Climate Action

This illuminated field isn't just pretty - it's helping to grow crops

Agriculture technology farming environment

Certain combinations of blue, red and ultraviolet light can enhance plant growth and could reduce the use of pesticides. Image: GROW/Ruben Hamelink and Daan Roosegaarde

Natalie Marchant
Writer, Forum Agenda
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This article is part of: The Davos Agenda
  • A 20,000-square-metre light installation in the Netherlands is contributing to sustainable agriculture.
  • The vertically placed LEDs in a field of leek are said to increase crop growth.
  • UV light could also reduce the use of pesticides by up to 50%, according to Daan Roosegaarde, the designer behind the project.
  • Sustainable agriculture is key to ensuring food security for all, says the FAO.

A 20,000-square-metre artwork that sees coloured lights appear to dance over a field at night is said to encourage crop growth – and is highlighting the importance of innovation in creating sustainable agriculture.

Have you read?

Dutch artist and innovator Daan Roosegaarde’s GROW project is inspired by photobiology light science technologies, which indicate that certain combinations of blue, red and ultraviolet (UV) light can enhance plant growth and may reduce the use of pesticides by up to 50%.

a field of lants with UV lights shining on them
The field of leek in the Netherlands where GROW is trialling its ‘light recipe’. Image: GROW/Ruben Hamelink and Daan Roosegaarde

Recipe of light

GROW, which was developed with partners Wageningen University and Rabobank, is trialling its vertical ‘light recipe’ across an enormous field of leek at Lelystad in the Netherlands. The country is one of the world’s largest agricultural producers, exporting €65 billion ($78.8 billion) of fruit, flowers, vegetables, meat and dairy products each year.

Specialized LEDs are commonly used to grow crops in greenhouses and are increasingly seen in ‘vertical farms’ in cities. However, scientists believe there may also be potential for using LEDs in more traditional and rural settings.

The solar-powered LEDs augment the light plants normally receive during the day. Roosegaarde’s project is also investigating whether brief exposure to some wavelengths of UV light could reduce the need for pesticides.

an illustration showing how the UV light works on plants
Combinations of red and blue LED lights are shown to encourage plant growth. Image: GROW/Ruben Hamelink and Daan Roosegaarde

“A specific ultraviolet light activates the defence system of plants,” Roosegaarde told Dezeen. “And what is interesting is that it works on all crops. So we can reduce the use of pesticides.”

Roosegaarde’s eventual goal is to take the artwork on tour to 40 different countries, with each featuring a local or national crop and tailored light recipe.

Roosegaarde's GROW project.
Roosegaarde’s eventual goal is to take the artwork on tour to 40 different countries Image: GROW/Ruben Hamelink and Daan Roosegaarde

Landscapes of the future

Studio Roosegaarde aims to create “landscapes of the future” and a previous project saw the artist/innovator turn a health hazard into a thing of beauty.

The Smog Free Project consists of a seven-metre-tall tower that sucks up polluted air and cleans it at nano level, before converting the carbon into diamonds.

A sustainable food chain

Sustainable food and agriculture is key to meeting all four pillars of food security – availability, access, utilization and stability, according to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

The FAO has highlighted 20 actions countries and stakeholders need to take immediately to combat global food insecurity, including connecting smallholders to markets, protecting water supplies, empowering people and fighting inequality.

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