MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) –- Turkey farming is a huge part of Minnesota’s economy. Minnesota turkey farmers raise 46 million turkeys a year, and the state leads the nation in turkey production, bringing in $600 million to Minnesota’s economy.
Now a Minnesota inventor has a bright idea to help turkey’s grow better.
The CEO of Once Innovations in Plymouth, Minn., Zdneko Grajcar, has invented a technology that uses LED lights to influence the moods of farm animals.
Mike Langmo is one farmer who uses that technology. He has around 21,500 turkeys and he says that raising turkeys has a lot to do with lighting.
“Light is what stimulates the turkeys to get up in the morning, to eat, to drink, to run around,” Langmo said.
The more the turkeys eat and run around, the better meat they produce. So the lights that make them productive are on in the barns a lot, even at night. The schedule is: three hours on, one hour off.
That schedule, however, uses a lot of electricity. And with old-fashioned light bulbs, it’s wasteful.
So Langmo made the switch to energy- efficient LED lights in one of his barns.
“The light of the future was the LEDs, because it’s the same amount of light output as say an incandescent bulb, but 87 percent efficient,” Langmo said.
The LEDs also offer an additional benefit.
“It seems to have a calming effect on the birds,” Langmo said.
According to Grajcar, he’s heard the same thing from other farmers.
“A lot of farmers told us: ‘Our chickens or turkeys are happier,'” Grajcar said.
Grajcar moved to Minnesota from Slovakia, where he studied nuclear physics and astronomy, 13 years ago. Grajcar said he became a lighting expert by reading about lighting’s effects on birds on the Internet – at what he calls the “Google Academy.”
Last year all Grajcar said he knew about poultry was that it tastes good. Now he can tell you all about their ability to see light differently from humans.
“Poultry can see four colors. They can see red, blue, green plus UV,” he said. “And they can see much better in the red spectrum and in blue spectrum than humans.”
During the day, red and blue tinted lights are shown on the birds. The red light simulates sunrise and sunset, and it helps the poultry lay eggs and be more active. Blue light helps poultry recognize each other and keeps them calm. And when they are calm, the birds grow better and get in fewer fights.
Grajcar says it’s basically the same with humans.
“If I put you into a room with very bad lighting, with some strobing fluorescent 1960s lamp, you will probably…die faster,” Grajcar said.
Once Innovation’s light technology can be used to benefit the health of many animals. They are currently doing testing with pigs.
And they make LEDs for humans, too.