SP.20.012 – Photonics for Greenhouses

Route: Sustainable production of safe and healthy food

Cluster question: 015 How can we make agricultural production systems more sustainable as the worldwide demand for healthy, safe food continues to grow?

The Netherlands has a large infrastructure for food production, including ca. 10.000 ha of greenhouses and 15.000.000 m2 cold stores. A high-tech industry exists around food and flower production, particularly in greenhouses, which has led to the highest crop yield per m2 worldwide. However, huge opportunities exist to improve the use of solar energy in greenhouses, which receive 100 billion kWh of solar energy every year. The majority of produced crops are stored in cold stores, which consume approximately 400 billion kWh of energy annually. In this proposal, we bring advanced photonics into the agrifood domain, allowing for a combination of photosynthesis (food production), temperature control (heating and cooling) and power generation at any weather condition, while also improving spectroscopy for monitoring crops, pre- and post-harvest. This is achieved by designing and implementing photonic-based coverings that dynamically redistribute incoming sunlight to crops, solar cells or heat sinks and use the reflected and emitted light from crops to spectroscopically monitor plant conditions and crop quality.

We will combine 5 areas of expertise:

1) plant photobiology, to understand how crop yield can be maximized as function of light, while also understanding spectral characteristics needed for monitoring growth and harvest
2) cold store technology, to understand how temperature influences the quality of crops and how to minimise energy consumption without losing crop quality
3) photonics, to design coatings that can dynamically redistribute light of different colors to different places for optimal use under changing weather conditions and use fluctuations in signals for advanced optical sensing
4) chemistry/materials, to synthesize materials to reshape the spectrum of light, to provide colors that are most useful
5) construction and coatings, to provide scalable methods to implement and integrate the created photonics designs in practice


angular emission, dynamic response, nanophotonics, sensing, smart surfaces, solar cells, solar screens, spectral conversion, spectroscopy

Other organisations

Utrecht University (UU), Wageningen Universities and Research (WUR)


Organisation AMOLF (AMOLF)
Name Prof. Dr. E. (Erik) Garnett
E-mail garnett@amolf.nl