A brave new world

Engineered gardening could help expand growing potential

newDonnawebYou likely don’t think about light quality or intensity when you’re crunching a carrot or raising a radish, so why should you care about Jack Zhang’s newly engineered lights?

Because Zhang’s new LED lights could help you grow your own super-efficient vertical farm in a kitchen nook, empty bedroom or spare closet.

Zhang, an electric engineer by trade, spoke to me about his newly imagined LED lights when the Lumenari Biosciences co-founder and CEO attended the Canwest Horticulture show in September. At that time, Zhang said his company was, “all about designing energy-efficient lighting systems for the horticulture industry.”

Industry yes, but maybe he designed something even amateurs will benefit from?

“Right now, on the market, there are still a large amount of grow lights or HPS (High Pressure Sodium) light systems,” he said. “They draw a huge amount of power, they aren’t really energy efficient and they are bad for the environment because if one breaks you’ve got toxic chemicals.”

Zhang’s system isn’t only cheaper to run. He said his lights are more likeable to plants.

“Only 20 per cent of (visible) light is absorbed by the plant in HPS or florescent light systems,” said Zhang. “The rest of the light is not absorbed by the plant – not usable by the plant. It is rejected. In general, the two biggest chemical responses to photosynthesis (how plants use light) are at blue and red. And what we are learning right now is some plants actually like a bit of green and that (colour) penetrates deeper into the plant.

“You can have the best hydroponics system, but in a place like Canada if you don’t have light you can’t grow anything. There is so much demand on the energy grid that we need more energy-efficient products like these.”

Like a bale of hay served to people, florescent lights served to plants are an inefficient food source. And HPS lights are power hogs that overheat and pollute the world when they break. So Zhang has developed a highly customizable system to be used alone or as supplemental light. It’s something I might try in my greenhouse this winter when the days are so short.

Zhang said Lumenari’s lights are more efficient than an energy-saving light bulb and can be purchased for as little as $60 each.

For more information, visit www.lumenari.co.

Donna Balzer is an enthusiastic gardener and entertaining speaker. Sign up for her e-newsletter at www.gardenguru.net or follow her on Twitter @NoGuffGardener.

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