MCHS Urban Ag reveals results of grow lighting trials

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by Stephen Dafoe

Eight months after receiving a $10,000 grant from BP Canada through their A+ Energy Program, Morinville Community High School’s Urban Agriculture class showed off the results of their Indoor Grow Lighting Trials.

“We received a grant to be able to buy a variety of indoor growing lights,” said MCHS Urban Ag teacher Neil Korotash. “The students have been experimenting with different grow lights to see which ones work best for this [classroom] type of setting or for average homeowners that want to grow some herbs at home.”

Through the trials, students investigated which lights worked best within their classroom where no natural sunlight was present, balancing the artificial light use against environmental sustainability and energy efficiency.

Student teams conducted experiments in all, growing a variety of herbs and plants, including nasturtium, basil, dill, lovage, Britton and thyme. In addition to growing a variety of plants, students also used a variety of lights.

Jean-Luc Copal and Chase Beloin used 54 watt high-output T5 lights against 28W high-efficiency T5 lights to grow some lovage, Britton, and thyme. The team found little difference between the lights on their crop. Over the course of the experiment, growth spurts fluctuated back and forth between the two types of lights.

“We came up with [the result] there is no difference at all,” Copal said, adding his preference would be towards the 28 watt lights due to their lower costs. “I would honestly choose the high-efficiency T5s because of the fact it’s cheaper in cost than the high-output T5s.

Alyssa Ralph and Sarah Watts used two-bulb 28W high-efficiency T5 lights against four-bulb 28 W high-efficiency T5 lighting to grow some parsley, chives, and marigold.

Ralph and Watts learned that although the two bulb fixture would be less costly up front, the four bulb fixture produced more than double the harvest.

“I didn’t realize that plants could grow that quickly,” Ralph said. “There was nothing for about a week-and-a-half period and then all of a sudden, poof. I didn’t realize most plants grew like that.”

Results from all nine lighting trials are on the school’s Urban Ag program page at mchs.gsacrd.ab.ca/eteachers/1364/urban-agriculture.

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