Greenhouses currently cover about 720 acres in New York state. They extend the growing season and protect crops and other plants from harsh weather conditions. Researchers at Cornell University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) have formed a public-private consortium called the Greenhouse Lighting and Systems Engineering Consortium (GLASE). The consortium intends to transform the way greenhouses operate in order to reduce electricity use by 70 percent.
Funding for the seven-year, $5 million project comes from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) which advances Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s Clean Energy Standard that targets 50 percent of the electricity for the state of New York to come from renewable energy sources by 2030.
Plant physiology expert Tessa Pocock, a senior research scientist working at the Center for Lighting Enabled Systems & Applications (LESA), will lead the GLASE project at Rensselaer. Pocock has conducted research with plants in both academic and industry settings.
Pocock said, “The engineered LED lighting and sensing systems with advanced feedback control are being pioneered at LESA. Integrated with Cornell’s advanced greenhouse management technologies, GLASE has the potential to create a more sustainable and profitable greenhouse industry. The systems engineering expertise at LESA and the agriculture expertise at Cornell make this an ideal partnership.”
For the project, Neil Mattson, the lead investigator for GLASE at Cornell and an associate professor in the Horticulture portion of the School of Integrative Plant Science, will partner with Pocock. Together they plan to demonstrate a holistic greenhouse energy management system that integrates control of LED lighting, carbon dioxide supplementation, ventilation, and humidity.
Mattson, who also directs the Controlled Environment Agriculture group in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, said reactive lighting using LED technologies allows growers to deliver optimal lighting even as weather conditions change. His research at the Kenneth Post and Guterman greenhouse facilities on campus hopes to determine the precise LED and natural light conditions needed by tomatoes and lettuce as model plants. Mattson and his team also will study how tomato and strawberry growth responds to carbon dioxide supplementation.
Already, more than 30 potential participants including growers, lighting and fixture manufacturers, trade groups, supermarket produce buyers, horticultural suppliers, and research organizations have expressed interest in joining the consortium. The consortium is structured to become self-sustaining within seven years.
LESA’s vision is focused on creating digitized illumination for new applications in lighting, healthcare, building management, horticulture, and advanced 5G wireless communications platforms.