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The Challenge: Retrofit of a fodder system for heirloom lettuce production

Product Deployed: Custom Blue/White array


Restaurateur and entrepreneur Paul Hamilton is committed to bringing the freshest local produce to his St. Louis restaurants. As part of this commitment, he commissioned the building of Hamilton Farms: a 1500 sq. ft. greenhouse within walking distance of his St. Louis restaurants. Hamilton Farms uses hydroponic growing techniques maximize the use of greenhouse floor space. In addition to several vertical tower gardens, a FarmTek fodder system was purchased with the intention of converting the unit into a producer of unique heirloom lettuce varieties. Engine 2 Photonics was consulted and contracted to perform the retrofit.


Our retrofit of the fodder system utilized low-profile blue/white luminaires with independently controllable channel intensities

Using custom blue/white luminaires attached to the steel supports of the FarmTek system, the fodder system was ready to produce 240 heads of lettuce per cycle, consuming only 1.5 kW of power. Additionally, the upper shelving unit was left open to the sun for the production of other leafy vegetables and even microgreens. Fans were installed onto the steel frame to provide airflow to all the growing racks, and a control panel was installed to control the intensity of the blue and white lighting channels independently for each rack.

The fodder system uses a nutrient film technique (NFT) mode of operation, which is ideal for lettuce growth. This unit was used successfully for 2019 to produce many pounds of hydroponic lettuce for Paul Hamilton’s restaurants, and continues to operate smoothly.


Red and green lettuce varieties display their respective colors under our custom blue/white system

The blue-heavy spectrum allows for high anthocyanin production in the lettuce heads, meaning the red lettuce varieties develop their deep red colors under this system. Green varieties of lettuce retain their green color and are not adversely affected. Control of the blue channel allows the system to be red-dominant should the blue light ever be overwhelming on any lettuce cultivar.

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