Greenhouse Management: How did you end up specializing in researching LEDs and supplemental lighting for greenhouse production?
Erico Mattos: I came to the U.S. to do my Ph. D. at the University of Georgia starting in 2009 and I was part of the biodiesel program at that time that was run out of the University of Georgia. My part of that project was to optimize biomass. I was using light, primarily different colors of LEDs, to optimize biomass in algae for the research. I thought that was interesting, but that work wasn’t having a massive impact on biodiesel. So that’s when I started to look at greenhouses and plants and seeing how that lighting technology could be applied to growing.
GM: You came to the U.S. from Brazil. What was, and is, that like?
EM: I came to the U.S. via a partnership between the University of Georgia and the University of Sao Paulo, where I’m from, and a private company in the bioenergy space. The whole experience was very nice. I’ve been able to expand my view of the world and see what’s different between here and Brazil — good and bad things on both sides. ... I knew very little English when I came here for the first time, so that really made me work hard. When you go to grad school, and have an assistantship as I did too, you have to keep up good grades. So I worked hard and also consider myself lucky for ending up where I did and doing what I do. ... What I do has a small community too, so I’ve been able to get to know a lot of people and all of them are really, really nice people. I’ve been accepted openly into this horticultural field.
GM: What has it been like maintaining research amid the pandemic?
EM: I wear two hats today. I work as the director of the GLASE consortium and run a small lighting control company, Candidus. So with the former, things haven’t changed for me all that much. Some of the research we’ve been doing was considered essential, but some wasn’t, so some of it was delayed. A lot of my time has been restructuring and adjusting our plans. On both fronts, I’ve spent a lot of time keeping my ears open and trying to help the industry and figure out what it needs right now.