your hydroponic garden, and see healthy, thriving results, it’s important to be regularly measuring pH levels of your nutrient solution. This can be done with pH testers and adjustments to pH levels can be made accordingly.

What is pH?

Though the exact meaning is unknown, it’s thought that pH stands for “power of Hydrogen” or “potential for Hydrogen”. pH is the measurement of the alkalinity or acidity levels in a water solution. It’s measured on a scale from 1 to 14 where the lower half of the scale is acidic and the upper half is alkaline. A perfectly pure solution is a 7 on the pH scale.

What Does pH Mean in Hydroponics?

In hydroponics, the ideal or standard pH level for plants is between 5.5 and 6.5.

This pH level is ideal for the absorption of essential micro and macro nutrients by the plants’ roots. A higher presence of macro nutrients like Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium is found within this range meaning the plants’ are growing in an optimal state.

If your pH level is incorrect or too extreme one way or another then your plants won’t be absorbing proper nutrients and will become weak and could eventually die.

Measuring pH Levels in Hydroponics

When first starting out with your hydroponic garden, you’ll want to check the pH level of your nutrient solution daily. You’ll likely need to continue this until you develop an understanding of your system and plants’ needs.

Adjusting pH Levels

When measuring pH levels it’s likely you will need to adjust one way or another. There are products available at your hydroponics retail store or online which are specifically designed to lower or raise your pH level. You can also lower your pH level yourself by using citric acid.

We recommend using General Hydroponics pH Up or pH Down products which are available at any indoor gardening supplier and are also available online.

Use a pH Tester

As a beginner it’s easier to stick to the old fashioned method of testing pH levels by using simple paper strips. These strips are coated in special dye that when dipped into the solution will indicate a color. You then compare that color to a pH color chart which tells you which pH level your solution is at. This method is not always the most accurate however.

Indicator-Color-pH-Scale

If you want to advance your hydroponics skills past the beginner level, you can try using a liquid pH testing kit. This is where you drop dye into the solution which changes color to indicate the pH level. These liquid pH testing kits are also available at your local hydroponic retail shop or online.

The most accurate way to test your pH levels is by using a digital pH tester. These digital meters are available in a number of price ranges with the simplest one being a “pen” style meter. You just insert the pH meter’s tip into the solution until a pH level reading is registered on the digital screen. These digital meters are available at any hydroponic retailer and are also widely available online.

Here are some digital pH meters different price ranges:

  • Hanna Instruments Hanna Checker pH Tester ($45 approx.)
  • HM Digital pH 80 Meter ($60 approx.)
  • Bluelab pH Pen ($110 approx.)

Making Your Organic Budget Stretch

Woman Picking Fresh Vegetables

We now know that purchasing organic produce is the healthier choice, but are you still on the fence that there’s value in buying organic produce? After reading this article, you’ll have found the solutions to get more from your organic produce purchase, and you’ll be able to rest easy knowing your food is pesticide-free. Now you can make your organic budget stretch much further!

We have found up to 25 organic plants that can be regrown – yes, kitchen scraps that would have previously gone into the trash or out to the composting bin now have a chance to start again. You’ll be thrilled to learn that using the base of unused bok choi, romaine lettuce, cabbage, and celery; the top of a carrot; an avocado seed; a potato eye;  the root base of leeks, scallions, spring onions, lemongrass or fennel; you can regrow your organic produce and benefit from maximum produce yields. You’ll have an instant indoor micro-garden that you can relocate to your patio! You’ll be amazed to see what can grow in a short period of time.

Now you can use this authentic personal farm-to-table process: growing organic vegetables using your organic food scraps in water (hydroponically)!

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Buying fresh produce can lead to a substantial amount of expenditures.

Organic DIY Project

Encourage your children or students, challenge your workmates and impress your guests by becoming a master scrap grower in your home and community. Inspire others to grow their own organic vegetables and make their organic budgets stretch.

Instructions For Growing Kitchen Scraps

To support your community (Community Supported Agriculture) find a local farmer’s market or grocery store that carries local and organic produce.

