Controlled-Environment Lighting Laboratory

The Controlled-Environment Lighting Laboratory (CELL) is a vertical farming research facility at Michigan State University focused on the indoor production of high-value specialty crops.  Dr. Erik Runkle in Horticulture developed CELL for:

  1. Research on controlled-environment production of specialty food crops (such as leafy greens and herbs) and ornamentals (such as seedlings and cuttings);
  2. Demonstration of indoor growing systems to inform growers and capture the interest of students and the public; and
  3. Teaching applications for undergraduate students enrolled in relevant production courses in Horticulture at MSU.

CELL consists of two independently controlled and refrigerated growth rooms, each with 12 deep-flow hydroponic shelves.  Sole-source lighting in CELL utilizes customized, state-of-the-art light-emitting diodes (LEDs) developed in collaboration with Osram and Osram Opto Semiconductors.  Lighting software enables digital light control of individual shelves, allowing for temporal alternations of light quality and intensity.  Research on dynamic lighting aims to produce crops with desired attributes through light-mediated regulation of extension growth and leaf size, leaf thickness (texture) and color, as well as taste and nutritional value of edibles.  Future experiments using CELL will also address how light interacts with other environmental factors, such as temperature and carbon dioxide concentration, and cultural practices to regulate crop growth and development.  Here’s a peak of our first test crop in CELL (video by Qingwu Meng, Ph.D. student):

Later in 2017, a new research project entitled “Development of Sole-Source Lighting Guidelines for the Production of Floriculture Transplants”, supported by the American Floral Endowment, will begin.  This project will provide an understanding of how sole-source lighting from red, blue, far-red, and ultra-violet LEDs will affect growth and development on a broad range of floriculture crops (including bedding plants, herbaceous perennials and cut flower transplants).

CELL is located on the first floor of the Plant and Soil Sciences Building (room A154).  Students and visitors can look inside CELL through its large windows from the corridor, which can potentially spark their curiosity about the emerging vertical farming industry.  For more information, or to discuss potential research projects, please contact Dr. Erik Runkle.

We gratefully thank the following for funding and support of CELL and related plant science research projects:

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For research-based information on horticultural lighting, consider these resources:

     The MSU Floriculture website containing >60 articles on plant lighting

     Light Management in Controlled Environments book edited by R. Lopez and E. Runkle (2017)

     LED Lighting for Urban Agriculture book edited by T. Kozai, K. Fujiwara, and E. Runkle (2016)