The new study reveals exciting findings for both consumers and vertical farming industry practices.
PRESS RELEASE — Today, technology-driven vertical farming company Kalera announced the publication of a new study, “Effect of End-of-Production High-Energy Radiation on Nutritional Quality of Indoor-Grown Red-Leaf Lettuce,” conducted in partnership with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. The Kalera-sponsored study found that by using high-energy LED lighting prior to harvest, red-leaf lettuce significantly increases the production of antioxidants and especially of anthocyanins, compounds in plants that may offer health-promoting benefits by protecting cells from free radicals — exciting news for health-conscious consumers. By only using high-energy LED lighting for the last few days before harvest, both yield and quality could be maximized indoors, indicating promising and cost-effective future practices for the vertical farming industry. The entire study can be read here.
While numerous studies have evaluated the effect of high-energy light as a means to increase nutritional quality of lettuce grown in vertical farms, most research has focused on providing constant light quality or quantity throughout the production cycle, which typically reduces yield or increases production costs. In this new University of Florida study, Dr. Celina Gómez, Assistant Professor of Controlled Environment Horticulture at the University of Florida, who led the study, evaluated the use of end-of-production (EOP) high energy light as a cost-effective, pre-harvest practice that can allow growers to manipulate product quality and increase market value of lettuce without negatively affecting yield.
“Dr. Toma approached me to discuss the possibility of leading the study, which resulted in exciting findings for the vertical farming industry and consumers of healthy produce alike. The objective of the study was to compare growth and accumulation of secondary metabolites such as antioxidants from two popular red-leaf lettuce cultivars grown indoors and exposed to different strategies of EOP high-energy lighting. In general, EOP with blue or high-intensity lighting increased anthocyanin content and antioxidant capacity,” noted Dr Gómez. “Considering potential implications on production costs, EOP with additional blue light is an effective strategy to increase the quality of indoor-grown red-leaf lettuce plants.”
“Given the positive effects of pre-harvest light treatments on nutritional value and marketability of red-leaf lettuce cultivars, vertical farms like Kalera offer tremendous opportunities to deliver fresh, high-quality produce to local markets. This is just one example of what vertical farming can do,” noted Dr. Cristian Toma. “By investing in new developments in science and technology, Kalera is positioning itself as a leader in the vertical farming space and as an expert in the ag-tech revolution. This new research reflects the importance of constantly educating our company, our customers, and our industry on best practices, even as we continue to expand and grow into new markets.”
The new study is being released shortly after Kalera announced its expansion into Atlanta, GA, with its newest facility. Kalera opened its second Orlando, Florida indoor vertical farm in March. While Kalera’s Orlando farm is currently the highest production volume vertical farm in the Southeast, the new Atlanta facility will be more than double the size while generating over 70 jobs for the local community. As was the case in Orlando, Kalera is able to quickly open its newest growing facility in Atlanta with its proprietary technology as a result of a streamlined design and construction process, further illustrating its ability to rapidly scale and expand its vertical farms. The Atlanta facility is the third indoor vertical farm in Kalera’s portfolio and will soon be joined by more in the United States and abroad.
Kalera is a technology driven vertical farming company with unique growing methods combining optimized nutrients and light recipes, precise environmental controls, and clean room standards to produce safe, highly nutritious, pesticide-free, non-GMO vegetables with consistent high quality and longer shelf life year-round. The company’s high-yield, automated, data-driven hydroponic production facilities have been designed for rapid rollout with industry-leading payback times to grow vegetables faster, cleaner, at a lower cost, and with less environmental impact.
The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS brings science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents.