Is the future of greenhouse lighting in LEDs? Dennis Riling, senior horticulture scientist at Illumitex, believes so. Greenhouse Management spoke with Riling to learn more.
Greenhouse Management: What makes LEDs part of the future of greenhouse production?
Dennis Riling: Dr. A.J. Both from Rutgers believes that in 10 years greenhouses will have converted 100% from HPS to LED technology and we agree. Traditional technologies have been used for over 60 years. However, much like many other industries, it is time for producers to move from an analog technology into the digital age. Moving to LED gives growers the ability to reduce their energy costs as well as maintenance costs of not having to replace HPS bulbs. LED also gives greenhouse operators the ability to manipulate and elicit specific plant responses (such as better taste, fuller leaves, or increase in color content). It aids in the optimization of their production to achieve specific plant goals. LED technology is being used to improve the quality of the product, reduce operating expenses, increase profitability, and provide a more sustainable solution. Compared to traditional lighting, LED fixtures have been reported to be 40-50% more efficient at the same output levels.
GM: How would you recommend growers implement LEDs into their operations?
DR: It is crucial that growers work with a company that understands plant science and knows how the conditions in the environment change when switching from a HPS system to a LED system. Knowing the effects on different growing parameters and its impact on plant growth is the best way to ensure success. Illumitex is a horticultural solutions company, not just a lighting company. Our horticulturalist on staff work directly with the growers when designing the system, as well as ongoing even after installation to ensure optimal growth and success is achieved.
GM: Illumitex has a beta system that will be available next year. What can you tease about that system?
DR: Illumitex is developing our digital scouting platform with high resolution imaging technology that integrates into any company’s sensor and software system so the data from the grow environment can be correlated and cross referenced to the plant images. The system can detect plant issues like chlorosis, necrosis, and other deficiencies, as well as plant pathogens, notifying the grower to investigate further. We have been currently beta testing this in multiple facilities for the last 8 months and have been developing specific algorithms and applications. We can help the growers benefit from the already existing intimacy between lights and plants. By developing the right camera sensor technology and software, they can take advantage of the existing infrastructure and hardware in their lighting technology. We are excited to give growers data, that they control and own, to help them make better or faster decisions. We plan on launching this in the summer of 2018.
GM: What advantages can LEDs give growers over their competition?
DR: The advantages go beyond energy efficiency. We increase plant growth by consistently providing the appropriate DLI per crop being grown thus increasing additional harvests per year. Our goal is to increase the growth rate and quality of the product so the greenhouse operation is more profitable and sustainable from an environmental and business standpoint. — Interviewed by Chris Manning