Bay Area cannabis grower increases yields with LEDs

Sept. 27, 2023
Oakfruitland also reports lower energy use while providing brighter lighting using Fluence luminaires purchased before the horticultural downturn. But when will the market recover?

With the horticultural lighting market in a slowdown, vendors are taking the opportunity to herald the positive results of customers who bought prior to the fall off. In the latest example, Fluence has trumpeted the increase in yields at an Oakland, Calif. indoor cannabis grower.

Oakfruitland opened in 2019 and in 2021 switched from a single level approach to a two-tier rack system, at which point it installed some 2,400 Fluence LED luminaires, Fluence said in an article it sponsored in Cannabis Business Times (CBT). The grower had previously used high-pressure sodium (HPS) lighting.

In a recent press release, Fluence said that the LEDs have led to a 5% increase in yields and, despite higher lighting levels, have also cut Oakfruitland’s energy usage by 5%. 

Oakfruitland chose Fluence owned by Signify over several other LED brands it tested, even though the Fluence lights were more expensive than some, Fluence said in the sponsored CBT article.

“A lot of people are stuck in their comfort zone and don’t want to try [LEDs] because they don't think that it will [impact yield or quality], but we can see the results,” Oakfruitland CEO Linzi Liu said in the story. “Plants are healthier and less vulnerable. The end product is denser, and the color looks nicer, and it's much more frosty — and that’s what people are looking for right now.”

The higher quality has helped Oakfruitland buck the overall industry decline in California retail cannabis sales, Liu claimed. 

The general cannabis market turned sharply down in 2022 and has been experiencing oversupply, following a period of boom growth during the global health pandemic.

Last January, Fluence’s then CEO David Cohen noted that “we’re seeing monumental changes negatively almost at the same rate or faster than we were seeing monumental changes positively at the beginning of COVID”. In July 2022, he criticized the lack of U.S. federal legalization and banking legislation related to cannabis

Cohen left Fluence earlier this year, as Signify asserts more control over the company.

The horticultural lighting industry in general not just cannabis has stagnated as growers balk at spending on new lighting during inflationary times, and as high energy prices further dissuade farmers, given the ongoing costs of paying lighting and heating bills for new installations.

Last month, Signify CEO Eric Rondolat described a “missed season” in horticulture and cited it as a main factor in a second-quarter corporate earnings plunge.

LEDs Magazine is watching for signs of an industry upturn.

Oakfruitland uses a mix of luminaires from Fluence’s Spydr line, and also uses the company’s Wireless Flex Dimming and Shyft Light Scheduler.

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.