Microcosms and hi-tech plants - a new frontier for agriculture?

There is increasing talk of indoor crops, i.e. productions that are immediately available to consumers because they are grown inside supermarkets and can be harvested and placed in carts.

Basil under white-spectrum diffused light (OLED)

Is this the ultimate purpose of the ISAAC project (innovative lighting technique system for growing vegetables indoors) conducted by ENEA in Portici? FreshPlaza talked about it with Luigi d'Aquino, one of the head researchers of the project funded with approximately €4.8 million by the Ministry for Economic Development to test OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) lighting systems on plants. 

"Although it is still early for practical applications of OLED sources in agriculture, we have taken the right direction, considering its sustainability and low energy impact. The project aims at favoring the growth of plants indoors by using new-generation lighting designed to improve people's comfort, save energy and limit the use of toxic elements in lighting technique devices."

Luigi d'Aquino

The project combines the skills of ENEA when it comes to agronomics and innovative lighting techniques with those of Gruppo FOS for IT and telecommunications and those of Becar (Gruppo Beghelli) in the lighting technique sector.

"The research continues the activities started by the SMARTAGS project, which produced the ENEA-FOS international patent known as 'Microcosmo', i.e. a real hi-tech field simulator for advanced research in agriculture but whose technology can also be useful for the indoor and outdoor cultivation of grassy and woody plants (such as olives, potatoes, tomatoes, lettuce, basil, etc.) using soil as a substrate, as it is considered a more sustainable approach than hydroponics."

"The first tests revealed how white-spectrum diffused light OLED lighting with a warm tone can support plant growth, although there is still a lot to be done when it comes to light intensity. Nonetheless, thanks to their peculiar characteristics - including large emission area, generation of diffused light, high conversion efficiency and therefore low temperature that does not require the use of heat sinks - OLEDs can also be used for designer and high-end lighting systems and is suitable for both people and plants, contributing to people's well-being," adds Maria Graia Maglione, ENEA researcher part of the Nano-material and device Laboratory (in the photo).

Contacts:
luigi.daquino@enea.it
mariagrazia.maglione@enea.it


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