Lighting control is the last frontier in controlled environment agriculture (CEA). Well-designed horticulture lighting systems can reduce energy use in greenhouses and indoor farms, thereby increasing production and profitability. Light-emitting diode (LED) technologies have the potential to improve energy efficiency and therefore energy costs of greenhouses, but in many ways the hardware capabilities are further ahead than our understanding of how to best operate these systems.
Working in the rapidly growing CEA industry, the Greenhouse Lighting and Systems Engineering (GLASE) consortium is a public-private partnership to develop, transfer, and implement advanced energy-efficient LED lighting systems with improved environmental controls for more efficient and sustainable greenhouse production. Formed by Cornell University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), and Rutgers University, GLASE is supported by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). The consortium’s mission is to advance CEA through a holistic approach, bringing together different areas of expertise from academia and the marketplace, and creating a hub for technology and information exchange among industry stakeholders and key players.
First-Year Focus: Research and Participation
The combination of engineering practices with plant science is being recognized as valuable, if not critical, to the field of horticultural lighting. During its first operational year in 2018, GLASE developed a series of multidisciplinary activities aimed to optimize CEA systems. Recent technologies developed by consortium researchers include:
• The use of a remote chlorophyll fluorometer to monitor plants relative growth rates
• A proposed standardized horticultural lighting label to facilitate the comparison of lamps across manufacturers
• Improvements to the Lighting and Shade System Implementation (LASSI)
• A control system to optimize lighting control and reduce greenhouse energy consumption
• Light-spectrum optimization for plant growth
The participation of industry stakeholders is paramount in guiding GLASE research and bringing the innovations to market. GLASE is working with industrial partners to commercialize and accelerate the adoption of new energy-efficient technologies nationwide. Since April 2018, 21 industrial members have joined the consortium. The participants are a combination of commercial greenhouses, indoor farms, lighting manufacturers, and service providers. With $5 million secured for research and outreach for the next five years, GLASE will continue to work with industry partners to further develop and implement new energy-efficient technologies to achieve energy-related improvements in greenhouse system operations by optimizing energy efficiency, crop yield, and quality.
What’s Next for GLASE
Future GLASE activities include:
• The development of automated lighting and shade control systems integrated with control of wavelengths for optimal crop growth
• The use of CO2 enhancement in greenhouses
• Investigation of LED use to alter plant physiology and morphology to increase yield or the production of chemical compounds that increase crop value
• The design of novel prototype luminaires for greenhouses
• The development of software that includes whole greenhouse systems management to synergistically control lighting, ventilation , and humidity.
GLASE also works with commercial pilot facilities to test technology adoption in real-world production settings. To ensure the development and implementation of effective technologies, GLASE is supported by a scientific advisory board (SAB) and an industrial advisory board (IAB). The SAB identifies new areas of research and vets GLASE-developed technologies, whereas the IAB offers the consortium guidance on the optimal path to market and provides a source of technical and market intelligence.
Working toward industry standardization, GLASE has established a partnership with Intertek to offer its industrial partners a complementary lighting test to characterize horticultural lighting fixtures following the proposed lighting label published by A.J. Both, et al. This is an effort to provide growers with a reliable comparative platform to select among the available lighting technologies that best fit their unique needs.
Through the development of strategic partnerships and increased industry participation, GLASE is expanding its activities in 2019. In addition to having the opportunity to work with other GLASE partners, members of the consortium receive the benefits of a seat on the GLASE Industrial Advisory Board, early notice of invention disclosures (IP), quarterly technical reports and industry meetings, access to Cornell University and RPI research facilities, networking, marketing, and educational and training programs.
How You Can Participate
As part of the consortium outreach activities, GLASE is developing a national greenhouse energy benchmark database. The aggregated data will be used to support the development of new energy incentive programs, guide national funding opportunities, and allow GLASE researchers and other academic institutions to identify new areas of improvement in Controlled Environment Agriculture systems. Participating greenhouse and indoor growers will have the opportunity to benchmark their production systems against a national database to identify areas of improvement to increase operations’ profitability.
To learn more about GLASE and how to join the consortium, go to Glase.org.