Our goal is to help CEA growers reduce production costs, while giving them more control over crop growth and quality. More cost-effective lighting approaches will reduce energy use and increase profitability. Manipulating light spectrum and intensity can be used to control crop growth and quality. Our overarching goal is to help growers make better lighting decisions and maximize the return on investment of their lighting systems. This requires integration of horticulture, economics, engineering, information technology, and social science.
- Lighting strategies to optimize crop growth and quality in cost-effective ways
- Lighting controllers that can automatically implement these strategies
- New sensing technology to monitor crop growth and physiology
- Software to assess whether use of supplemental lighting is economical
- Software and hardware to implement cost-effective lighting strategies
- Software to simulate different lighting scenarios (Virtual Grower, with USDA-ARS)
- To determine whether we achieve these goals, impact assessment will be an ongoing effort throughout the project.
Our efforts are divided by subject areas of crop production, economic assessment and engineering. Integration of these different efforts will be paramount.
CROP GROWTH AND YIELD can be increased by optimizing 1) light spectrum, 2) light intensity and 3) light capture.
The greatest inefficiency in lighting typically occurs when plants are small and much of the light does not fall on the leaves. We will manipulate light intensity and spectrum to promote the rapid development and expansion of leaves, which increases light capture by crop canopies.
- Light intensity and spectrum interact to determine light absorption and photosynthesis by leaves. Plants use light less efficiently as the intensity increases, but different colors of light interact with intensity to alter this efficiency. We will use physiological measurements to quantify the light use efficiency of selected floriculture and vegetable crops, and develop guidelines to optimize the light spectrum and intensity for growth and yield of a variety of crops.
- The effect of improved lighting strategies on crop growth and quality will be assessed.
CROP QUALITY AND VALUE can be increased by altering light spectrum, intensity, photoperiod, and timing of light delivery.
- Plant morphology (height, branching) depends on both the light intensity and spectrum. Management of lighting is thus a powerful tool to control plant shape during development. We will test morphological response to different lighting methods.
- Production of desirable secondary compounds, which affect color, flavor, and aroma, depends on both the light intensity and spectrum. Lighting strategies will be developed to maximize yield during the active growth phase, while finishing the plants with a spectrum and/or intensity that increases beneficial secondary compounds (anti-oxidants, pigments) can increase crop quality and value.
Quantitative information on the costs and benefits of lighting will allow growers to make better decisions. We will develop Decision Support Systems to help growers make decisions applicable to their specific conditions. This will be a step-wise process that will answer the following questions:
- Is supplemental lighting cost-effective?
- If so, are HPS or LED lamps more cost-effective?
- What is the expected return on investment?
Carbon footprint, life cycle assessment and economic cost analysis can be used to quantify the environmental and social impact of greenhouse and plant factory production. Quantitative data on the environmental impact of lighting technologies and production practices in greenhouses and plant factories will be used to develop actionable information to determine the pros and cons of different crop production systems.
Optimizing lighting strategies using models that consider plant physiological responses, crop value, real-time electricity pricing, and sunlight. We will integrate horticulture, engineering, and energy informatics to create models that account for the growth and value of the crop and adjust dynamically to fluctuations in electricity prices, current weather, and weather forecasts to assure that crop needs are met with the lowest possible cost.
Controllers to implement lighting strategies will facilitate adoption of more cost-effective lighting strategies. We will develop low-cost controllers (hardware) and open-source software to facilitate precise grower control of their lighting systems. These controllers can be stand-alone or integrated into existing control systems. The goal is to accelerate the profitable adoption of new lighting technologies and approaches.
Canopy sensors to track growth and light use efficiency can be used to track crop growth and physiology. Canopy imaging will be performed using cameras with an overhead view of the crop production area. We anticipate that our imaging approaches can track crop growth and determine how efficiently crops use the provided light.
We have short-term, mid-term and long-term expected outcomes.
- Increased grower understanding of the pros and cos of supplemental lighting.
- Increased grower knowledge about how to optimally use lighting
- Students gain transdisciplinary skills
- Growers use on-line tools to determine cost-effectiveness of lighting in their operation
- Lighting manufacturers will build lights with added functionality
- New lighting strategies are implemented, improving the economics and sustainability of lighting
- Students become better scientists and are trained in the latest lighting technologies
- Growers make well-informed decisions about whether to install and use lighting systems
- A new generation of lights with better functionality will be available for controlled environment agriculture
- Better lighting increases profitability and reduces environmental impact of CEA
- A new generation of scientists starts careers