Japan’s indoor grow scene just got real. 

They’re bright, efficient and can be tiny as a Lite-Brite peg, but could LED (light-emitting diode) lights transform indoor marijuana growing? Evidence from Japan suggests that LED grow lights can yield bumper crops at a fraction of the energy cost.

According to the Daily Mail, one Japanese farmer is using LED grow lights for his indoor lettuce factory, and the numbers (as reported) are downright staggering. 

Shigeharu Shimamura says that his farm:

  • uses just 1 percent of the water of a traditional farm
  • produces 250 percent more lettuce
  • cuts waste product by 40 percent
  • uses 40 percent less electricity than fluorescent grow lights

From the Daily Mail:

Purple lighting is used to mimic night, for example, while the white lights are adjusted slowly throughout the day to mimic a sun moving through the sky.

According to a suspiciously slick PR site from GE, the company that developed these particular LED lights: 

The GE Japan team believes that indoor farms like the one in the Miyagi Prefecture could be a key to solving food shortages in the world. Mirai and GE are already working on “plant factories” in Hong Kong and the Far East of Russia. Says Shimamura: “Finally, we are about to start the real agricultural industrialization.”

You could imagine the implications if this style of agriculture were applied at scale in Humboldt’s grow houses. It could ease some of the burden on our already stressed watersheds. It could reduce power usage, which Arcata would particularly appreciate. 

Local experts on the subject were difficult to track down this morning, but one person (who asked to not be named) said that LED lights simply were not proven in Humboldt:

It’s just a different crop. LEDs don’t yet have the canopy penetration compared to high-pressure sodium or metal halide lights. The bulk-per-light is still really low, and while the LEDs have the spectrum and the quality, people aren’t necessarily so concerned with generating the highest-quality product.

Is that right? Give us your thoughts in the comments.