Discovering Signify Horticulture technology at GreenTech 2019

Part Two of Point 6’s deep dive into horticulture tech.

***STOP!*** Before you read on, make sure you have checked out Part One – Exploring the growing world of horticulture technology at GreenTech 2019. It’s been a couple of weeks since team Point 6 hopped on a plane to Amsterdam and made our way to GreenTech 2019, an annual exhibition dedicated to the world of horticulture technology.

After wandering around the gigantic space, taking in all the sights and weaving in-and-out of an inexplicable amount of very tall men, we found what we came for: the Signify Horticulture stand.  International Account Manager Dennis van Dijk gave us a run down.

At the centre of Signify Horticulture’s service is the creation of personalised light recipes. These are schedules that automatically adjust the colour and intensity of light over a 24-hour period.

Each light recipe is designed around the type of plant – covering everything from lettuce to strawberries – adapting to each growth phase to get the best results possible. What’s more, it seamlessly integrates with the vertical farm’s current system for easier operation.

Rows of fresh leafy plants sat under different light colours and intensities, ranging from a cool blue to vibrant red. After a little demonstration, Dennis explained that each colour had a different effect on the plants, depending on the results needed. Fun fact – apparently plants tend to respond better to red and blue light, whereas humans prefer green and white (good to know in case you fancy swapping your tomatoes for humans)!

Then there are different tiers of luminaires. LED toplighting is pretty self-explanatory, sitting above the plants to deliver a high light output while radiating less heat, which according to Dennis is a major problem for indoor farms. Interlighting is placed into the canopy of the crop, focusing on the most vital part of the plant for the ultra-important growth phase. The two types of LED luminaires can be adjusted separately for optimum results.

Dennis gave us an example of how light can affect and improve crops. After designing a recipe for growing a batch of rocket plants, they tested the leaves and found they contained over double the amount of Vitamin C than usual. Light can also help crops grow quicker and bigger, with a lengthier shelf life; healthy products last longer, meaning less food waste.

Later in the day we attended a talk by Tom Könisser, a Business Development Manager at Signify. He covered some of the same things Dennis had earlier in the day, including how their lighting service can improve reliability of the crops. Although obvious when you think about it, it seems like a huge benefit – outdoor farms can suffer with crop failures that are dictated by the weather, whereas indoor farming creates the perfect environment for year-round success.

The best bit of the walk was the exciting news that the Signify logo had been imprinted onto some lettuce leaves using different colours and intensities of light. We immediately rushed off to find the branded plant back at the stand, photographing it with glee. Had all the light gone to our heads? Or were we just a little tired from the early flight? Either way, here’s how it looked:

The talk brought up an interesting discussion among our team as to whether the public is ready for indoor farming. Despite the fact it’s more energy efficient, results in healthier plants and uses no pesticides, somehow it feels ‘fake’.

If offered the choice between a bag of indoor-grown or farm-grown tomatoes, which would you prefer?

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