This post was written by Keith Dawson for UBM Tech’s community Web site All LED Lighting, sponsored by Philips Lumileds. It is archived here for informational purposes only because the All LED Lighting site may go dark at any time. This material is Copyright 2013-2015 by UBM Americas.


Changing the World One Hen at a Time

A trio of innovators from UC Davis want to light up henhouses to increase food security in the developing world.

Three young inventors from UC Davis -- Emily Sin, Edward Silva, and Lorena Galvan -- are on their way to Berlin, Germany to advance their dream of bolstering the world's food supply in a sustainable and local way. The trio is developing the Henlight, which they hope to get into the hands of villagers and small-scale farmers to help provide them with more food during the shortest days of the year.

We have been exploring how LEDs can enhance lives in poor countries: providing light in off-the-grid African villages and helping sub-Saharan fishers to fish more cheaply and effectively. We've also looked at some projects in which LEDs bid to enhance sustainability around the world. To this list now add the Henlight.

The three are on their way to pitch their project to a panel of judges at the Thought For Food Summit. Their team is one of five finalists selected from over 100 applicants around the world. The winning team will take away $10,000 to help move their idea to reality.

Longer days
Chickens need 12 hours of light per day, for 15 days in a row, to begin laying eggs. As days grow shorter towards the fall and winter, artificial light can supplement natural light to encourage year-round egg laying.

The idea of employing lighting to increase the production of eggs is certainly not new. Large poultry operations in the US and elsewhere have been using this technique at scale for years; plenty of scientific studies back up its efficacy. (We have looked at the possibility that tuned LED light might do more for livestock -- turkeys and cows for instance -- than merely a longer period of "daylight.") Small farmers mostly don't seem to know the extended-daylight trick, and those in poorer circumstances couldn't necessarily afford to use such lighting even if they were aware of the value of doing so.

The Henlight is a solar-powered LED light that sounds quite similar to the village and fishing lights we have discussed here recently. The project's writeup on the Thought For Food site does not go into any real detail about LED, battery, solar panel, or other technicalities. The Henlight team is repurposing the work of the UC Davis Program for International Energy Technologies, where a solar-powered LED light was developed half a decade ago for use in lighting homes in poor countries. That project never came to fruition, and the team that conceived the Henlight eagerly piggybacked on the expertise of their solar-LED-designing predecessors.

Unlike the other LED projects we have discussed, Henlight isn't targeted at equatorial Africa. It will be most useful in the parts of the world where there is large seasonal variation in the length of daylight -- temperate regions such as South America, Asia, Europe, and the US. It should be possible to find a good quantity of small farmers in straightened circumstances in these regions.

I doubt we have seen the last of the LED-based projects proposed to make the world a better place.

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