Signify adds automatic intensity adjustment plus year-long recipe modulations to horticultural controls

Feb. 1, 2021
There’s something for both the greenhouse and the vertical farm in the GrowWise tweaks, which in some cases rely on tying to other systems’ sensors.

Signify has enhanced the control system for its greenhouse LED lighting so that toplights can react immediately to changes in daylight conditions and adjust brightness accordingly. The company has also added year-long control settings intended to allow vertical farmers — but not greenhouses — to program seasonal variations in LED spectral content over a 365-day period.

Both upgrades are intended to reduce manual labor and improve overall cost efficiencies, Signify said.

Until now, greenhouse farmers could dim or brighten their Signify toplights by instructing the lights to do so via the control system, called GrowWise. Signify has now modified GrowWise software so that it can take readings from daylight sensors that are part of separate systems. GrowWise then instantly and automatically adjusts artificial light intensity emitted by the toplights, called Philips GreenPower LED.

The lighting can be used much more efficiently, since it gives us the flexibility to reduce light levels at any moment we need to,” said Wouter de Bruyn, the owner of Belgian lettuce grower De Glastuin, an early user of the new automatic feature.

Whereas Signify is known in office settings to build sensors into its smart luminaires, the GrowWise controls make use of sensors that are part of climate control systems and greenhouse management systems from companies such as Priva, Hoogendern Growth Management, and Ridder, all based in Holland.

“The climate computer is equipped with a daylight sensor that sends actual light measurements to the GrowWise Control System so we can adapt our light levels automatically to ensure an even light level throughout the day and season,” de Bruyn said at De Glastuin, based in Kontich.

Dynamic lighting in a greenhouse is the next step in improving the cost efficiency and quality for the cultivation process,” said Udo van Slooten, business leader, horticulture LED solutions at Signify. “It allows growers to effortlessly maintain a consistent level of light throughout the day to produce the best possible crops. The system compensates for cloudy weather and creates a more controlled growing environment for your crop.”

In another upgrade to GrowWise, vertical farmers who want to prescribe modulations in spectral content are no longer limited to 24 hours of looped recipe cycles. Rather, they can order up a year’s worth of shifts for controlled environment agriculture (CEA) operations.

The year-long programming feature is aimed at vertical farmers rather than at greenhouses because the lights that Signify provides for vertical farms support controllable spectral changes, whereas the greenhouse toplights do not. Signify refers to its GreenPower LED vertical farm lights as “production modules” rather than as “toplights.” Toplights and production modules can both be programmed for intensity over a year, but the intention of the year-long feature is oriented toward spectral content.

Compared to greenhouses, vertical farms tend to make much less, if any, use of natural light. In vertical farms, the lights are mounted much closer to the crop in stacked shelves.

One of the first users of the year-round feature is Italy’s greens and lettuce grower Planet Farms.

“Now we can easily create custom light recipes and set them to run year-round to provide the right light recipe with the right light intensity at the right time throughout the crop’s growth cycle,” said Planet Farms co-founder Luca Travaglini. “By automating our full light strategy during the growth cycle, for the whole year, we can run our operations very efficiently and keep our manual labor costs low. That makes it easier for us to maintain consistent quality as we scale up our production.”

The horticultural market is a key growth sector for Signify, especially as it maps out a strategy to maintain profits in the pandemic economy, in which last week it reported a yearly rise amid rigorous cost controls that now include a small number of layoffs. CEO Eric Rondolat is targeting a big chunk of what he has quantified as a $2 billion general horticultural lighting market by 2023.

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

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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.