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School of Biological and Behavioural Sciences

Industry collaboration drives Queen Mary research into higher yields in agricultural crops

Scientists from the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences have teamed up with industry to create the next generation of lighting systems.  Professor Alexander Ruban, Professor of Biophysics, collaborated with Finnish company Valoya and Microsoft to create a novel solution for simulation of natural outdoor light.


Using Valoya’s advanced LED lights, Microsoft Azure cloud platform and Internet-of-Things (IoT) technology, the system enables accurate replication of outdoor light conditions over time, while matching the spectrum and intensity of constantly changing natural light.

Watch Professor Ruban talk about this project:

Research in this field is of utmost importance, as it will contribute to feeding the growing population of our planet, through accelerating the selection and breeding of new, more productive and light stress resistant plant varieties.

Professor Alexander Ruban of the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences Department of Cell and Molecular Biology explains: “The system by Valoya and Microsoft now enables us to do testing on plants and algae, which has been impossible before. Not only will we reach very high light intensities, but we can also match the spectral conditions of different locations in the world. The flexibility of the system also allows us to do simulations on sunflecks in shade situations, all downstairs in our lab and anytime of the year. This will massively speed up our research and opens up completely new avenues for the future”.

The easy to use system uses advanced optimization algorithms to constantly match the target spectrum generated by the system for any location or time in the world, or to match a past or future light conditions or manually created spectral conditions. It relies on Microsoft Azure cloud computing platform for data analytics plus remote control and maintenance of the light control and data pre-processing hardware deployed to Queen Mary’s research lab. The system architecture provides design flexibility and ease of system administration for varying configurations and scale of light units plus local and remote data collection sensors.

Lars Aikala, the CEO of Valoya comments: “The solution opens up completely new opportunities, not only in plant research, but in any testing or other application where solar or outdoor light conditions are critical or of high value. We are very grateful for Microsoft’s contribution and the way they smoothly enabled linking our LED lights with the easy to use, easy to access user interface and all the software in between. We are also thankful to our first customer of the system, Queen Mary University of London, who gave us great input from the end user perspective.”

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