Illumination for Safety, Security…and Crop Growth: The Right Lighting Systems Can Serve Multiple Purposes in Agriculture

illumination concept
Eddie Reynolds headshot
Eddie Reynolds, president and CEO of iluminar

Potential vulnerabilities in the United States’ critical infrastructure have come under increasing scrutiny in the two decades since 9/11. When most people think of “critical infrastructure facilities,” transportation, telecommunications and municipal utilities usually come to mind first. The food and agriculture sector, though, represents one of the most important resources for public health and welfare.

Generating roughly one-fifth of the nation’s economic activity, 2.1 million farms, 930,000 restaurants and 200,000 registered food manufacturing, processing and storage facilities make up the U.S. food and agriculture sector. They form the backbone of the nation’s $1 trillion food and fiber business, with nearly $60 billion in annual exports, according to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. A terrorist attack on this vital industry – whether contamination of crops and livestock or sabotage of facilities critical to agricultural resources – would result in substantial health, social and economic repercussions.

Addressing the Issue

For this reason, the U.S. government enacted the Agricultural Bioterrorism Protection Act of 2002, which was designed to equip stakeholders at every point along the “farm-to-table” food chain to prepare for, prevent and respond to bioterrorism and other public health emergencies that could threaten the nation’s agriculture.

Before 2002, many farms and food processing/packing plants across the country lacked the resources to invest in adequate security and safety preparedness measures, according to the Rand Corporation. This left many enterprise facilities vulnerable to coordinated attacks and small and mid-size facilities completely unprotected.

In the years since, many food supply and agricultural facilities have implemented long-term, end-to-end safety measures, such as robust perimeter intrusion detection systems (PIDS), the best of which are outfitted with high-definition surveillance cameras, industry-leading white light or infrared (IR) illuminators, artificial intelligence-enabled video analytics and command-and-control video management systems. Though their purpose was singularly focused in the beginning – robust safety and security – today, those technologies are proving themselves to be valuable in additional ways.

Expanding the Possibilities of Security Technology

If agroterrorism was the biggest threat to the U.S. food and agriculture sector in 2002, the globe’s changing climate, uncontrollable natural phenomena and everchanging security risks are the biggest threats today. This shift has irrevocably redefined the importance of long-term, end-to-end protective measures.

To the benefit of agricultural facilities, many best-in-class security devices – namely external illuminators – can be easily repurposed to address the food and agriculture sector’s ever-changing, multi-faceted dangers. Illuminators enable the most competitive surveillance solutions to operate reliably, day or night, regardless of adverse or unpredictable environmental conditions. In addition, they are easily repurposed as heat-controlled, artificial illumination for farmers growing sensitive crops, which require both round-the-clock security and customizable lighting conditions.

The Importance of Illumination to PIDS Security

In the age of advanced video analytics, clear images are critical to achieving results. Without proper illumination, most traditional video surveillance systems yield dark, grainy images at best. These low-quality images significantly hinder intrusion detection, intruder identification and incident prevention, rendering a PIDS essentially useless after the sun goes down.

Built-In Vs. External

Cameras with built-in LEDs do not necessarily solve the problem. Integrated LEDs that encircle a camera lens have a range of only about 150 feet and can typically cover only a 30-degree field of view, even though a standard camera’s field of view is often 90 degrees. This creates “hot spots” in the middle of a camera’s view at night, which can cause a total “whiteout” of the rest of the image. LEDs are also known to cause heat buildup, which degrade LED distances over time.

External illuminators, however, minimize heat accumulation, extend illumination ranges (as much as 900 feet or more) and offer users several size, light and range options in order to meet individual deployment needs.

Visible Vs. Invisible

External illuminators are also configurable as white-light or IR devices, both of which offer their own benefits.

White light illuminators, which operate at a much lower cost than fluorescent and incandescent bulbs, are durable and insensitive to vibration, and they are extremely long-lasting. They also enable 24/7 color image capture, which is invaluable to certain object detection analytics, and can double as a floodlight-like deterrent to potential bad actors.

IR illuminators, meanwhile, are detectable only by black-and-white or true day/night cameras, making any camera placement enhanced with IR an invisible, covert form of surveillance. They also offer significantly longer range than visible light, enabling video monitoring of much larger areas.

In an age where threats to food and agriculture facilities come in all shapes and sizes, external illuminators are a versatile and powerful tool that can enhance PIDS effectiveness.

The Versatility of Illumination

The same external illuminators used by security personnel to bolster a PIDS can also be used by farmers to support crop growth.

As every agronomist knows, in order to grow crops efficiently and sustainably, farmers must account for multiple conditions, including:

  • Temperature
  • Soil type and fertility
  • Precipitation
  • Crop history
  • Elevation
  • Light intensity

Calibrating and controlling each of these variables is vital in agriculture. Because so many areas are now subject to unstable and inconsistent conditions resulting from changes in climate patterns, artificial illumination has become even more important.

For sensitive crops, such as cannabis, which require specific conditions to grow correctly, white-light artificial illumination is an attractive choice, both for security measures and the maintenance of optimal growing conditions.

But if a facility requires round-the-clock, in-and-out door surveillance and is growing a crop that is extremely light sensitive, an IR illuminator fits the bill perfectly. The same goes for crops that require precise temperature control.

Pigment optimization is another area where environmental control is important. When different variables affect the expression of different genes – such as the color a plant develops or the size something grows into – control over lighting is indispensable.

In conditions where the heat from visible light hinders crop development, advanced external illuminators give farmers flexibility and customizability.


Now more than ever, the food and agriculture sector needs powerful tools to protect assets and control conditions. External illuminators offer exactly this dual use. When it comes to security, lighting is critically important to the performance of video surveillance. Both white light and IR illuminators allow systems integrators to precisely control the lighting for PIDS. These same illuminators enable security systems to be integrated into existing agronomic workflows – and even be repurposed to optimize them – wherever there is a need.

Eddie Reynolds ( is the president and CEO of iluminar (