Greenhouse Management: What should growers know about retrofitting LEDs in their greenhouses?

Dr. Abhay Thosar: When growers are looking at retrofitting with LEDs, the most pressing concerns are always ambient heat, cost-effectiveness and plant response. Reduced heat holds serious implications for HVAC load, temperature and other environmental conditions that historically were designed to respond to warmer HPS lighting solutions.

While it’s not as much of an issue as it used to be, many growers looking to retrofit still have concerns about the costs of LED systems. Luckily, there are a variety of top-line benefits that outweigh those costs: improved plant morphology and production, higher yields, reduced cycle times and, control of light quality, on top of all of that, rebate programs that are growing in scope and popularity.

The third obvious one is that growers don’t know how their plants will respond to LEDs because they’ve been growing under HPS lights for so long. If they retrofit, they want to know their plants will respond positively across every performance metric that ultimately influences overall profitability and reinforces the case for the investment in LEDs. These come up in 11 out of 10 cases.

GM: Are these manageable concerns and how do you discuss them with growers?

AT: As a grower myself, the fear of the unknown, especially early in an LED retrofit, is always the biggest concern. There’s a certain level of comfortability in growing produce under the same conditions using the same lights for years or even decades. So, it just takes some time to build up a grower’s confidence in using LED technology. Our horticulture services team serves as that source of trust and expertise for our partners. Every member of our team has a background in horticulture and has grown crops under both HPS and LEDs, so we’re able to connect the latest and greatest in photobiology research with the practical know-how that comes when you’ve been growing for as long as we have. When working with our LED technology, the Horticulture Services team works closely with the to provide the much-needed crop technical support and ensure that we cross the success line together with the grower.

GM: What are ways growers can be successful moving forward with LEDs and get over that fear of the unknown?

AT: You shouldn’t feel like you’re all alone because you’re not. There are plenty of other growers and operations that have been through what you’re going through in some way, shape or form. Every operation is unique, but there are useful workarounds, like visiting a fellow grower in your region to pick their brain or exploring LED trials. Ultimately, you still have to find proof of concept in your own greenhouse, under your own environmental conditions, using your lights, but there are resources and people that can lend their perspective and insight because they’ve been where you are. That’s the core of what we do at Fluence. Sure, we sell lights, but we’ll also show our partners how to maximize every other aspect of their facility and operation to better control their unique environments and deliver optimum results.