Current teams with NC State on cannabis lighting

Dec. 7, 2020
Partners are looking at how to improve overall plant yields, and at light's effect on both THC and CBD.

GE Current is teaming with researchers at North Carolina State University to investigate the benefits of using tunable LED lighting for the indoor growth of cannabis plants.

The company has provided 26 of its Arize Element L1000 toplighting fixtures to a team led by assistant professor Ricardo Hernández, working alongside Current's senior plant scientist Hans Spalholz.

The scientists are looking into the effects of light intensity and quality on the two cannabinoid substances THC and CBD, Spalholz told LEDs Magazine via email.THC is associated with the highs induced by smoking cannabis, and CBD with pain relief, often as an oral tincture. Both have other medical uses as well.

NC State is looking at the hemp variety of cannabis. Hemp has a much lower concentration of THC (no more than 0.3% by dry weight in the US government definition) than does the variety commonly known as marijuana. THC is short for tetrahydrocannabinol and CBD for cannabidiol.

In addition to its cannabinoid applications, hemp has industrial usages such as rope, paper, textiles, detergent, soap, and foodstuffs.

Hemp has a long history of outdoor cultivation. Indoor growth is more recent. NC State's department of horticultural science is examining both indoor and outdoor conditions, with the indoor portion representing about a third of the crop.

Related article: Horticultural SSL business: Vegetable sector escalates, some cannabis soars

“This trial examines supplemental lighting during the vegetative stage and how it impacts flower yields,” Spalholz told LEDs. “We are studying both THC and CBD.”

Current said in a blog post that Hernández and his students aim to “apply the results of their research to maximize plant development, improve growth rate and ultimately increase yields,” and to “improve horticultural indoor production while increasing the sustainability of their existing systems.”

One of the goals “is to determine the ideal supplemental lighting intensity for producing the highest level of vegetative biomass possible with the objective to produce larger flower yields in cannabis,” the post stated. “Their research will gather data on two critical cannabis growth stages — the vegetative stage and flowering stage — to identify effects on complete plant morphology.”

Related article: Black Dog and partners establish LED-centric hemp research facility

Current donated the LED lights as well as a wired control system — its own LightSweep brand — to the university on an “in-kind” basis, Spalholz said. The indoor trial in Raleigh started in October and is scheduled to go through this month.

“We hope this is just the beginning of our research and partnership with Dr. Hernández and NCSU’s department of horticultural science,” Current said on its blog.

GE Current is owned by New York-based private equity firm American Industrial Partners, which also owns lighting and building controls company Daintree. The full name of GE Current is GE Current, a Daintree company.

AIP acquired the Current digital business from GE in April 2019, with the rights to use the GE name. Current is focused on digital lighting, sensors and controls.

MARK HALPER is a contributing editor for LEDs Magazine, and an energy, technology, and business journalist ([email protected]).

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About the Author

Mark Halper | Contributing Editor, LEDs Magazine, and Business/Energy/Technology Journalist

Mark Halper is a freelance business, technology, and science journalist who covers everything from media moguls to subatomic particles. Halper has written from locations around the world for TIME Magazine, Fortune, Forbes, the New York Times, the Financial Times, the Guardian, CBS, Wired, and many others. A US citizen living in Britain, he cut his journalism teeth cutting and pasting copy for an English-language daily newspaper in Mexico City. Halper has a BA in history from Cornell University.