Portuguese cannabis underscores Fluence’s European presence

Feb. 21, 2023
It’s not just about North America for the Signify-owned Texas company, which to some extent is competing against a sister horticultural group at Signify for lighting jobs on both continents.

Austin, Texas–based horticultural lighting firm Fluence has racked up several cannabis wins in Portugal, further demonstrating that it is willing and able to do business in Europe, where it competes against its sister group at Signify.

Fluence announced that it is now supplying lighting to 11 of the 20 growers that Portugal has licensed for medicinal cannabis. While some of those customers signed on with Fluence prior to Signify’s agreement to acquire the U.S. outfit, others are more recent.

Fluence also noted that it is working with “several additional companies that are currently seeking licensing” in Portugal, where cannabis regulations are comparatively progressive.

Signify agreed to acquire Fluence in December 2021. The acquisition raised questions about how the Texas company would fit in at Netherlands-based Signify, which already had a horticultural lighting group called Horticulture LED Solutions, selling product under Signify’s Philips banner

The Dutch company explained in the early days of the acquisition that Fluence would focus on North America, while Signify would focus on Europe. But some amount of competition seemed inevitable, as Signify acknowledged that both entities would also continue to sell globally, including outside of their focus areas.

Indeed, Fluence has demonstrated a strong engagement and outreach to the market in Signify’s typical territory, evidenced by the Portuguese wins and others, with more announcements expected soon. In one pre-Signify example, Fluence has been working with tomato grower Westlandse Plantenkwekerij in Holland. Last summer it won deals through a reseller to supply two cannabis growers in Israel.

Fluence operates a Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) headquarters from Rotterdam, Holland.

Whether Fluence and its fellow Signify group are directly knocking heads, both are currently facing a horticultural slowdown. Signify CEO Eric Rondolat has noted that end-user budget constraints are curbing grower interest in LED lighting. Fluence CEO David Cohen recently said that in the cannabis sector “we are seeing monumental changes negatively,” which is concerning with that crop being a core focus.

Fluence’s wins in Portugal are tempered by the recent restructuring decision of one customer, Vancouver-based Clever Leaves, to withdraw from the Iberian country and concentrate its growing efforts in Colombia.

Still, there were plenty of plaudits from the ongoing Portuguese customers for the benefits of LED lighting. One grower noted that the company considered raising cannabis outdoors under the sun, in what he described as the “great Portuguese weather,” but decided on indoor, LED-lit cultivation.

“We performed rigorous research and analysis with every construction decision and, after looking at the various options, we decided that cultivating indoors is the only way to ensure stable, high-quality products,” said Boris Agababov, founder and CEO of Bathera GmbH, a Salzgitter, Germany–based grower that is deploying Fluence lights at a facility near Lisbon.

The eleven include Bathera and, for now, Clever Leaves (the Canadian incorporated company has its main offices in Boca Raton, Fla.) as well as Lisbon-based Key Leaves Lda., London-based Curaleaf International, Lisbon-based AceCann, and others.

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.