AiGrow's lights in action - Growing plants with light

A Manufacturer’s Guide To Growing Plants With Lights.

Farming is the core of human existence today. But getting veggies fresh and fast has always been a challenge. It wasn’t solved until we started growing food indoors.

As more people choose to live in urban and suburban areas, indoor farming has become inevitable. By growing food inside, you can bypass the transportation time and cost. Yet, getting enough sunlight indoors is the next challenge. And growers solved it with artificial lighting.

To learn more about the use of grow, we spoke with AiGrow, a pioneering agricultural automation company in Sri Lanka. AiGrow has been successful in producing growlights in-house. Nadeera, the lead agronomist, and Dumindu, the lead engineer at AiGrow, helped us learn more about them.

The need for growlights

My first question was why Sri Lankans would want a grow light. Sri Lanka is close to the equator and gets sunlight all year. So does any other equatorial or tropical country. Most of these countries are small enough to transport food from one place to another without spoiling.

Dumindu gave a stunning answer. Growlights don’t necessarily have to replace sunlight. They are a good supplement for areas where sunlight occasionally gets worse. Especially in the tropics, where the sky is mostly covered with clouds, Growlights can still play a pivotal role.

There are places in Sri Lanka where it rains throughout the year. Lack of sunlight hides the full vegetable production potential of these areas. For instance, Strawberry production in Nuwara Eliya could be better with more light. On cloudy days, growing plants with lights makes sense.

Related: 6 Tips To Increase Yield Using Grow Light

Besides, high-value crops grown in a climate-controlled environment thrive with the help of growlights. When a crop’s economic value is reasonably high, a grow light can ensure healthy growth with a continuous energy supply. Growers can use the vertical space to get the most out of a small space.

Another reason is to make your living/working space cozy. CodeGen, the parent company of AiGrow, uses its grow light to grow lettuces where software engineers work. This makes the office space more green and live.

AiGrow growing plants with lights where developers work

Lights, Growlights, and color spectrums.

Can any light be a grow light? The answer is both yes and no!

Plants need energy to grow, and this energy comes in the form of light. Any light gives the plant energy for growth.

Yet, only some lights can produce enough energy to grow plants or must be optimized to deliver light efficiently. Room lights are designed to diffuse the light so that the entire room can be lit with one light. Contrarily, growlights will deliver light to a narrow area where the plants are.

Related: Grow Lights Vs. Regular Lights: Which Is Best For Your Plants?

Some growlights are designed to deliver a specific range in the light spectrum more than others. Yet, Agronomists at AiGrow trust that white light or full spectrum is more beneficial to plants than red or blue peak lights.

AiGrow growlights with blue spectrum

Dumindu also mentioned that the prominent book Plant Physiology, in its 4th edition, updated its conclusion that white light rather than the red and blue spectrum is needed for balanced plant growth.

Thus, AiGrow has now focused on white LED growlights. A pair of their lights can grow up to 40 heads of lettuce, and each light consumes as little as 45W. It makes AiGrow growlights economical.

Related: 6 Amazing Benefits Of Grow Lights For Indoor Plants In Hydroponic Garden

Why LED growlights? Why not halogen?

If energy is the only thing that matters, why do grow light manufacturers stick to LED lights? Halogen lights are known to deliver more light than LEDs. Yet, at the industrial scale, light isn’t the only parameter that dictates a light’s viability.

AiGrow's LED growlights

According to Dumindu, AiGrow’s preference for LED lights starts with their efficiency. While T5 fluorescent tubes and halogen lights can deliver more light, they emit more heat. This heat not only creates energy inefficiency but also warms the environment. To reverse the effect, we need to install more cooling mechanisms.

The other reason is the simplicity of LED lights. LED lights don’t break easily and can tolerate lousy handling, whereas halogen and fluorescent lights break easily. Even worse, the fluorescent lights need chalk change frequently. All these can be avoided with an LED.

Finally, LED lights have a whopping 100,000 hours of lifetime, roughly 11 years. AiGrow offers a two-year comprehensive warranty for its growlights, which is very attractive compared to halogen and fluorescent lights.

AiGrow Beyond Growing Plants With Lights

Growlights are revolutionizing food production, but modern agriculture involves much more than growing plants with light.

AiGrow has extended its research and offerings to automated fertigation units and EC meters. These products are superior in quality yet much more affordable than popular brands. That’s because

AiGrow can cut costs by not having to pay shipping and import taxes. Since AiGrow manufactures everything in Sri Lanka, local farmers can benefit significantly. Besides the cost-benefit, local farmers can get quick and easy support from AiGrow.

Nadeera explained the semi-automated fertigation system they’ve developed in-house. The farmer or an agronomist can program the system to maintain certain conditions in the polytunnel. The fertigation can automatically turn on and off the cooling fans, misting systems, etc. The fertigation can even maintain the EC, the correct balance of nutrients, and pH levels at a pre-programmed level.

Such fertigation imported overseas costs a fortune, and few farmers are ready for it. Local farmers who are used to traditional growing methods can learn from AiGrow’s model farm in the central part of the country. The model farm is a fully climate-controlled and automated environment.

Fertigators make more sense when the farm gets large. Nadeera says about half an acre is good enough to start automation. Farmers who are willing to automate their farms may start in phases. Yet, to realize its benefits, they should start at least with a reasonable size.

In Summary

AiGrow has started an incredible journey by helping farmers grow more. We spoke with them to learn about their internally developed growlights. We discovered that their full-spectrum LED lights are not only of excellent quality but also affordable to many local farmers.

AiGrow has successfully developed and produced fertigators, EC meters, and growlights. Though this is a vast area to cover in a single article, we hope to do a full-length post in the future.

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