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More Than Just Illumination

by Lydia Li

Plant- and animal-centric lighting

With 19 intellectual property rights under its belt, LuxBalance Lighting specialises in providing lighting systems and lighting algorithms for tissue culture, urban farming and poultry farming. Banly Cheung, co-founder and managing director (right), and Jille Kuipers, co-founder, believe plant-centric lighting is a key engine in drastically increasing food production to feed the world's growing population, while animal-centric lighting plays a vital role in improving the well-being of poultry.

What is plant-centric lighting?

Plant-centric lighting is about stimulating plants to grow faster and helping them to grow healthier by giving them the right type of light at the right time of the day and at different growth stages. To achieve this, we have use a combination of lighting hardware and algorithms, namely the HortiPower system.

Is plant-centric lighting a new concept?

No, but its meaning and functionalities have changed immensely over the years. Back in the 1980s, farmers already had what they called plant-centric lighting in greenhouses, where they installed large lighting fixtures high above the plants to provide them with artificial lighting. But these fixtures could not give the farmers control over light spectrums and intensity because LEDs and other technologies that allow us to control the lights and customise lighting algorithms today for different plants and their different phases of development weren’t available at that time. Even 10 years ago, we could not do what we are doing with plant-centric lighting today.

What is the biggest advantage of plant-centric lighting?
By providing the right light recipe to a plant, we can speed up its growing process. Some of our partner banana growers in the Philippines have reported that by using our lights and lighting algorithms, they can speed up bananas* tissue culture growth in the lab and have them ready for planting in the field from eight weeks to six. We believe in the end we can further cut it down to four weeks.

Plant-centric lighting is a key engine to doubling food production, as many people believe it is needed to meet a growing population. Besides yield, large-scale food brands are concerned with the taste and look of their produce. Thus, they clone what they call "model plants" in tissue labs to ensure that every batch of produce has, say, the same sweet taste or the same good looks. Again, by implementing plant-centric lighting in the labs, food brands can speed up the growth of tissues and seedlings.

What are other key benefits of plant-centric lighting?

Plant-centric lighting can help plants to grow healthier roots, so that they can absorb water and nutrients more efficiently and move to the next growth stage faster. Plant-centric lighting car also stimulate or delay flowering. If you want more fruit, which is a result of the maturation of flowers, you can use a lighting algorithm to stimulate plants to begin flowering. However, you may want ornamental plants to reach a certain height before they go into flowering, and so you can use another lighting algorithm to delay the process. All in all, plant-centric lighting can ensure that farmers have higher yields, more consistent and better plant quality, faster growth cycles, higher energy efficiency, as well as reduced labour costs and water consumption rates of up to 90 per cent.

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