Tiny as it is, the Netherlands is the largest exporter of vegetables in the world, which is extraordinary when the Netherlands is about 20 percent of the size of the UK and the United States is about 237 times bigger.
The primary reason for this is that the Dutch have long been pioneers in using highly efficient farming techniques that minimize the impact on the environment and maximize output. Recently, Rotterdam-based Studio Roosegaarde unveiled a vast new light installation that makes outdoor agriculture even more sustainable whilst also turning crop fields into a work of art.
The light installation is called Grow, and it uses red, blue, and ultraviolet lights to increase plant growth and reduce the use of pesticides by up to 50 percent. As a happy by-product, the lights create a gorgeous visual spectacle at night.
“We thought we should highlight the beauty of this agriculture,” said Daan Roosegaarde, the designer who runs the studio. “These vast fields feed us, but nobody sees it.”
The inspiration for the light installation came after Roosegaarde - a self-described urbanite -visited a farm for one of the very first times and discovered that certain combinations of light can not only strengthen plant metabolism but also create resistance to both pests and disease.
“Light recipes” are already being deployed in greenhouses, but Roosegaarde wants to test its potential at a larger scale outdoors.
“A specific ultraviolet light activates the defense system of plants. And what is interesting is that it works on all crops,” the designer explained. “So we can reduce the use of pesticides.”
This last bit is important as reducing pesticides is important as it can significantly harm biological diversity while contaminating the crops themselves. As for the light installations, the devices that hold the lights move up and down to distribute the light evenly across the field, and as they move, they “create dancing patterns that are very hypnotic to watch.”
“It’s very futuristic and also very romantic, in a way,” added Roosegaarde.
Whether Grow will become widely adopted is yet to be seen. There are still concerns about light pollution - and costs might be an issue. Still, it’s incredible to see just how creative agriculture has become over the years.
A new vertical farm, opening on the outskirts of Copenhagen is set to start producing nearly 1,000 metric tons of greens a year. Produce can be harvested up to 15 times a year without needing any soil or daylight. Automated robots will be used to both plant seeds and check in on them later as well. The company's organically grown produce has the additional benefits of having more flavour, greater nutritional value and longer shelf life than traditionally produced salads and herbs. More...