Growing with LEDs

Posted by Abel Prasad on

Hydroponics, or the process of growing plants using a combination of roots suspended in a nutrient solution and LEDs, is fast becoming economical. Entrepreneurs are looking for ways to make indoor growing more efficient with the ultimate goal of bringing the production of fresh produce closer to market (perhaps in the form of giant vertical farms).


The biggest hurdle at the moment is the technology. In many cases, it is still cheaper to grow fruit and vegetables in giant, outdoor farms a long way away from the market and then ship them in on transport containers and lorries. But that’s not stopping budding companies from attempting to offer alternative solutions which may help to make mass-scale hydroponics a reality.


Miracle Punchy is one such company that’s doing its bit to make sustainable farming a reality for the Australia grow industry, and the planet. Currently, the vast majority of hydroponics and indoor growing solutions rely on some form of artificial light to provide energy to plants. But the problem is that existing solutions aren’t particularly cost-effective, partly because of high energy requirements, and partly because of wasted energy. LED light technology provides much more efficient light output per unit of energy consumed than, say, a halogen bulb, but further efficiency savings are going to have to be made if it is to compete directly with the sun.


Miracle Punchy, now available on Hobby Hydro and Home Brew, hopes that their new LED product will change the face of indoor growing and achieve higher efficiencies than ever before. In this article, we’re going to review Miracle Punchy and take a look at where it beats out the competition, and where there is still room for improvement.


Micro-Baffles


Micro-baffles need not be baffling: they’re just small recesses which contain LEDs. Micro-baffles are an important innovation because they help Miracle Punchy’s system avoid delivering light to areas where it is not needed. The company says that the micro-baffles cut off high angle light - greater than 50 degrees - reducing glow and preventing additional light from being scattered away from the plants themselves.

Testing shows that Miracle Punchy delivers on its promises. If you install Miracle Punchy’s light directly above your plants, you’ll notice that the light appears to be “cut-off” at an angle of 50 degrees.

You might think to yourself, why does cutting the light off at 50 degrees matter? Surely surrounding plants will be able to use the excess scattered light for their respiration?

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like this: less concentrated light is less efficient for plant metabolism. So the directionality of light matters. Furthermore, if an LED light does not use micro-baffles, then it tends to emit a glow that surrounds the light in all directions, including in the opposite direction of the target.

Long Life

LEDs are more expensive than traditional lightbulbs - at least at the moment - but because of their long lifetime, they offer better value. LED lights rarely fail, and if they do, it’s usually after ten to a hundred times longer than the average incandescent bulb. LEDs, therefore, represent excellent value for money and are why indoor growing is finally taking off.

Miracle Punchy uses an array of highly durable LED lights in its lighting product. Even if one of the individual bulbs fails, it's easy to swap out and replace with another at low costs, negating the need to replace the entire lamp.

Data suggest that LED grow lights will last between 50,000 and 100,000 hours of continual use. That means that if you left them on 24 hours per day, they would continue for between 5 and 10 years, underscoring just how potent a tool they are for growing plants.

Heat Sink Technology

One of the problems with grow lights in the past was their unfortunate tendency to give off heat. Many plants do not tolerate heat well, and so there was always a risk that the lights would damage the crop, reducing yields. The problem got worse as the plant grew further towards the source of light, making it more likely that the upper leaves would get damaged.

Miracle Punchy says that they have mostly solved this problem with heat-sink technology. Granted, LED lightbulbs don’t give off much heat anyway (more than 90 per cent of energy is converted into light, compared to around 10 per cent from incandescent bulbs), but the company says that its heat sink practically eliminates the risk of crops being damaged by heat output.

The heatsink works similarly to one that you might find in a computer or a car. Miracle Punchy’s heatsink is better than the competition because it is made of a special kind of aluminium which has two to four times improved thermal conductivity than the standard aluminium alloys you find in most products. Because of this, Miracle Punchy says that it can achieve 40 per cent lower thermals than its competitors.

Longevity Of Fittings

Humidity can be a problem in some indoor growing locations. The combination of heat and evaporation can lead to problems with lighting housing, causing it to corrode. Miracle Punchy, however, gets around this problem by making all of the housing for its lamp from corrosion-proof, high conductivity metal. This means that your Miracle Punchy lights will last for as long as the bulbs - always a good thing.

Conclusions

So, is Miracle Punchy’s lamp the future of indoor growing? Right now, there is just one problem with this product: the fact that you cannot change the colour of the light to emit in wavelengths suitable for photosynthesis. But other than that, Miracle Punchy introduces a host of innovations that indoor growers will love. The company’s LED grow lights not only last a long time, but are safe to use (because they do not contain mercury), and do not emit heat which could damage plants.

If you’re in the market for LED grow lights, then we can certainly recommend Miracle Punchy’s product, based on its longevity and efficient design. Miracle Punchy is now available at Hobby Hydro and Home Brew.


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