SCOTTISH scientists have launched a pioneering project that will allow indoor farmers to pinpoint the best conditions for growing their crops.

World-class laser experts at the University of Strathclyde’s Fraunhofer Centre for Applied Photonics have been enlisted by start-up Grobotic Systems to help develop its specialised plant growth chambers. These will enable farmers to find the best environmental conditions or “plant growth recipe” to cultivate high-quality crops, thus minimising wasted resources and increasing productivity.

It is known that different wavelengths or colours of light affect crop growth, flavour, nutritional value, and even medicinal properties, but precisely which colours affect these qualities remains a mystery.

Grobotic Systems’s chamber has a tuneable array of LEDs that will let farmers experiment with different colours to find the most effective “light recipe” for their crop of choice, be it lettuce with more anthocyanin for greater antioxidant properties or sweeter, juicier strawberries.

The Fraunhofer team will play a key role in creating a new state-of-the-art integrated imaging system to measure the growth rate and quality of crops throughout the process.

Henry Bookey, Project Lead at the Fraunhofer Centre for Applied Photonics added: “We are delighted to be involved in developing tools to allow a much more efficient and effective way of farming. Fraunhofer’s network of global research centres harness science to benefit industry and this particular idea could have wide commercial application.”

The two-year project won funding from Innovate UK, the Government’s innovation agency, via the Transforming Food Production Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.