LED growth lights in traditional agriculture

Asked January 15, 2016, 1:51 PM EST

Hi, I would like to find out if LED lights which are being used extensively to increase productivity and reduce crop cycles in indoor farms can be used in traditional farms and greenhouses to increase productivity. Thanks, Vineet

Santa Clara County California

1 Response

Hi Vineet,

I wrote a short blog piece on this topic last Summer: http://blog.uvm.edu/cwcallah/2015/02/25/led-lights-status-costbenefit-and-pros-and-cons/

The most recent published summary on this topic, that I know of is available here: Economic Analysis of Greenhouse Lighting: Light Emitting Diodes vs. High Intensity Discharge Fixtures by Jacob A. Nelson and Bruce Bugbee. Published: June 6, 2014. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0099010. http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0099010.

Nelson and Bugbee conclude;

The most efficient HPS and LED fixtures have equal efficiencies, but the initial capital cost per photon delivered from LED fixtures is five to ten times higher than HPS fixtures. The high capital cost means that the five-year cost of LED fixtures is more than double that of HPS fixtures. If widely spaced benches are a necessary part of a production system, LED fixtures can provide precision delivery of photons and our data indicate that they can be a more cost effective option for supplemental greenhouse lighting.

Manufacturers are working to improve all types of lighting technologies and the cost per photon will likely continue to decrease as new technologies, reduced prices, and improved reliability become available.

My take-away from all of this; LED’s have a higher initial cost, can have lower recurring costs, can be more effective for specific physiological benefit, and can support certain production layouts. But the cost/benefit does not seem to pencil out quite yet.