Current, powered by GE and Jones Food Company Ltd. (JFC) are in the process of constructing one of the largest vertical indoor farms in the world. The intensive plant nursery in North Lincolnshire, England, will be the largest indoor farm in Europe. It will produce up to 420 tons of leafy greens per year across a growing area of 5120m2. The growing area is arranged in racks rising to the height of 11m. In order to help the vertical farm maximize its yield, Current by GE is installing more than 12Km of its new Arize* LED horticultural lighting solution.
According to Current, the Arize LED horticultural lighting solution features a balanced light spectrum that stimulates optimal growth in every plant and shortens the growth cycle for more intensive production.
“We knew that lighting would be the lifeblood that could bring high-care intensive food production to an industrial level that demonstrates real commercial viability.” JFC CEO James Lloyd-Jones said.
JFC worked with the Current team to develop a customized version of the Arize grow lights that emit a combination of red, blue and white wavelengths that could be flexible and efficient enough to grow a strong, balanced plant. The equipment is located within an intelligent cleanroom (or “high-care”) environment that lets crops grow in complete isolation from external contamination. Each growth area will have its own water and nutrient supply.
As part of being an intelligent high-care environment, the new facility will leverage Current by GE’s cloud-data system to monitor electricity usage from its LEDs and HVAC systems. JFC points out that such a growth environment is ideal for food production as well as growing high-quality cosmetic and pharmaceutical ingredients.
Production of First Crop Expected to Start in Autumn 2018
“Nobody has been able to scale indoor, high-care intensive food production to an industrial level that demonstrates real commercial viability,” explained James Lloyd-Jones, CEO and co-founder of JFC. “We knew that lighting would be the lifeblood of the facility and we’d need a partner who could see the potential and work with us to develop the right lighting set-up and spectrum to make our vision a reality.”
JFC Claims Facility is Europe’s Largest Indoor Vertical Farm
With a growing area of 5120m2, the equivalent of 26 tennis courts, arranged across racks with a height of just over three stories, the JFC intends for the facility it owns and operates to set new crop production and environmental standards of the future. JFC plans to slash food miles and produce leafy greens, herbs and other crops with year-round local production. The company hopes that these crops, herbs, and greens can be delivered from harvest to plate in minimal time.
In addition, by making the farm a “high-care” facility, JFC will also hopes to cater to the growing needs of cosmetics and pharmaceutical customers who require a reliable supply of natural ingredients of the highest quality. The facility will control every factor in the growth of the crops; Factors including everything from the nutrient solution delivered to the roots of every plant, to the concentration of CO2 in the room, to the light wavelengths and duration of the growing “day”and subsequent rest period will all be tightly controlled.
From planting to harvest, every plant will be untouched by human hands thanks to intelligent automation and advanced robotics. By comparison, conventional production cycles typically have 13 stages of human contact. In fact, JFC will use its own, self- driving forklift truck that can insert and remove trays. JFC says that this self-driving forklift will result in a 60% labor cut as only 3 humans will be permitted to enter the facility at a time.
Arize Lights the Future of Horticulture
Malcolm Yare, Horticulture Business Development Manager for Current by GE commented, “We’ve spent years honing our technology in other industrial lighting sectors, and years more partnering with agricultural experts and researching the needs of horticultural applications. Our Arize LED solutions now lead the industry for efficiency and we continue to research new ways to improve performance through innovation. We look forward to working with Jones Food Company and our wider ecosystem of partners to find new ways to scale high-quality, global food production whilst reducing the energy and environmental costs of vertical farming.”
The Arize range of lighting solutions are low cost to install and maintain, with a market-leading 36K-hour lifetime (L90) and a five-year warranty to provide peace of mind and long-term reliability. Arize also has an IP66 and UL Wet rating that also make them perfect for high-care and cleanroom facilities because the luminaires can be easily washed and sanitized while in-place.
Saving the Environment and Boosting the Balance Sheet
The JFC facility is uniquely designed to minimize the environmental impact of vertical farming, which will also benefit JFC financially. For example, the facility will use up to 90 percent less water and 50 percent less fertilizer than conventional growing methods, saving on input costs. Additionally, Current by GE’s Arize LED horticultural lighting is highly efficient and generates less heat than competitive products, and it reduces energy consumption and carbon footprint by 33 percent compared with vertical farming averages.
JFC previously tested the LEDs on a mini-farm on Challinor’s property in order to identify best practices for efficiencies. Based on this testing, JFC has already created plans to pump pure CO2 into the facility, install roof solar panels and use GE’s cloud-data system to monitor energy use and controls integration.
The integration of sensors is reportedly still underway at the facility as there is a vision for Current to connect JFC’s sites into Current’s IoT Enterprise solution. Due to the phased nature of the project, Current is continuing research and development with the latest innovation for sensing and automation technology. JFC is reportedly working with a trusted Current ecosystem partner to ensure seamless integration of Current’s lighting systems into their site level building management system to limit the amount of work that needs to be done manually.