InGreenhouses: This greenhouse has everything a grower could dream of!

Little Leaf Farms is a semi-closed high-tech greenhouse facility in Devens, Massachusetts, USA. Horticultural entrepreneur Paul Sellew was keen to offer consumers in New England fresh, locally grown lettuces all year round. The result is a hydroponic greenhouse operation based on state-of-the-art technology that is revolutionizing the lettuce market in New England and beyond.

The US lettuce industry has traditionally been dominated by growers on the West Coast. That often means that consumers are buying lettuce that had been harvested in California a week before. Little Leaf Farms produces lettuces hydroponically on 2 hectares, the lettuces are cut and in stores on the same day. The company supplies its lettuces directly to 2,500 supermarkets throughout New England and to the food service sector through several distributors.

Hybrid Lighting System
On the topic of high-tech lighting, LEDs have been used in the greenhouse right from the start. Head Grower Pieter Slaman: “PB Tec have really done a great job for us with the water treatment system, the computer system, the electrics, everything. They put us in touch with Oreon for lighting, and we started out using just red/blue LEDs: Oreon Grow Light 3.0 LLF spectrum narrow beam and Oreon Grow Light 3.0 MB wide beam. We’ve since switched to a hybrid system of red/blue LEDs plus 1,000W and 600W high-pressure sodium (HPS) for the extra heat, especially at the top of the greenhouse on the long winter days. That has made the lettuces grow a lot faster,” he continues.

Water-cooled LEDs
Oreon’s unique water-cooled concept for lettuce ensures that the LEDs and the electronics are continuously cooled, regardless of the ambient temperature in the greenhouse, which guarantees optimal lamp performance and extends the life of the components. The supplier works closely with Slaman to help him fine-tune the spectrum: “We’re a successful team. For me, it’s not just about getting the maximum energy out of a kilowatt of light, but also about looking at what kind of light the plant needs to grow. There’s a reason that the sun is made up of more than just red and blue light!” The company has recently added full-spectrum LEDs to its existing hybrid system. “My ultimate aim with lighting is to eliminate the seasons – I want to create the optimum lighting conditions for each period to maintain high product quality and high volumes all year round,” he states.

Pictures: Oreon and Little Leaf Farms.
This article appeared in magazine 'In Greenhouses of May 2020'
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