LED lights to improve crops
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The Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde says that light is his language. It is the energy resource and the clairvoyance to look at the world half an hour ahead of others. Its center of operations is the Studio Roosegaarde, in the port of Rotterdam, the Netherlands; a glass factory in which designers, engineers and specialists in different subjects work that merge technology with art and that connect with people. This peculiar establishment seems to have more of a laboratory than a creative space.
The Roosegaarde team interprets the world as an operating system; as a mobile phone application that needs to be updated. Updating that they carry out through thinking and creating prototypes in which energy, air, water and clean spaces are their pillars. They make landscapes of that science fiction that is just around the corner. What Roosegaarde wants is to make designs that arouse people’s curiosity about the future, as he explains via email. A book published by Phaidon collects all the works devised to date by this artist and explorer of the relationship between nature, technology and people.
The Roosegaarde team interprets the world as an operating system; as a mobile phone application that needs to be updated
GROW is one of those projects by the futuristic Studio Roosegaarde that was launched in January 2021 in Lelystad, in the Netherlands, and in which 22 people have worked, including designers, engineers and other experts. With LED lights, mixing science with art and precision with beauty, and in collaboration with the Rabobank bank, the institution that finances an artistic residency from which GROW was born, this project is committed to an innovation that 665 can benefit from million people, according to calculations made by its authors, to which must be added the Wageningen University & Research, Springtij Forum and the World Economic Forum in Davos. Two years after their first idea, they have succeeded in making the leeks grown by Dennis van de Weerd in Lelystad glow overnight.
At first, it was difficult for the farmer to get used to the idea, he did not understand very well what it was about. Then he was delighted and now he can’t stop looking at his bright harvest. He is the first of many, they hope. The plan is to illuminate fields of different crops, depending on the site where it is implemented. The idea is to do it in the countries where Rabobank it has bank subsidiaries; Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Rwanda, Uganda, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, Cambodia, Laos, Philippines, Curaçao, Paraguay or Nicaragua, among others, in addition to creating a more universal appreciation of the important role of farmers, whom Daan Roosegaarde describes as heroes.
Red, blue and UV LED lights illuminate the land that farmer Dennis works in Lelystad, the Netherlands.
The objective of GROW is to make crops sustainable through the correct and adequate lighting of LED lights and to bring people to the field through aesthetics. The red, blue and ultraviolet LED lights that illuminate the field create a rippling, psychedelic and hypnotic effect. A dance of light that makes one believe that they are contemplating a video installation in a contemporary art museum instead of a field of leeks. A crop that, thanks to a studied lighting, increases its production and reduces the amount of pesticide it needs.
The flickering, fluorescent image of cities at night GROW extends to the countryside, turning it into a 20,000-square-meter open-air dance floor. An area on which four solar battery-powered units are deployed, projecting high-density red, blue and ultraviolet LED beams of light onto the field of the aforementioned van de Weerd, the farmer who grows cutting-edge leeks to become mash tastes little to them. They are worthy of being exposed in the Tokyo Museum of Digital Art.
Red and blue LED lights stimulate plant growth and ultraviolet activates their metabolism
The question that many ask themselves after seeing the video GROW’s presentation is how the beauty of light can help plants. Question answered by two collaborating entities with Studio Roosegaarde, the University of Wageningen in the Netherlands and the New Zealand company BioLumic. The red and blue LED lights stimulate the growth of plants, the ultraviolet activates their metabolism, which generates a greater resistance against droughts and pests and, therefore, reduces the need for the use of pesticides by up to 50 %. This lower dependence on chemicals translates into greater sustainability of crops in particular and an important benefit for the environment in general. In principle, without secondary effects on crops, the environment and people, to which the artist adds: “For more than 30 years agriculture has made use of light in greenhouses. What we do now is illuminate fields in the open air ”.
Roosegaarde and his entire team, as well as his collaborators, are aware that the farming industry It is one of the most polluting groups in the world; This is why he himself believes that the application of innovation is as important in this project as the involvement of consumers. It says that if we are not the creators of our future, then we will be its victims.
If we are not the creators of our future, then we will be its victims, says the project leader.
The use of these lights is not an artistic fad. In the magazine article Nature titled LEDs for photons, physiology and food, the authors write that LED technology is facilitating a fundamental revolution in plant photobiology research.
The positive impact of LED lights in our lives is remarkable: these products use less energy, their consumption in the long run is more profitable and precise control of the intensity and distribution of light is possible, as well as its integration with other technologies. In the case of plants, they require light intensities 30 to 100 times higher than those required by people. That is why Daan Roosegaarde employs a software high-density light.
The text also explains how a growing field with LEDs can recycle water and, as already mentioned, reduce the use of pesticides by making it possible for the growing area to be closer to urban centers. In this way, the transport of perishable products would be less. As if that were not enough, this technology also has a genetic potential that can design plants that take better advantage of the environment in which they grow (Environmentally Modified Organisms, EMO for its acronym in English) and, on the other hand, these new plants demand dedicated LED lights express for them.
Daan Roosegaarde, this light, dreamlike and sustainable landscape does not see it as a utopia, but as a protopia that improves step by step. For this artist, the project, in addition to being good for nature, shines a hopeful light for people and gives another meaning to the word agriculture. GROW creates a new harmony between people and nature, where art meets science to improve the world around us. A place where even the most urban of all no longer have an excuse not to go to the fields at night and see colorful plants dance.