The UK's CEA sector will suffer the full impact of the steep rise in energy costs forecasted this year but there are energy efficient solutions available to help combat it, says leading AgTech company Light Science Technologies (LST).
As more growers reap the benefits of indoor farming from both an economic and environmental stance, they face challenges throughout the coming year which will place them under increasing financial burden due to record energy prices. This comes as the Farmers' Union of Wales (FUW) warned that costs "are not sustainable for farmers and will be a blow to all in the industry."
However, winning back some of the control over costs is possible by adopting a more proactive approach with lighting choice and making a switch to LED grow lights, something which can be achieved through available government funding, explains Craig Price, Operations Director of LST.
"Indoor growers may not be aware of it, but they are missing a crucial opportunity to become involved in projects to improve productivity and environmental impact in agriculture and horticulture while running more cost and energy efficient operations. Grants such as The Farming Transformation Fund Improving Farm Productivity Grant enable growers to apply for financial assistance with LED lighting which will save them even more long term. AgTech leaders like LST are poised to assist in these projects to support as many indoor growers as possible, so they can reap the many benefits that LED lighting technology delivers.
"LED lights are significantly less heavy on energy usage than HPS grow lights, making the energy savings considerable. Their appeal is further increased thanks to a longer life span - anywhere from 50,000-100,000 hours compared with HPS grow lights, which were only expected to last for up to 24, 000 hours.
HPS grow lights also convert only 30% of the energy they use into usable light, while LED grow lights convert about 50% of electricity into light. Research that unpacked the use of LEDs across different climates and applications found that LED grow lights can potentially save 10-25% of total greenhouse energy demand. They are also far better for the environment in the long term, as they can be managed and disposed of safely compared to HPS grow lights.
In addition, research and studies have found that LED grow lights are the most cost and energy efficient solution for indoor tomato growing, and neither was the fruit quality affected - in fact, it remained consistent across multiple lighting options using LED grow lights."
Craig continues: "When you look at the current HPS lighting, a typical 600W product will deliver around 1185umol/s so the switch to LED offers significant energy savings when used correctly. With products achieving up to 3.3umol/j (subject to emission spectrum), then the equivalent energy requirement could be as low as 360W, effectively offering up to a 40% energy saving when compared to the standard HPS lamps. In addition to this, the ongoing maintenance is almost halved when you compare the life of an LED product versus a typical HPS product.
"With the focus on climate change combined with the immediate priority for indoor growers to look at ways of reducing horrendously high energy costs, now is the time for them to consider the simple switch to LED grow lighting as it has both cost and environmental benefits."
He adds: "What's also of key significance is that the government is supporting the sector and its technology to harness the innovation that is underway across the industry through grants and funding currently available, which growers may not be aware of."