Chicago, Illinois, isn't exactly a major player in national food production anymore, but that could soon change if companies like Green Sense Farms continue to sprout up. With the help of next-gen LED grow lights, the country's biggest indoor commercial vertical farm can produce masses of produce regardless of the weather outside.
Green Sense Farms recently unveiled a pair of huge climate-controlled grow rooms in its Chicago-area production warehouse. By combining towering racks of vertical hydroponic systems with GE's new "light recipe" LED grow lights, GSF is able to harvest its crops 26 times a year while using 85 per cent less energy, 1/10th the amount of water, no pesticides or herbicides, and reducing the facility's CO2 output by two tonnes a month. It even produces an average of 20 kilos of oxygen every day.
"By growing our crops vertically, we are able to pack more plants per acre than we would have in a field farm, which results in more harvests per year," Robert Colangelo, founding farmer/president of Green Sense Farms said in a press statement. "We produce little waste, no agricultural runoff and minimal greenhouse gasses because the food is grown where it is consumed."
To reach these milestones, you need some very happy plants. But thanks to GE's LED "light recipes," which effectively optimise the light's wavelength to whatever is growing beneath it, doing so isn't too difficult. What's more, since these are LEDs, the light fixtures can be placed much closer to the crops without fear of burning them—which reduces the vertical farm's footprint and ensures that every leaf gets uniformly blasted with illumination.
"Different plant types have different light needs and working with forward-thinking growers like GSF, Philips is building up a database of 'light recipes' for different plant varieties," said Udo van Slooten, Director of horticultural lighting at Philips, in a press statement. "GSF is using vertical hydroponic technology with Phillips LED growing lights, enabling them to do what no other grower can do: provide a consistent amount of high quality produce, year round."
With the UN predicting some 2.5 billion extra mouths to feed by 2050—not to mention the available arable land mass dwindling—vertical operations like these could well be the future of urban farming.