Climate-KICs Project Carbon-LED realises a highly efficient LED based cultivation system

In the Climate-KIC Demonstrator Project Carbon-LED, low-carbon LED based production systems are being developed for greenhouse horticulture. This project will realize the crucial elements of a low-carbon LED based production system, i.e. new lamp types, selection of tomato genotypes and design of the cultivation system.

By using state-of-the-art 3D crop models and demonstration trials, the project aims to show that this concept is feasible to be used in practice, with scalable climate impact. In this article we give an update of the progress of this project.

Demonstration trials with tomato growers

Currently, Carbon-Led is running demonstration trials with tomato crops at WUR Greenhouse Horticulture and Nunhems. LED lamps provided by Philips with Nunhems’ tomato genotypes are being used. The aim of those trials is to improve plant performance by altering the spectral composition of the LED light. The effects of additional far red light are investigated using multiple Nunhems tomato varieties.

The system is demonstrated to the end-users, i.e. the growers, by regular visits of tomato growers to the trial, discussions and presentations. The knowledge obtained is incorporated in teaching materials for students and professionals in horticulture by a 3-days course on sustainable light use.

Opportunities for new businesses

New and existing companies involved in LED systems are supported and stimulated to increase their business and extend it to LED based systems for greenhouse horticulture. By bringing all this knowledge and experience together, we can contribute to a significant climate impact within the greenhouse horticultural sector by realizing, demonstrating and driving adoption of a highly efficient LED based cultivation system.

Reduce electricity consumption with LED technology

The use of assimilation lighting in greenhouse horticulture is increasing continuously, driven by the market demand of year-round high quality products, particularly in the northern hemisphere, where there is little light during winter months. However, the heat load of traditional light sources is such that greenhouse air temperatures become too high for proper cultivation, leading to the deliberate loss of heat by ventilation. This is neither environmentally friendly nor cost efficient, and therefore the growers are looking for a more sustainable lighting solution.

The emergence of Light Emitting Diode (LED) technology presents an opportunity to reduce the electricity consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. There is growing recognition of the advantages of LEDs over the traditional light sources: increased energy efficiency, rapid alterations in intensity and spectrum and easy to position close to the crop.

Climate-KIC consortium and end users realise climate impact together

The Climate-KIC consortium including Wageningen University & Research, Nunhems, Philips, INRA and StartLife, is creating a LED-based tomato cultivation system to achieve reductions in carbon footprint by up to 50 percent compared to conventional light sources, while optimising yields and fruit quality.

Based on scenario studies by a 3D virtual plan model, in the first phase of the project we have realized the key elements of the low carbon footprint tomato production system, i.e. new lamp types, selection of genotypes and design of the cultivation system. We have shown that the LED based system performed better than the benchmark system with HPS lighting in terms of electricity consumption, water use and CO2 emission.

Anja Dieleman, Wageningen University & Research, Business Unit Greenhouse Horticulture