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CAN (SK): Over 15% yield increase for tomatoes and cucumbersLower Shannon Farms is a 100-year old farm near Lloydminster, Saskatchewan. The farm is currently run by John and Robin Acton, who are fifth generation farmers. Traditionally, the farm has focused on growing grain and raising livestock. In 2012, anticipating a demand for fresh, locally grown produce, John decided to build a greenhouse. Nearly six years later, they consistently sell out of lettuce at the farmer’s market – John’s foresight is paying off.
Searching for a more energy-efficient lighting solution
John initially installed high-pressure sodium (HPS) lights in the greenhouse and heated it with natural gas. However, Saskatchewan’s short winter days mean that the greenhouse requires a lot of supplemental light to sustain year-round production. John began to look for ways to reduce his power bills. After hearing about the results of the University of Guelph’s lighting trials comparing LEDs and HPS, John began to investigate an LED solution for his greenhouse.
A successful trial
In the winter of 2015, John purchased 10 LumiGrow lights to run his own lighting trial on tomatoes. The difference in color and increase in yield convinced John that he needed to move the entire greenhouse to LEDs. The rest of the 6 bay greenhouse was outfitted with LumiGrow Pro 325e fixtures in January 2018. In just a few months, John has already seen a 16-17% increase in his mini Dijon cucumbers and a 18-20% increase in his tomato crops’ yield - both record-breaking harvests at Lower Shannon Farms.
“We struggle at this time of year due to the added humidity in the greenhouse. It surprised me to get that production at this time of the year!” exclaimed John, “We’ve also easily added a month, 6 weeks of longevity to our [tomato] vines. Normally we’d take old vines out in February - we only started changing out first week of March.”
John is also pleased with how his lettuces have thrived under his new LumiGrow lights. He’s noted better color in the leaves, and that the leaves are about 20% bigger than they were under the 1000-watt HPS lights.
“You always fear with the rapid growth that you’re going to get bolting; we didn’t see any of that. The plant put more energy into the leaves, rather than going into survival mode,” said John, “We have seen great results across the board - no doubt about it.”
John estimates that his LumiGrow lights have reduced his electricity usage by at least half - he’ll know for sure when his utility company, Sask Power, reads his meter in April. He also received a utility rebate for his lights.
“Ashley was a huge help to us in collecting the data and submitting it to Sask Power,” said John, “Whenever I hear that someone is looking into LEDs, I absolutely recommend LumiGrow to them.”
Setting the farm up for success
While Saskatchewan is rapidly approaching 12-hour days again, John is excited for the coming September so that he can get a full winter’s data on crop yields and electricity usage.
“It’s too bad we had such a short time period, because I think we could have broken all records,” John said.
John anticipates that the lower electricity bill will allow him to make some long-awaited improvements to the farm. Sask Power has a basic charge up to a certain threshold - the per watt price skyrockets for any electricity usage above that threshold. Since the HPS lights required so much energy, John’s plans on air distribution upgrades and additional hydroponic units were put on hold to stay under that threshold. Freeing up capital for new products and equipment upgrades plays a key role in sustaining the farm’s current success. With forward-thinking, data driven owners like John and Robin at its helm, the farm is on track to thrive for another hundred years.
Publication date: 7/12/2018
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