Dynamic lighting in the Plant Factory
Controlled environment agriculture (CEA) holds significant commercial importance in modern horticulture. Key to its success is the use of dynamic LED light fittings, which can be adjusted to reflect natural wavelengths, enabling customisation for specific crop needs.
By tailoring ‘light recipes’, CEA can optimise plant growth, enhance photosynthesis and influence taste, colour, and nutritional content. This level of control makes it an attractive option for both commercial growers seeking sustainable and efficient methods to meet increasing global food demand, and those interested in novel therapeutics for the medical market.

Controlled environments, advanced by AI

This project aims to integrate dynamic LED lighting systems with artificial intelligence (AI) techniques. Working with world leaders in the field of LED light manufacturing, we will design and test a lighting system under CEA conditions – in a commercial setting with project partner Phytome Research Limited, and in a research setting at the University of Plymouth.
Our system will be connected to a net of tailor-made spectrophotometers to measure the intensity of light, and coupled to advanced software that processes data and manages the light output. This will help to optimise photosynthesis and growth patterns, improving plant health and crop yields.
Advanced AI will be used to analyse real-time environmental data within the CEA facility, monitoring light levels and spectra, as well as plant responses to the custom lighting conditions. The system will then make data-driven decisions to adjust the environmental conditions needed to maximise light absorbance and the rate of photosynthesis.
Raspberry Pi Spectrometer
Inexpensive, custom-made Raspberry Pi Spectrometers are a key component of our dynamic CEA system. Designed by project partner Dr Les Wright, they allow for fine measurement of the visible spectrum and can be built using off-the-shelf hardware, making them highly accessible for small-scale CEA growers.

Objectives of the project

The technology will be tested on basil (at University of Plymouth) and cannabis (at Phytome Research Limited, who hold a Home Office license) in order to achieve the following:
  • accelerating research for impactful results at relatively low cost
  • enhancing yield by tuning the lighting system at different growth stages
  • improving the quality of target plants through non-destructive PySpectrometer monitoring
  • customising crop characteristics and chemical content
  • minimising energy wastage to reduce costs and improve efficiency.

Expected impacts of our research

By precisely tailoring controlled environment conditions we will be able to reduce energy usage, leading to cost savings and improved environmental sustainability. The project will directly benefit grow light manufacturers by providing an advanced control system, able to optimise the light spectrum regardless of ambient conditions.
Our research findings will also have a substantial impact on the wider CEA and greenhouse industries, as well as the pharmaceutical industry, by radically reducing the resources and time required to develop dynamic lighting recipes capable of ‘programming’ crops for precision molecular outcomes.
The Plant Factory

More research from the Plant Factory

Our Plant Factory uses novel LED technology to grow crops in controlled hydroponic systems, providing solutions for health, food and water security.

Lettuces growing in the Plant Factory

Plant Factory Cornwall
Prototyping automated, programmable ‘light recipes’ to accurately deliver the necessary requirements for plants during their differing growth stages.

multi pipette research of cancer stem cells

Optimisation of Plant Factory systems
The production of clean pharmaceutical plant species with a stable, consistent concentration of important secondary metabolic products.

Plant Factory basil under LED lights

Improving energy efficiency of a Plant Factory
Using specific light spectra, can we grow plants at higher temperatures to improve energy efficiency and reduce costs?


Controlled Environment Agriculture Research Group

Our Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) team includes researchers and technical staff from both the Faculty of Science and Engineering and the Faculty of Health, working together on transdisciplinary projects advancing the use of dynamic lighting technology to grow food and medical crops.
Much of our research is carried out on-site in our bespoke Plant Factory unit. Projects focus on the development of sensors, LED lighting, control systems and precision horticulture techniques to optimise the energy efficiency of indoor growing and improve the yield and quality of target pharmaceutical compounds.
Wide shot of Plant Factory with LED lights on