Light Science Technologies (LST) has further strengthened its academic ties with the addition of further expertise and new equipment from the University of Nottingham (UoN) to develop its AgTech capabilities.
Kellie Smith, a PhD student from the university, has joined the team on a three-month placement at its purpose-built, state-of-the-art lab facilities to help shape the perfect plant recipe for indoor farmers and growers.
Touching upon her current experience with duckweed, Kellie explained: “By controlling nutrients, lighting and temperature, we can see how these affect plants and which elements we can alter to maximise growth. These experiments also help us determine which varieties would make for a good food source.”
New strawberry trial
This same principle is being applied to her work at LST on a three-month strawberry trial, working alongside academic bedfellows CC Foo and Laura Briers, at the Derby-based company’s onsite laboratory.
Kellie continued: “We’re using previous data – an optimised light recipe – which we’ve taken forward for this new trial and simply changed the light levels. We want to see through providing less light, or energy, if we can improve growth, optimise yield and ultimately, quality. At a time of rising energy costs, cost savings and profit are crucial for growers.
By tracking plant growth and conditions of the strawberry plants, we are able to identify how parameters such as height, crown width, flower and fruit numbers and yield vary between the strawberry plants under different light intensity treatments when we keep nutrient EC and pH and soil EC and moisture level constant.
Kellie, along with the rest of the team, are benefiting from the use of an infrared gas analyser, a LI-COR LI6800, a portable system LST has invested in, which allows them to track carbon assimilation (photosynthesis). However, thanks to LST’s collaboration with UoN, the trial is expected to go one step further in producing a more advanced level of data.
The machine is normally fitted as standard with a chamber which allows a leaf to be clamped onto to track photosynthesis at a specific light intensity. However, UoN has lent its own clear chamber head, which enables measurements to be made under LST’s light recipe. This allows the team to output photosynthetic differences between different light recipes. As Kellie points out, this is “something we can’t do without UoN’s specific piece of kit.”
Accelerating AgTech development
Simon Deacon, Founder and CEO of LST said: “One of the biggest pain points for CEA farmers and growers is spending significant costs before they have got anywhere near achieving the ideal recipe. LST’s lab solves this by helping to recreate the perfect growing environment before they commit to large investments. Harnessing our strong relationship with UoN and the expertise of its academic specialists such as Kellie are pivotal in what we are trying to achieve in honing the right growing recipe.
“LST’s investment in technology and equipment demonstrates our full commitment to the ‘art’ of plant science and will help accelerate the development of future horticulture lighting and environmental technologies as we seek out more sustainable, energy efficient ways of growing fresh produce.”