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How to Select LED Lighting for Nutraceutical Plant Production

Antioxidant-rich organic strawberries are just one of many products sought by health conscious consumers.
Antioxidant-rich organic strawberries are just one of many products sought by health conscious consumers.

As consumers look for natural alternatives to synthetic pharmaceutical treatments, the global nutraceutical market is growing at a compound annual growth rate of 7 percent. How can LED lighting help your efforts to produce plants for this market?

With rising healthcare costs, people are looking for ways to maintain good health and for natural remedies. As a result of this trend, industry analysts forecast consumer demand for nutraceuticals, which are plant-based products with health and medical benefits, will drive the global market to reach $241 billion in value by 2019, representing a 7 percent compound annual growth rate. This expanding market sector presents an outstanding opportunity for indoor agricultural producers to diversify their operations and increase revenue.

Nutraceutical Makers Now Favor Locally Grown Plants

In early 2015, the findings of the New York State Attorney General’s investigation into nutritional supplements widely available to the public rocked the nutraceutical industry. Scientific analysis of the ingredients contained in the dietary supplements found they did not contain the amount of the nutrients or herbs claimed on its label or that the “active” ingredients were of such poor quality they offered no benefit. This case, along with several others identified by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), led the agency to increase its oversight of nutraceutical manufacturers. FDA officials report their primary concern is to ensure supplements advertised as natural contain the ingredients at the dose and strength indicated on the label.

In response to this increased scrutiny, nutraceutical makers are avoiding sourcing herbs and other plant products from overseas given the difficulty of ensuring quality. Supplement manufacturers are going to the other end of the spectrum – local, organically grown herbs and medicinal plants. In fact, many nutraceutical companies seek small and medium indoor growers and hydroponic farmers to source the plants needed for their products. Some of the reasons for this shift include:

  • Indoor grow operations allow for a more controlled environment than traditional farms.
  • Supplement manufacturers can obtain detailed and accurate information about the provenance of the plant extracts contained in their products.
  • Since consumers perceive locally grown plants as “natural”, “authentic”, and “real”, they favor nutraceuticals made with extracts sourced from growers in tie communities
  • Plants grown under LED lights contain more antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals than those cultivated using other sources of illumination

Choosing Lighting for Nutraceutical Grow Operations

 Most nutraceuticals contain extracts from various fruits, such as strawberries, or herbs like sweet basil. A recent scientific study investigated the effects of LED lighting on these plants and the optimal red to blue ratio to produce the highest quality plants.

The findings of this research include the following:

  • LED lighting with a red-blue ratio of 0.7 produced plants with the most desired characteristics
  • Sweet basil and strawberries grown using LED grow lights with a red-blue ratio of 0.7, when compared to plants cultivated using other types of lighting, had the following desirable qualities:
    • Higher levels of antioxidants
    • Lower nitrate levels
    • Increased biomass
    • Greater fruit yield and energy efficiency

Have you partnered with a local natural food store or sold plants to a nutraceutical company? If so, what was your experience?


BCC Research (2014). Nutraceuticals: Global Market.

Associated Press. (2015). New York expands investigation into herbal supplements. CBS News.

Fox, M. (2015). Feds Announce ‘Sweeping’ Actions Against Supplement Makers. NBC News.

n.a. (2015). State of the Industry Review & Outlook for 2016. Nutraceuticals World.

Piovene, C., Orsini, F., Bosi, S., Sanoubar,R., Bregola, V., Dinelli, G., Gianquinto, G. (2015). Optimal Red:Blue Ratio in Led Lighting for Nutraceutical Indoor Horticulture. Scientia Horticulturae, 193:202.

Pandey, N., Meena, R.P., Rai, S.K, Rai, S.P. (2011). Medicinal Plants Derived Nutraceuticals: A Re-Emerging Health Aid. International Journal of Pharma and Bio Sciences 2(4):420-441.

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