  • Take the leftover roots and place them in a container with a small amount of water
  • The roots should be wet but not submerged
  • Place the container in or near a sunny window
  • Within 3-5 days you’ll begin to see new growth
  • Remove produce as you need, leaving the roots in the water. Continue to harvest your kitchen scraps
  • Refresh water weekly to keep the plant healthy

Tips on How to Make Your Organic Budget Stretch

When clothes shopping, my strategy is cost per wear. If I can’t value what I’m purchasing at a low cost per wear – I don’t buy it. What value do we put on our health – especially if there’s a solution right in front of you, yet it’s being thrown in the trash or out to the compost? If you’re regrowing and eating that organic produce that you’ve purchased once, or multiple times, you’re making your cost per organic selection much lower.

Done right, budgeting and regrowing can hatch you a ton of savings.

Enjoy organic produce over and over again by choosing these healthy and easy-to-grow vegetables:

  1. Avocado
  2. Carrot
  3. Citrus/apple
  4. Garlic/ginger
  5. Pineapple
  6. Potato
  7. Sweet potato
  8. Leeks, scallions, spring onions and fennel
  9. Lemongrass
  10. Celery, bok choi, romaine lettuce & cabbage
  11. Onions
  12. Mushroom      

You can also regrow herbs and spices such as:

  • Whole seed spices like coriander or mustard seed
  • Seeds from fruits and vegetables like potatoes, green peppers, or apples
  • Snack food seeds like popcorn or nuts
  • Fresh herbs and spices like garlic or ginger root

Though it’s unlikely that we can eliminate our organic grocery costs, we can certainly minimize them and make our organic dollar stretch by regrowing these scraps that we’d normally throw out or compost. It’s like having  an unlimited supply of organic produce at our finger tips – not to mention it’s fun and simple.

How MakerBot and 3Dponics are Sparking Interest in Hydroponics

Makerbot & 3Dponics Partner to Create the 3Dponics Costumizer

Building your own hydroponics system just became even more educational and fun. The 3Dponics Customizer  is now a MakerBot-Ready App—one of just nine apps, featured by MakerBot, that make exploring 3D printing both instructive and enjoyable.

3Dponics Inc., creators of the first ever 3D-printable hydroponics system, and MakerBot, the leading manufacturer of consumer-friendly desktop 3D printers, have joined forces.

Now anyone with access to a MakerBot Fifth Generation Replicator can customize his or her 3Dponics parts using the 3Dponics Customizer app and save them directly to the 3D printer, which makes it extremely convenient to access and print new, customized designs for a hydroponics system.

3Dponics: A Brief Background

The 3D-printable hydroponics system first made waves when it launched on Kickstarter in the summer of 2014. It was recognized as a project someone without prior skill or experience in additive manufacturing could take on; a way for people to grow their own fresh food at home or school for just a few pennies per day; and a meaningful way to apply 3D printing technology.

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The MakerBot 3Dponics Customizer designs print-ready components such as funnels, clamps, joints, and more. Image via MakerBot.

How the App Works

Using the app is very simple. Just follow these steps:

  1. Download 3Dponics Customizer for free
  2. Tinker with the digital designs for the original 3Dponics parts to create ones that suit your indoor garden
  3. Save the new files so that they automatically save to your MakerBot Fifth Generation Replicator
  4. Connect your 3D printer to a WiFi connection
  5. Open the Library
  6. Access the MakerBot-Ready Apps portal
  7. Select 3Dponics Customizer, which will bring you to a list of your ready-to-print, customized parts!

Benefits

With this partnership comes several benefits. For one, you can design and print the parts you want for your garden in mere minutes and without trouble.

3Dponics as a MakerBot-Ready App is also expected to spark more interest in hydroponics and indoor gardening, particularly among 3D printing enthusiasts and techies.

What’s more, access to 3D printers in classrooms will only become more prevalent, and there’s a need for a sustainable and simple project for K-12 teachers to assign their students. Using the app encourages students to get creative, while building and operating the system incorporates lessons in sustainability and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines.

It’s no secret that urban farming has many benefits, so the easier and more fun we make it for people to get involved, the better!

Looking for great fertilizer? Try your local Zoo

Looking for the perfect fertilizer for your garden oasis? You may need to look no further than your local zoo. Many of the world’s leading zoological parks are profiting from something they have plenty of: animal dung. Sold under such evocative labels as “Zoo Poo” or “Zoo Doo” this nutrient rich mixture of animal waste, food scraps, and landscaping debris have become popular amongst urban gardeners.

