British Tomato Grower: LED Works Wonders

- Jun 27, 2019-

A producer that supplies tomatoes to supermarkets across the UK has reportedly reported "amazing" results from LED lighting.


The company, Flavourfresh, which produces almost 3m kg of tomatoes a year for supermarkets such as Asda and Marks&Spencer, introduced LED lights into greenhouses in Southport two years ago to ensure production through the winter.Andy Roe, production manager, said the results were "surprising".


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"The technical specifications and our expectations were met in the first year, from plant growth to fruit quality and flavor," Roe said.Getting through the winter was upsetting, he said, but "thanks to the tomato god, our expectations matched reality."


Tomatoes grown under artificial lights in winter have the same mass as those grown in summer, Roe said.This has come at a cost, but British consumers are willing to pay.


With its low energy consumption and tunable spectra optimized for plant growth, leds are increasingly replacing high pressure sodium lamps.For decades, high pressure sodium lamp has been the preferred light source in the field of horticulture.


Still, Roe says leds are not ready to meet all the requirements of Flavourfresh.For the new 17000 square meter greenhouse, he chose the high pressure sodium lamp again.It's not the amount of light, it's the heat.


Leds emit relatively little heat, while high-pressure sodium lamps emit a lot.In many applications this wastes energy, but in greenhouses heat is useful if it can be controlled.


The existing Flavourfresh LED lamps are installed in relatively low ceiling greenhouses. If high-pressure sodium lamps are installed, they will be very close to the crops, and the heat may cause damage.The ceiling of the new greenhouse is two meters high. There is enough space between the plants and the light.A warm environment at the top of the plant helps keep the plant dry and promotes fruit growth, Roe explains.


"We have to decide what is the best way forward.We went to other plants that use high - pressure sodium lamps.HPS lamps produce very strong light, are more expensive to run and have a big impact on plants."


While LED lighting means lower energy costs and potentially higher production in the long run, higher upfront costs mean faster returns for HPS lamps.


Still, Roe sees leds as the future.'leds are getting better,' he says."Growers understand and adjust.Within 10 years, leds will be standard."