By Alfred Day Decker, Permaculture Designer, Teacher, and Consultant
In my previous blog post Perma-what? A Holistic Design System Called Permaculture, I proposed that “organic agriculture is great but it often doesn’t go far enough.
For instance, if indoor growers are using organic fertilizers but also growing with high energy sodium lights which contaminate the environment after their life cycle, is that really organic?
Permaculture is a holistic design system that analyses the whole life cycle of agricultural production, so we consider all of these factors. And so does BioTabs in producing their line of fertilizers, and in giving advice to gardeners and growers.
Let’s look at the first issue above, high energy grow lights used by indoor growers. The two most common lights have bulbs that are full of heavy metal gases: High Pressure Sodium (HPS) or Metal-Halide (MI). Both generate substantial pollution in their production and are usually thrown away in landfills.
This has a direct impact on polluting the environment with heavy metals. Growers often replace them every 3-4 growing cycles.
HPS lamps (the same lamps used in street lights) generate huge amounts of heat: up to 95% of light produce by an HPS lamp is emitted in the infrared range, which we perceive as heat while MI lamps waste about 2/3 of the light they produce.
In these indoor grow rooms, to counteract the heat that is generated by this inefficient illumination, plants are heavily watered and the spaces often have mechanical ventilation, air-conditioners, and dehumidifiers, requiring significant inputs of water and electricity, with high financial and environmental costs.
By contrast, energy efficient LED lights are experiencing a massive market boom. They allow plants to take advantage of up to 90% of the light they generate, leading to a more efficient photosynthesis; making heat extraction systems much less necessary or completely unnecessary; and reducing their irrigation costs substantially.
Let’s take a look at the industry leading LEDs favoured by the BioTabs crew: the Austrian manufacturer SANlight.
It’s just a totally different way to grow with artificial lights from top to bottom.
First of all, the lights are built to a high quality in Europe and meant to last for years. If individual LED modules become damaged, they can be exchanged. When upgrades to the current 2nd Generation Q-Series are developed, the light can be swapped to one from the latest generation for a significantly lower price as the elaborately produced aluminum heat sinks will be reused with other relevant parts and utilized for the production of refurbished LEDs, which will also be sold at a lower price… such a refreshing way to do things instead of just throwing out the whole light fixture and bulbs after just 2-3 years and buying poorly manufactured new ones.
Sanlight states in their technical specifications that their Q-Series 2nd Generation lights have a 90% light output after 100,000 hours. They have easily controllable dimmers to adjust the lights to necessary conditions and are built to receive forthcoming Bluetooth dimmers that can be controlled through a smart device (mobile phone, tablet, etc.) to increase lighting precision and energy efficiency.
The lights have two setups, Eco and Expert,
The lights have two setups, Eco and Expert, the first with an estimated 50% on energy costs and the second 35% in comparison with HPS lights, both with expected gains in quality and quantity.
Energy efficiency and building products that can be upgraded and recycled easily are part of what we call the Circular Economy: an economic system aimed at eliminating waste and the continual use of resources. Tune in to the next article to read more about how the Circular Economy relates to organic agriculture and gardening.