Friday, December 13, 2013

Grow food from a traffic light

Well it all began when some friends and I were discussing the new LED indoor grow lights. We were turned off at the cost of the commercial models available as being very expensive. We had openly discussed building our own, buying the materials, and using our own sweat equity to save money. We had done our research targeting just the red and blue LEDs as plants primarily use red and blue from the spectrum of our light to produce food. So goes our future of building our own commercially viable grow lights. Doing a lot of work in urban agriculture and teaching the needy how to grow food, I still found the cost of these lights to be out of the hands of the people who need them the most. We seem to have many peppers and doomsday peppers who are around us and we openly discuss that if society was to collapse how to rebuild it from the materials that can be found in an average urban setting. Making grow houses from fence posts and even how to dig wells to retrieve water for growing in urban settings. I had shared a post on the Gateway Garlic Urban Farms like page on Facebook. This was a document from a person who calls himself the orchid king and he openly blasted the LED light system . He claimed that plants use lights other than the red and blue that are commonly seen in these LED systems. This prompted the discussion between some very educated people on the page some who supported and others did not. It seemed the universe was trying to prepare me for something but I could not be prepared for what I had discovered next and this is where this blog really begins.
I was driving through an unnamed suburb going to check on a friends house who is out of town. He had asked me to check on the house while he was away in Florida and so I decided to stop by one early Sunday morning. He lives in the third house off the corner and out in front of his house was a big pile of fiberglass and metal and plastic of various colors shapes and sizes. As I got out to investigate it I quickly noticed that this was the aftermath of what possibly could've been a horrible accident from at least two different vehicles. Underneath this pile of debris was a traffic signal light whose case had been shattered. I turned around and noticed that a new traffic light had been put in its place on the corner and this obviously was the debris field that had been swept up by the city crew but who had neglected to take it with them. I decided to grab the traffic light out of the garbage pile and figured I would take it home replace the bulbs and at worst-case scenario sell it somebody for a few bucks as a backyard novelty item. When I took it home and took it apart I was shocked to see that it did not contain ordinary lightbulbs but this was an LED traffic light. What appeared to be clear LED lights colored by a corresponding colored plastic lens was not the case either. In all three cases the green yellow and red colored LEDs were also colored by the color corresponding lens. I did a quick test and noticed that despite being hit by a car, and knocked off the pole and possibly dragged across the street only two of the LED light bulbs were knocked out, and that might not even happen because of the accident. Apparently these things are made to withstand heavy duty wear and tear.

I then joined the yellow and red matrixes and glued them onto the large green LED matrix which as one can see in the photo is a completely different type of part. At one time these traffic lights must of been repairable but that was no longer the case as the system that was used to replace it is completely different than this one. They run on 110 household electricity and some of them even having minor fuses inside so that they can be replaced. I used to nonconductive, high heat resistant silicone adhesive to join the three of these lights together. 

I planted a tray of kale, a tray of cabbage, a tray of basil and some green onion bulbs . I hooked this light up to it and suspended it above the plants and hope for the best.
And this is what I grew ! These are replanted onions and a Broccoli from seed. I also started a tray of Black Russian Kale. As this is an ongoing experiment photos and more details will be added shortly. 


  1. Can't wait to see the end result as I'm about to try grow lights to have more produce available over winter

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