The company, called Flavourfresh, produces nearly three million kilograms of tomatoes every year for large supermarkets, such as Asda and Spencer, and introduces LED lights in Southport's greenhouse two years ago to ensure production in the winter. Andy Roe, the production manager, said the results were "surprising"
Roe said, "technical specifications and our expectations have been met in the first year, from plant growth to fruit quality and flavor". He said that getting through the winter is a disturbing thing, but "the blessing of the God of tomato, our expectations coincide with reality."
Roe says that the quality of tomatoes grown under artificial lighting in winter is the same as that in summer. There is a cost price to achieve this goal, but British customers are ready to pay for it.
With its low energy consumption and tunable spectrum optimized for plant growth, LED is increasingly replacing HP lamps. For decades, high-pressure sodium lamps have always been the first choice for horticulture.
Nevertheless, Roe said that LED can not meet all the needs of Flavourfresh at present. For the new 17000 square meter greenhouse, he chose the high pressure sodium lamp again. The reason is not the amount of light, but the heat.
Although the heat emitted by LED is relatively small, the high pressure sodium lamp will emit a lot of heat. In many applications, this will only waste energy, but in a greenhouse, heat is very useful as long as it can be controlled.
Flavourfresh's existing LED lamps are installed in a relatively low ceiling greenhouse, because if the high pressure sodium lamp is installed, it will be very close to the crop, and the heat may cause damage. But the ceiling of the new greenhouse is more than two meters high, there are enough gaps between plants and lights, so the high-pressure sodium lamp is more attractive. Roe explained that the warm environment at the top of the plant helps keep the plants dry and promote fruit growth.
"We must decide what is the best way forward. We went to other planting plants that use high-pressure sodium lamps, which have both advantages and disadvantages. HPS lamps produce very strong light and run high costs, which have a great impact on plants.
Although LED lighting means lower energy cost and higher output in the long run, the high cost of early stage means that the HPS lamp returns faster.
But Roe still believes that LED is the future. He says, LED is getting better. "Growers will understand and make adjustments. In 10 years, LED will be the standard. "