Engineering Meet Agriculture - I'll Drink to That!
I love it when creative thinking solves a difficult problem, and manages to do it in a 'green' way. Here is the problem: hops, which are a tight commodity in the craft beer making market, just don't grow well in the Southeast part of the US. It isn't so much that they don't grow well, it is more that they don't grow as well as they can elsewhere. Longer days make for more bountiful harvests, and in Florida, the daylight hours aren't quite long enough. Add some LED lighting to their unique farms, and what you end up with is longer growing days, bigger harvest, and a locally produced crop! I have a relative in Missouri who does the opposite to trick certain flowers to bloom during the long summer days. He has blackout curtains in his greenhouses that are drawn on schedule to shorten the daylight hours for Chrysanthemums and Poinsettias, causing them to bloom when they wouldn't otherwise. Traditionally, it has been easier and more cost effective to take light away from a growing environment than it has to add light to it. Modern LED lighting has reduced the cost, and University of Florida is experimenting with different varieties of hops in Hillsborough County.
Hops are like many ingredients in other food products; the supply of ingredients is protected by the big players by contracting a year or more in advance with the growers. This leaves folks like small craft brewers struggling for supply, and often paying top dollar for this crucial ingredient. Opening up local supplies would help them greatly. I hope to soon be hoisting a lovely IPA to their success!
Below, the link for the Hillsborough County article about the lighting (tip-o-the-hat to Johnna for the heads-up on this piece), The second link is for for the good folks at 47Hops for a great article detailing the current state of the hops industry.