Moulds such as mildew and botrytis are major issues for undercover crops. Vitabeam has developed an innovative lighting system that promotes plant growth whilst improving product shelf life by disinfecting the product during growth and before packaging. Using a unique combination of light wavelengths, the company has created VQe (Vitabeam Quantum Energy), a lighting strip that can be easily used in combination with existing lighting systems.
Vitabeam is talking at the Agri-TechE event ‘Let there be light – powering plant production‘ on 22nd February 2022.
CEO James Millichap-Merrick explains that one contact in the USA was losing 33% of their lettuce at the greenhouse door due to mould attack, before they asked for help from Vitabeam.
“Currently moulds are controlled by spraying the crop with chemicals or by chlorine washing the product post-harvest, but Vitabeam offers the same control without leaving harmful residue on the product.
“The VQe MaxStrip is a safe light energy that can be used throughout the growth cycle of the crop, as well as during storage and shipping of the product. The light strip is hung above the crop and is used in conjunction either with natural lighting or artificial lighting.
“By adding to the spectrum of light already being used, VQe has been shown to give yield enhancements, with some growers finding 10% to 30.1% increases in yield over conventional lighting.”
Vitabeam is gaining interest from the US, India and China and is keen to talk to UK growers at the Agri-TechE event about trials of the product. James continues:
“We began new trials at the end of 2020, following Innovate UK funding, and we now have some really strong relationships – the trials are in greenhouse and polytunnel environments, working with fruits, basil, lettuce and other produce.
“There are known spectra of light that plants respond to, and growers we work with are using LED lighting to create specific ‘light recipes’ and enhance certain traits of the plant.
“Specifically, in basil, our lighting has created stronger plants with a more ‘crisp’ structure, which enhances shelf-life and cold storage. After harvesting, plants can wilt very quickly. Therefore, making the plant structurally stronger by using the VQe MaxStrip is a clear benefit for retailers and customers.”
“We are really keen to contact more growers in the UK to establish more of these relationships. And that’s our mission for 2022 – starting with February’s Agri-TechE event.
“Every grower is unique, and there are plenty of variables for us to investigate which alter the performance of our lights, including distance from the crop, intensity, duration and different crop types. There’s a real interest in our technology, from growers, to understand how Vitabeam VQe benefits their growing systems.
“Anybody who would like to connect with us can get in touch by email and we will discuss how Vitabeam can help their company, and if they are interested in trials, we can organise that starting with a site visit.”
The Agri-TechE event ‘Let There Be Light – Powering Plant Production’ will take place on Tuesday 22nd February from 10:00 am – 2:00 pm at the University of Essex’s STEM Building in Colchester.
Speaking along with James Millichap-Merrick will be Tracy Lawson and John Stamford from University of Essex, John Matcham from Light Science Technologies, Molly Allington from Albotherm and Jim Stevens from Vertical Future.