This piece was originally published in the March/April 2019 issue of electroindustry.
LED solutions are saving businesses big energy costs and helping cities grow smarter, but light fixtures can also help feed entire communities, according to Big Tex Urban Farms.
Farming at the Fair
Located at the State Fair of Texas, Big Tex Urban Farms is part innovation lab, part production facility and on a mission to grow fresh produce for communities that lack easy access to grocery stores, farmers markets, and other healthy eating options. Initially, the farm on concrete started with 100 raised garden boxes but quickly grew to over 500 boxes able to produce 2,700 pounds of food—or about 21,000 servings annually. Still, Big Tex had bigger goals.
Big Tex counts on Hort Americas, a commercial greenhouse and hydroponics supplier, to deliver innovative and economically viable solutions that will result in even greater food yields. Along with the brand-new grow bed, Hort Americas brought the urban farm another bright idea—an LED system that provides the most suitable spectrum of light for indoor farming.
Up and Growing with LED
The LED lighting system provides optimal light spectrums for plant growth. On one spectrum, higher red content promotes flowering and fruit generation while, on another, higher blue content helps produce thick, healthy leaves. A third spectrum, balanced red- to-blue, encourages overall growth.
Past experiences had taught the Big Tex team that LED lamps offer longer life, energy savings, lower maintenance, and less heat as compared to traditional horticulture lighting options like fluorescent tubes and high-pressure sodium fixtures, making the decision to add the system to its newest deep-water bed an easy one.
An Even Healthier Outlook
Over the past year, Big Tex has converted its greenhouse from a sometimes storage space to a full production facility that never takes a day off. As the farm expands, and as Hort Americas continues to lend its expertise to the budding operation, Jason Hays, creative director of Big Tex Urban Farms, can see a setup that can one day produce a million servings of food a year. In the meantime, 100 percent of the fresh greens grown by the farm are donated to Dallas-area organizations that distribute the food to various communities.
“Our role is to continue to innovate in urban agriculture and to be an open resource for anyone who wants to replicate what we’re doing,” he says.