Fresh greens in space

How intelligent horticultural light from OSRAM is ­conquering the world – and soon space too.

Asmall step for OSRAM, but possibly a giant leap for manned spaceflight. We are equipping NASA with Phytofy RLs, our intelligent research lighting system for plant growth. The American space agency NASA is using it to expand its research into food production during space missions.

Our innovative research lighting system – a special array of horticultural LEDs ­coupled with intelligent software – is now being used by NASA Food Production Research at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Scientists at the center are studying the ideal lighting conditions for the cultivation of lettuce and herbs for space crews. The insights gained on Earth serve as input for the Advanced Plant Habitat aboard the International Space Station (ISS). The space findings, in turn, are helping to improve the understanding of growth conditions on Earth.

“Many useful inventions in the world have come from NASA researchers,” says Steve Graves, Strategic Program Manager of Urban & Digital Farming. “We are proud that our technology is making further innovations possible.”

The vision of the smart farm

The project with NASA is part of our research with the aim of becoming the leading provider of smart farming solutions. “Our vision is the intelligent, automated farm of tomorrow,” says Timo Bongartz, head of Smart Farming. Integrated sensors ensure ideal growth conditions, regulating and controlling environmental factors such as light, temperature, humidity and CO2 content. Optical sensors monitor plant growth and health.

Our new software platform for the Internet of Things, “Lightelligence,” is also being used here. “Our cloud-based platform will form the backbone of the system. It will be the basis for sensor data analytics as well as for modeling plant growth and networking the logistics chain,” says Timo. Self-learning algorithms will use all this in the future to create and optimize digital growth models. “We have put together the ingredients for fulfilling our vision, and our next step will be to combine them into one system.” This will be a giant leap – both for OSRAM and for plant cultivation of the future.

Our road to the smart farm

We have expanded our market leadership in the field of horticultural LEDs through the addition of further horticulture components with the acquisition of US-based company Fluence Bioengineering and investment through Fluxunit, our venture capital arm, in Canadian startup Motorleaf.

Fluence Bioengineering is one of the world’s leading providers of smart lighting in vertical farms and greenhouses. The company, which has its headquarters in Texas, specializes in LED-based horti­cultural lighting and has an extensive database of lighting recipes.

Motorleaf offers technologies for yield forecasting for which it has developed one of the world’s first software and hardware solutions. With artificial intelligence and machine learning, it can forecast the harvest yields for tomatoes, for example.