Has the horticultural lighting drought run its course?

March 29, 2024
A flurry of announcements from Sollum and Signify suggests that growers are once again buying LED illumination for greenhouses and vertical farms.

A spate of recent announcements about new horticultural LED lighting deals backs up the notion that the sector’s slump could indeed be easing, as both Sollum Technologies and Signify have been busy with new commercial projects.

Since early February, the two companies between them have announced at least six deals, with Montreal-based Sollum responsible for four of those.

Earlier this month, Sollum said it had secured a trial installation with Canadian grower One Floral Group to light a propagation area at a greenhouse in Leamington, Ontario. One Floral is primarily known for hydrangeas, while also growing other flowers and vegetables. The nearly 60-year-old company has yet to implement LED technology — something that will change with the Sollum project.

"As one of Ontario's largest propagators of flower varieties, we feel it is time to take the next step for our business and explore new technologies," said One Floral maintenance manager Ryan Selwood. ”This trial with Sollum Technologies will help us determine if dynamic LED lighting is the right one for us. We are accustomed to having a more basic lighting system, but as we grow our business of tailored floral solutions and navigate changes in our climate, we need a technology that can handle any changes we see fit.”

Selwood also cited Sollum’s service offering, “Sun as a Service” (SUNaaS), as a factor in the decision to sample an LED system. SUNaaS allows growers to dial up and change light spectra, doses, and intensity in a manner that is optimal for each individual crop, depending on conditions at any moment.

The two companies did not indicate the size of the trial, or the start date.

Leamington is not far from Kingsville, where grower Red Sun Farms Ontario is trialing a far-red LED system from Sollum — using SUNaaS — on mini cucumbers, as LEDs Magazine reported last month.

The two locations are on the north shore of Lake Erie in an area known for fertile soil and good growing conditions. As such, it is a stretch of Canada where greenhouses are so common that artificial lighting — be it LED or conventional high-pressure sodium (HPS) — has prompted local authorities to issue bylaws to minimize light pollution, such as requiring the use of curtains at night. Greenhouses are one of the sources of light pollution that the group DarkSky monitors.

Further north in Ontario, Sollum recently announced an LED lighting deal to provide Integral Farms Produce with LED lighting over a 5-acre section of a greenhouse in Mount Brydges. The dynamic aspect of the Sollum system, in which the light recipe can change, was again a factor in the grower’s decision.

"Currently, in the LED light market, there seems to be a lot of unknowns in regards to spectrums, how to grow under LEDs, etc., and Sollum at this moment in time seems to be the ideal choice to fine-tune and hopefully 'future-proof' the fixtures we install so we can benefit in the long term from our investment in this lighting system,” said Integral owner Michael Arts.

In another recent win, Sollum is providing LED lighting to Sainte-Sophie, Quebec grower Innovagro, which will replace conventional HPS and metal halide illumination with LEDs at a hemp greenhouse. On a related note, in January Sollum signed up its first cannabis grower, Varennes, Quebec–based Cheers Cannabis, LEDs reported.

The flurry of announcements from Sollum backs up the recent observation from lighting giant Signify and LED maker ams Osram that the prolonged drought in horticultural lighting sales is over. The industry has stalled for several reasons, including the high price of energy that was discouraging growers from deploying artificial lighting regardless of how energy efficient it is.

In the last several weeks, Signify has announced two commercial contracts. Jami Tomatoes BV has installed Signify’s Philips LED luminaires for both top lighting and interlighting at a tomato greenhouse in the Netherlands. In the U.K., Sandwich, England–based GrowUp Farms has installed Philips branded lighting at its latest vertical farm for leafy greens, in Pepperness, England. The installation is at least the second for GrowUp, which was already using Signify Philips gear at a vertical farm in in Cambridge, England.

Signify and Sollum both also continue engaging in horticultural lighting studies with universities and research centers.

MARK HALPER is a contributing editor for LEDs Magazine, and an energy, technology, and business journalist ([email protected]).

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