The Context

Fri-El Green House, part of the Fri-El Group (one of Italy’s leading renewable-source electricity providers), is a fast-growing company dedicated to the cultivation and marketing of fresh tomatoes grown in water culture (hydroponic) systems. The approach taken by this Bolzano-based company follows local growing traditions while making good use of innovation. As a result, via its Fresh Guru brand, Fri-El Green House is pushing ahead with what is one of Italy’s, indeed, Europe’s biggest hydroponic tomato growing schemes. That project has seen C-LED involved in the setting up of technologically advanced greenhouses capable of producing tomatoes even in winter thanks to special LED lighting and accurate temperature and humidity control.

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62 km of lighting fixtures for a hyper-technological greenhouse

This unprecedented project – acknowledged by the Italian Ministry of Economic Development as a highly innovative food growing solution – was set up in the Ostellato greenhouse facility in the province of Ferrara.
Here, C-LED has installed 9,000 Inter-Light lamps (patented by C-LED) and in 2018 the number will increase to 25,000. Each lamp is 2.5 metres long, giving a total of more than 62 km of LED light fittings. Inside the greenhouse, the climate – in terms of air temperature and quality, humidity and light – is regulated by a sophisticated automatic system that allows precision monitoring of the relevant parameters.

Moreover, the high-efficiency irrigation system provides enormous water savings (reducing consumption by up to 70% compared to conventional farming methods).
In this way, in addition to cutting waste and reducing the need to draw from the water table, the tomato plants grow luxuriantly and healthily because the water used to irrigate them is monitored and free from any chemical residues. In short, all-round sustainability: the greenhouse and all its constituent systems are powered by energy obtained from a biomass cogeneration plant.

Tailor-made lighting solution provider

Beyond heavy investment in innovation, what makes C-LED such a high-performing company is its solution provider approach. This ensures customers receive close support at all times, starting with development of the tailor-made LED light recipe best suited to the type of plant and its maturation. Such support also involves the construction and fine-tuning of entire facilities, from the initial design work to installation of all required systems and sensors: from cogeneration to lighting and control systems.

C-LED Inter-light lamps, the right light where it’s needed

For the Fri-El greenhouse, Inter-light lamps (patented by C-LED, a Cefla Group company) were selected because they represent the best technological solution for lighting vertical-growing greenhouse plants, the most important example of which is the tomato. Studies were performed in collaboration with the University of Bologna, which has set up a special laboratory where different light frequencies and their effects on plant growth are tested. Experiments have demonstrated how Inter-light lamps positioned between crop rows can ‘top up’ the above-plant light with homogeneous distribution over the entire surface, a result that also stems from calibration based on the real physiological needs of the plant. The outcome is increased plant yield, enhanced resistance to disease, improved flowering and, consequently, more fruits and a bigger harvest.

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