Summer is nearly upon the northern hemisphere, but school is definitely not out in horticultural lighting. As LEDs Magazine has reported, the industry is intensifying its educational push in an effort to revive interest among growers in raising crops with artificial illumination.
In the latest example, lighting vendor Fluence has launched an initiative with Dutch contract research group Innexo BV, aiming to teach indoor cannabis science across the horticultural value chain. The two companies have worked together on cannabis since last October but are now upping their partnership with what they call the Acceleration Platform for Innovation (API) program.
“API empowers innovative, small-scale companies adjacent to the cannabis industry to perform research in medical cannabis cultivation,” Austin, Texas–based Fluence and Meterik-based Innexo said in a press release. “API’s first round of participants, which include companies like biostimulant and fertilizer producers, will conduct research trials that focus on plant health, strength, and resilience beneath Fluence LEDs.”
Operated by Meterik-based Botany Group, Innexo is one of seven contract research companies that span different aspects of horticulture, with Innexo focused on medicinal plants such as cannabis.
“Fluence is the natural choice for a lighting provider to support API because we share a common vision to make research accessible and drive technological innovations that unlock the future of medical cannabis cultivation,” said Innexo managing director Dominique van Gruisen. “The insight and guidance API participants will receive from subject matter experts at Innexo and Fluence will accelerate their ability to build intellectual property through these research trials.”
Fluence owner Signify has another relationship with Botany Group. Signify’s Philips Horticulture LED Solutions — a separate business unit from Fluence — is a partner in Botany’s BrightBox, along with ’s-Hertogenbosch, Holland–based HAS University of Applied Sciences.
Based in Venlo, Holland, BrightBox studies various aspects of vertical farming including light, air, temperature, nutrition, water, and substrates, examining different crops.
The horticultural lighting business is experiencing a downturn in part because growers are balking not only at the upfront expense of buying LED lighting, but also at the considerable operating costs they’d incur with today’s elevated electricity prices. Signify, Fluence, and ams Osram on the horticultural LED supplier side are all feeling the slowdown.
Earlier this year, Fluence CEO David Cohen described “monumental changes negatively” as energy prices and other factors undermine the cannabis lighting business.
Undeterred, Fluence and Signify’s Philips group have ramped up efforts to educate growers and the wider horticultural ecosystem on the long-term benefits of artificial lighting for entirely indoor growing operations without sunlight and to supplement greenhouse lighting.
The initial roster of participants in the Fluence/Innexo API program does not include growers. They could come later. Or they could simply be more likely to purchase lighting products if they also had more growing aids at their disposal, such as the fertilizers and biostimulants that Fluence and Innexo are beginning to examine.
Signify CEO Eric Rondolat frequently points out that horticultural lighting will be vital to maintaining global food security and to growing food sustainably over the long term.
MARK HALPER is a contributing editor for LEDs Magazine, and an energy, technology, and business journalist ([email protected]).