The acreage of lighted cultivation is growing enormously, both in the Netherlands and internationally. By lighting crops, growers are assured of continuous production and can also supply outside the season. Daniela Damoiseaux of Philips Lighting, one of the largest grow light suppliers: "Lighting with LED makes cultivation predictable. You can make better arrangements with customers and guarantee a good quality. LED also ensures higher production and therefore more cucumbers or tomatoes."
Lettuce from lighted cultivation (Philips Lighting)
At light speed
Paul van Dijck is Crop Sales Manager Cucumber at Enza Zaden. Paul: "In the Netherlands, this year an increase of 25 hectares of cucumber cultivation is expected. That’s about five growers. They mainly work with SON-T lighting. Most of the lighted cultivation can traditionally be found in Scandinavia. In particular in Finland the acreage of lighted cultivation is growing very fast, but also in France and England trials are now being carried out, in this case with LED. In Russia and Ukraine the acreage of lighted cultivation is already growing at light speed. Last year 200 hectares have been added, and that's just talking about cucumbers. These countries like to be self-sufficient. The government is encouraging growers to invest in modern and large companies, creating attractive prices."
A lighted cucumber greenhouse (Paul van Dijck)
Lighted cultivation is increasingly becoming a global phenomenon. Daniela: "We are already seeing a lot of LED cultivation in the Netherlands, Belgium, the United Kingdom and North America. This is now also expanding to Germany, France, Russia, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Even in China and Japan, lighted cultivation is gradually gaining ground."
Previously, mainly tomatoes were cultivated under light. Now more and more crops are added. Cucumber, lettuce and strawberry are well-known examples. Last month, cultivation company Purple Pride from Dinteloord for the first time supplied Dutch eggplants from winter cultivation. The company expects to harvest 100 tons this season. Growers of ornamental plants, basil and other herbs are also increasingly choosing to invest in lighting.
LED and SON-T
Traditionally, crops are lighted with SON-T lamps. In the meantime, LED lighting is also being used widely for lighted cultivation. Daniela: "The sale of LED has boomed in recent years, and every year we are seeing an increase. LED lighting is more energy-efficient, produces no heat in contrast to SON-T lamps, which makes the climate more controllable. With LED you give the plants exactly the light color that it needs for the optimal photosynthesis."
Cucumbers, also from the lighted cultivation (Philips Lighting)
Normally, in the winter season, the Dutch market is almost completely taken over by Spain, but thanks to lighted cultivation, also domestic products are now available. Harm-Jan Eikelenboom of The Greenery is optimistic about this. "We have noticed that Dutch products are highly valued by our customers. Lighted cultivation makes it possible for growers to meet this demand year-round. We want to ensure them as much as possible of good sales and therefore we prefer to link growers and buyers in advance." Paul confirms how important it is for growers to make agreements with customers about production, quality and price before the winter season. "Otherwise, you might still have to take the Spanish competition into account. You have to calculate very carefully whether the investment is worth it."
High tech horticulture
Daniela mentions the growing world population as one of the world's trends as a base for the lighted cultivation. "You also see that sustainability is becoming very important, as is the economical use of raw materials such as water. High tech horticulture fits into this picture. With LED lighting you can grow tomatoes and cucumbers year round on home soil. Much less food miles are required to transport the food to the place where it will be consumed."
Vertical Farming in Japan with lighting from Philips Lighting
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