LEDs rack up leading lighting presence on cannabis farms

Oct. 25, 2021
They are used more than any other lighting technology across all three stages of growth, a survey reveals. Spectral control is a big factor. So are vertical advantages.

LEDS are rapidly becoming the light source of choice for cannabis growers in North America, as a recent survey revealed that more than 60% of respondents now use the technology across all stages of growth including propagation, vegetation, and flowering.

The 60% marks a hefty leap over the “no more than 21%” who reported using solid-state lighting (SSL) for all stages five years ago when the publication Cannabis Business Times launched the annual survey, conducted this year for them by Readex Research and backed in part by Fluence by Osram (formerly known as Fluence Bioengineering).

Fluence is ams Osram’s Austin, TX-based horticultural lighting subsidiary. In opening remarks to the report of the survey, Fluence CEO David Cohen noted that “in recent years, not only have we observed the meteoric rise in LED adoption, but cannabis cultivators in particular are realizing the benefits of LED lighting strategies at each stage of plant production.”

The report is titled State of the Cannabis Lighting Market. Its authors pointed out that “one potential explanation behind what is driving this surge in LED fixture adoption is the ability to customize light output (in certain models). Both university researchers and experimentally minded cultivators have been investigating the impacts of various spectra and intensities on cannabis production.”

Indeed, LEDs Magazine has reported on various commercial and research installations, such as a project at North Carolina State University, backed by GE Current, which is experimenting with tunable and LED lighting at both the vegetative and flowering stages.

The report also noted that LEDs provide greater opportunity for growers to stack growth chambers vertically, broadening the technology’s appeal over earlier lighting technologies such as high-pressure sodium (HPS).

Breaking down the three growth categories, the report reveals that many growers used more than one lighting technology in all stages, but LEDs were consistently the most used.

In propagation, 69% reported using LEDs, 33% used fluorescent, 22% used HPS, 13% used metal halide (MH), and 9% used an “other” light source. For vegetation, 62% used LEDs, followed by 26% using fluorescent, 18% HPS, and 17% MH. In flowering, 62% used LEDs, 37% used HPS , 8% used fluorescent, and 6% used MH.

The survey was sent last June and July. The results were based on 156 participants on farms that grow cannabis either indoors or in greenhouses with supplemental lighting. Outdoor growers were excluded, as were greenhouse growers who do not use supplemental lighting.

Of the respondents who are not currently using LED, 63% said they are considering implementing the technology over the next 12 months.

Fluence CEO Cohen, who joined the company in 2018 with a broad LED background but without horticultural experience per se, reflected on the unique challenges.

“Horticulture lighting is unlike any other lighting category in the world,” he said in his opening remarks. “Illuminating an indoor cannabis grow or a commercial tomato greenhouse with a highly optimized lighting strategy requires the same level of intricate knowledge the world’s foremost cultivators intrinsically apply across all other areas of their operations. In general, street, stadium, and office lighting applications don’t require considering the interconnectedness of lighting with other environmental parameters to affect living organisms.”

More on cannabis lighting science, tech, & market

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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.