Controlled environment agriculture news: Sollum funding, WUR competition, Current LED fixture

March 7, 2022
In our latest horticultural and CEA items, investment warms up Canada’s grow light future; AI nurtures lettuce; and new LED launches in North America.

The horticultural solid-state lighting (SSL) and controlled environment agriculture (CEA) sectors continue to demonstrate their investment appeal, with added support for Canada’s Sollum Technologies through a public investment fund. Holland makes more headway in greenhouse research with Wageningen University & Research engaging public interest in its final rounds of the annual Autonomous Greenhouse Challenge. And Current expands its available North American LED grow lights with a new Arize model available through Hort Americas.

Smart horticultural SSL investment

Leading off our horticultural roundup, Montreal-based smart LED lighting provider Sollum Technologies has announced funding from Quebec-based investment firm Fondaction. Neither party has divulged the amount of the investment. Sollum develops LED-based horticultural lighting systems that dynamically simulate and modulate natural sunlight’s spectra and intensity. The company’s SUN as a Service platform received LEDs Magazine Sapphire Award recognition in 2021 for its combination of cloud-based algorithms and programmable, multichannel LED fixtures that deliver adaptable light mixes and intensity levels for crops such as citrus (shown at top) and peppers.

Fondaction deputy chief investment officer Claire Bisson stated that “the investment meets a number of our impact goals: the fight against climate change and the development of a sustainable agri-food industry.” The firm’s mission is to drive economic growth and stability in Quebec with a sustainable and equitable job market while contributing to efforts that reduce climate change impacts, investing at least 60% of its assets into Quebec companies, according to its website.

“We are pleased to be able to count on Fondaction’s financial support and its expertise in the agri-food industry to help us grow and speed up the marketing of our dynamic LED lighting solution for greenhouse growers,” said Sollum CEO and co-founder Louis Brun.

AI for lettuce growing

Moving to research & development (R&D), Wageningen University & Research (WUR) in the Netherlands has announced the planting of lettuces by five international teams for the final two rounds of its annual Autonomous Greenhouse Challenge. The objective is to grow the lettuces without human intervention, by incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) on a cloud platform, while reducing resource and energy consumption for operational efficiency gains.

Each of the five R&D teams has its own 96m2 compartment in WUR’s Bleiswijk greenhouse facilities and will monitor their crops from various locations remotely using AI algorithms they developed to determine and manage parameters for temperature, heating, CO2 concentration, daylight and artificial light levels, and crop density. The cloud system uses the setpoints of the input parameters to control environmental conditions in the experimental greenhouse.

Multidisciplinary teams include:

  • Team CVA – Crop Vision and Automation (Korea)
  • Team MondayLettuce (Korea)
  • Team VeggieMight (International participants from China, the Netherlands, and Ukraine)
  • Team Koala (United States)
  • Team digital_cucumber (Russia)

The public can follow the competition on a live challenge dashboard.

Commercial grow light distribution

Finally, we turn to commercial lighting product news with the availability of Current’s Arize Life LED grow light via horticultural supplier Hort Americas, which is Current’s primary North American distributor. Hort Americas has since signed a deal with California-based Irrigation Design & Construction LLC (IDC), an irrigation supplier, to sell Current’s Arize horticultural LED products.

Manufacturing at its Hendersonville, NC location, Current has produced various Arize LED lights for cannabis and a range of food cultivars going on several years now. Its recently released Life model is available with multiple spectral content options such as purple, broad-spectrum pink, and broad-spectrum white, and can be installed as close as 6 in. from the crop. The dimmable LEDs offer up to 3.2-µmol/J PPE (photosynthetic photon efficacy); up to 83 fixtures can be daisy-chained depending on configuration and voltage.

CARRIE MEADOWS is managing editor of LEDs Magazine, with 20 years’ experience in business-to-business publishing across technology markets including solid-state technology manufacturing, fiberoptic communications, machine vision, lasers and photonics, and LEDs and lighting.

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About the Author

Carrie Meadows | Editor-in-Chief, LEDs Magazine

Carrie Meadows has more than 20 years of experience in the publishing and media industry. She worked with the PennWell Technology Group for more than 17 years, having been part of the editorial staff at Solid State Technology, Microlithography World, Lightwave, Portable Design, CleanRooms, Laser Focus World, and Vision Systems Design before the group was acquired by current parent company Endeavor Business Media.

Meadows has received finalist recognition for LEDs Magazine in the FOLIO Eddie Awards, and has volunteered as a judge on several B2B editorial awards committees. She received a BA in English literature from Saint Anselm College, and earned thesis honors in the college's Geisel Library. Without the patience to sit down and write a book of her own, she has gladly undertaken the role of editor for the writings of friends and family.

Meadows enjoys living in the beautiful but sometimes unpredictable four seasons of the New England region, volunteering with an animal shelter, reading (of course), and walking with friends and extended "dog family" in her spare time.