Increasing winter food yields in Northern B.C. through LED technology

Due to a short growing season and geographic dispersion, many Northern B.C. communities have limited access to fresh vegetables in winter. An innovative collaboration between industry and the College of New Caledonia (CNC) is hoping to address this issue by developing innovative solutions to optimize winter vegetable production. QuantoTech Solutions Ltd., a Vancouver based engineering company, initiated this applied research project by approaching the College in the fall of 2013. Their objective was to create a cost-effective LED lighting system that would allow plant producers to customize light intensity and spectrum in their greenhouse. The hope is that this project would change the way that food is grown in the North.

In the initial six-month period, CNC electronics faculty and students designed, fabricated and tested several LED light systems prototypes, making multiple refinements until they reached the final prototype. Students, faculty, and QuantoTech then tested the final prototype in the greenhouse at Baldy Hughes Therapeutic Community and Farm. The students conducted research to determine the best plants for this system by studying winter germination and growth of carrots, turnips, spinach and Swiss chard. In addition, CNC marketing students, with CNC Faculty Dr. Rosalie Hilde, conducted market research into QuantoTech’s technology and potential in northern communities.

This project has already generated several important impacts:

  • CNC students involved in this applied research project have developed important skills around LED technology, technology development and commercialization, entrepreneurship and the horticulture industry. By combining innovation with business mentorship, this project has helped new College graduates become the next generation of Canada’s technology entrepreneurs. QuantoTech Solutions hired one of the students involved with the project.

  • College of New Caledonia has forged a long-term relationship with QuantoTech Solutions, as a result of this project. They are continuing to work together on further refinements and commercialization of the LED technology.

  • QuantoTech has commercialized the technology and is selling their LED systems to growers in British Columbia. This is an example of a British Columbia company having successfully commercialized BC-made technology.

  • Northern communities will benefit from year round food production. The LED technology supports winter greenhouse growing, which helps address technology issues facing northern communities interested in increasing food security and local food supply. The hope is to roll out the technology across northern British Columbia.