Griffith Park’s Compost Facility, Los Angeles. Image via City of Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation.

Zero-Waste Zoos

About two decades ago, many large zoos began reconsidering their waste management practices. The costs of hauling and landfilling several tons of waste per day was becoming a budgetary burden. And, more importantly, landfilling waste was not in line with the environmental ethos of the conservation-focused organizations.  New composting initiatives were born.

“Zoo Poo” typically includes the dung of herbivorous animals and other zoo waste, which is allowed to cure for several months. When the compost reaches a coffee ground-like consistency and has no detectable odor it is ready to be distributed to users.

Benefits of Zoo Waste

Users claim that “Zoo Poo” has many benefits over traditional manures.  Some claim that it deters garden pests like raccoons and deer. Others find that plants grown in the soil are heartier and produce more vibrant flowers and fruits. Those interested in producing a more natural garden prefer ZooPoo because the animals are less likely to be hormone-laden like traditional manure producers like cows.  Looking for great fertilizer?  All users agree on one point, “Zoo Poo” makes for a unique conversation piece.

Asian Elephants at the Oregon Zoo.

Where to Find “Zoo Poo” Near You

New York City Zoos, run by the Wildlife Conservation Society, provide compost to regional non-profits.

In Los Angeles and Philadelphia, the local zoos have partnered with municipal governments to include zoo waste in community-wide composting efforts.  Both cities allow local residents to purchase compost at neighborhood parks.

Cleveland Metroparks Zoo sells compost (much of it originating from their resident elephants, camels, and giraffes) by the bucket, barrel, or truckload.  They’ll even provide the shovel.

The Oregon Zoo provides free-of-charge “Zoo Doo” five days a week.

Columbia South Carolina’s Riverbanks Zoo has a fabulous interactive website describing their comPOOst program. It is worth a visit to their website, even if you don’t live in the region.

The Toronto Zoo has taken their operation to the next level.  By partnering with a Bio-gas cooperative, the Zoo will capture heat, energy (providing about a third of the Zoo’s energy needs), and fertilizer from their animal waste.

Feature Image: A mother giraffe with her baby at the Denver Zoo.

LED Lighting Technology in Controlled Environments

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The innovation and advancement of LED lighting technology has brought with it a host of other important benefits. The field of plant growth research has been able to advance substantially due to the advantages that LED lights provide through full spectrum lighting. Plant science and LED lighting technology work hand in hand to discover the most important aspects of plant growth which provides optimal solutions for greenhouse and controlled environment growers.

In controlled growing environments, LED lighting technology is ideal because its effects are able to be closely monitored and adjusted which not only grows healthier plants and maximizes yields, but it also improves operating costs through energy savings. LED lighting technology can also be tailored to meet the spectrum needs of specific plants. This further increases output and delivers the best possible plant yields at a far more efficient level.

In commercial facilities, LED’s can be used as the primary light source, or they can act as supplemental light if the facility is conducive to sunlight exposure as in greenhouses, or glass vertical farms. In controlled environments, LED’s don’t require reflectors like some other forms of lighting, which means that by nature, LED’s are directing their complete output onto the plant itself. Additionally, LED’s are less radiant and therefore can be placed closer to the plant. This type of precision only further adds to the efficiency and sustainability of the complete grow environment.

LED’s are starting to become a leading lighting source choice for vertical farming operations, as controlled environment agriculture becomes more widespread. Because the science and research behind LED’s is now more widely accepted and known, this form of lighting is now further in demand which makes them more viable in consumer markets.

As greater research and communication regarding the specifics of plant growth become more available through awareness, so too will the innovation and technology drive behind horticultural lighting. Like with any new product, it took early adopters to be the risk-takers and test out new forms of grow lighting. This has in large part determined LED lighting technology’s viability today.

As further research unfolds regarding plant science and the specific needs of diverse vegetation types, the technology will advance along with it which indicates a positive future for efficient and safe food production.

Feature Image: LED lighting technology used at The Plant, a vertical farm operation in Chicago. Image via Conservation Magazine.