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Veggies grown with artificial light – scientists from St. Petersburg develop unique growing technique

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A revolutionary method of agricultural growing is being tested in Russia. Ideal growing conditions are being scrupulously recreated for vegetables. The only country to use such ways now is Japan.

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Domestic specialists have already grown test batch of tomatoes and cucumbers. The result – up to 300 kilograms from each square meter. Nikolay Rastvortsev found out how possible mass production with these technologies is.

Nikolay Rastvortsev, reporter: “4 harvests of tomatoes per year – up to 100 kilograms overall from just one square meter. 6 harvests of cucumbers – up to 300 kilograms from a similarly small “light garden”. Farmers can only dream of such numbers. But scientists from the Agrophysical research institute have proved – such result is quite possible. It looks appealing and tastes good”

Growing vegetables without a single drop of sunlight. These tomatoes and cucumbers grow at an experimental bio farm under the light of special lamps. St. Petersburg’s scientists are able to harvest those all year round. And it delivers twice as much produce as what greenhouses can deliver. Currently, the in-demand vegetables are being supplied to Russia from outside – especially during the off-season. The new development of the agrophysicists is very well-timed: the natric lamps have shed light upon the path to replacing imports.

Nadezhda Sinyavina, head researcher at the light-physiology of plants and bioproductivity department: “Unlike the technologies which are being used in the Netherlands and Japan, we grow our vegetables on organic and mineral substrates. That’s why those are rich with macro and micro elements. At the same time, the amount of nitrates and nitrites in them is much lower”

Light-physiology became a separate branch of science in the mid-1940s. For more than half a century, agrophysicists had been involved in theoretical studies. Only in 2008, having received investments, they went practical. Results were encouraging.

All the written estimations from the last century materialized into kilograms of produce. The main goal now – to downsize energy costs. For now those amount to 80 percent of the vegetables value. The biophysics lab is trying to determine the ideal conditions for growing every particular type. A combined system of smart lighting, which would use energy-saving lamps, has to be created for this.  

Gayane Panova, head of the light-physiology of plants and bioproductivity department: “As plants and veggies are growing, we want particular lamps to work – so that harvest expands, but energy costs dwindle. That is by lowering the capacities of the natric lamps”

But even now the net cost is not big – a kilogram of cucumbers would be worth from 60 to 90 rubles, depending on the type. A kilogram of tomatoes would not be more expensive than 120 rubles. Businessmen look interested, but have not come up with any proposals yet. So, for now, the harvest goes straight to the institute’s staff. Investors have not yet tried the veggies from a light farm

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