Urban Barns Foods Inc. is pleased to announce that it has expanded its collaboration with McGill University researcher Dr. Mark Lefsrud, of the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, to further develop an indoor plant growth system aimed at expanding locally grown food. With industrial support from Urban Barns, McGill University was recently awarded an NSERC Collaborative Research & Development (CRD) grant in the amount of $240,000 in order to continue the development of this important project. The grant will run for an initial period of two years with the aim of optimizing light emitting diodes to assess photosynthetic efficiency of horticultural plants. The project is focused on the refinement of the photosynthetically active radiation efficiency (PAR curve) of plants using light emitting diodes (LEDs), and the basic science research will be used to optimize the lighting in the cubic farming system of Urban Barns to maximize production and reduce energy costs.
Dr. Mark Lefsrud is the principal investigator and team leader with expertise on the use of lighting in greenhouse environments and will apply his expertise to the fully controlled growing environment designed by Urban Barns. The research team includes Dr. Valerie Gravel, Assistant Professor in Plant Science, and will also include up to 10 graduates, undergraduates and research technicians over the two years of the grant, with expertise split between the engineering and horticultural needs of the project. The team will perform research on methods and technologies to grow food and other plants in a more energy-efficient manner while also attempting to improve the nutritional value of the food grown.
"Ultimately, the cubic farming system(TM) will be adapted to have optimal irradiance and wavelength control for the range of crops that can be grown in this system. We believe that by properly selecting LED lamps we can achieve energy savings of up to 30%," said Dr. Lefsrud.
Urban Barns expects to deliver four new cubic farming(TM) machines to the Macdonald Campus of McGill University by March 2014. The initial testing of the machines according to the agreed upon protocols is expected to start by the end of April 2014.