LED Lights: The Answer to Hunger?

Images: GE

Images: GE

In Eastern Japan, in a building no bigger than half a football field, a plant physioligist named Shigeharu Shimamura has figured out a way to produce 10,000 heads of lettuce a day.

According to Shimamura, this rate of yield is exceptional — two-and-a-half times faster than what can be produced by a conventional outdoor farm. His secret is in the LED lights that control the night-and-day cycle, accelerating growth by promoting an optimal balance of daytime photosynthesis and nighttime breathing. These LED lights were produced for the farm by GE, who approached Shimamura in 2011 at a time when he was already an established physiologist and founder of an indoor farming company called Mirai, or ‘future.’


Now, the GE lights, designed to be thin enough to fit inside the rows and stacks of vegetables, are powering the efficient Mirai operation, serving as a strong example of a new solution to hunger and malnutrition that doesn’t involve chemicals or genetic engineering. And before you scoff at the fact that they’re just producing lettuce, keep in mind the results of a recent study placing simple leaf lettuce much higher up on the list of nutritional ‘powerhouse’ foods than you might have expected.

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