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NASA Taps Osram to Support its Food Production Research

NASA Taps Osram to Support its Food Production Research
From left, Steve Graves, Strategic Program Manager of Urban & Digital Farming, Osram Innovation, Americas Region, and a researcher discuss the benefit of light recipes on micro greens in a growth chamber, which are being studied as part of ground research at Kennedy Space Center. (Photo: OSRAM)

WILMINGTON, Mass. and KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. – Osram, a global high-tech lighting company, announced it is providing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) with a customized version of its proprietary connected horticulture research lighting system, Phytofy RL. The smart lighting software, coupled with a unique setup of connected grow light fixtures, will supplement the lighting technology used in NASA’s Food Production Research focused on production of salad-type crops for crews during space travel. All software, hardware, and LEDs in Phytofy were developed by Osram. Osram has developed a broad portfolio of horticulture LEDs that irradiate the specific wavelengths needed for optimum growth of a wide variety of plants and flowers, allowing the light to be adapted specifically for the needs of various crops.

Osram’s Phytofy RL connected horticulture research lighting system is comprised of smart lighting software coupled with a unique setup of connected grow light fixtures. (Photo: OSRAM)

“Osram is developing smart, innovative lighting technologies that can improve food production in a variety of environments, even unique environments like space,” said Steve Graves, Strategic Program Manager of Urban & Digital Farming, Osram Innovation, Americas Region. “Many of the world’s coolest and most beneficial inventions have come from scientists at NASA over the past several decades, and to play a role in empowering further innovation through the use of our technologies is an honor. We are excited about the possibilities Phytofy RL will bring to a wide variety of horticulture applications, and our teams are excited to continue learning and refining its setup before ultimately bringing this exclusive solution to market within the next year.”

NASA was introduced to Osram through Hort Americas, which works closely with leading manufacturers to provide North American greenhouse growers, vertical farmers and researchers with the most technically advanced and cost-effective products to help them reach their yield, quality, and project goals. Members of NASA’s food production research team presented Hort Americas with a list of features they wanted from a lighting fixture, Hort Americas then used its network to help NASA team up with Osram to learn more about the Phytofy RL horticulture lighting technology, which is unlike anything commercially available.

OSRAM is providing NASA with a customized version of its connected horticulture research lighting system, Phytofy RL, for use in food production research, focusing on salad-type crops for crews during space travel.

Phytofy’s unique features include:

  • A UV channel which provides researchers with the ability to add a brief UV light to see how plants react and change.
  • More LEDs, which means a higher Photosynthetic Photon Flux (PPF). PPF measures light emission by calculating how many photons are coming out of the light every second. This is an important metric for plant researchers so they can determine the most efficient and effective light recipes.
  • An Irradiance Map — Researchers can see the irradiance using Osram software, so there is no need for them to measure irradiance separately before changing the light setting.

Osram’s smart horticulture lighting system is being piloted through a series of collaborations with universities and research labs around the world that are using the technologies and sharing insights. At NASA, Phytofy RL will allow researchers to easily adjust lighting conditions to optimize plant growth in various conditions and then replicate those settings in the Advanced Plant Habitat on the International Space Station, meeting the sophisticated needs of space food production. Installation of Phytofy RL within a growth chamber at Kennedy Space Center in Florida was completed recently, with plans to move the configuration to one or more of the Center’s walk-in plant grow rooms.

Via radiation with light of different wavelengths, the growth cycles of plants can be controlled and accelerated, allowing the plants to be harvested either more often or as required. Special light recipes optimize not only yield and growing time but also can increase the amount of vitamins and nutrients in the plant, and can enhance certain tastes and flavors. LEDs not only provide tailor-made bioactive lighting, but are also very efficient.

In addition to the company’s leadership with this particular system, Osram remains at the forefront of horticultural lighting advancements, offering everything from LED grow lights to complete solutions for vertical farms, hydroponic greenhouses, and small gardening systems. The company works closely with industry and research professionals to provide products and systems that optimize crop development, allowing reliable supply to industries such as retail food and flower markets, food processing facilities, and pharmaceuticals.

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