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CAN (ON): Taking peppers to the next level
Founded in 2000, Orangeline Farms is a 32-acre family farm located in Leamington, Ontario. Orangeline Farms is known for their unique, award-winning pepper varieties, which are sold under the brand Zing! Healthy Foods. Two of Orangeline’s growers, Steve Stasko and Saman Soltaninejad, were awarded a place on Greenhouse Canada’s list of Top 10 Under 40. Orangeline has also earned international recognition for pioneering greenhouse grown strawberries in Canada. No strangers to the crop, Orangeline has been growing berries outside since 2010, and began growing them through the winter in their state-of-the-art greenhouse in 2012.
Taking Orangeline’s peppers to the next level
Orangeline’s peppers have won awards across multiple product categories several years in a row. They were among the first large-scale pepper growers to light their crop and are continually innovating to provide the highest quality produce possible. Most strawberry growers in North America grow their crops outside- when Orangeline started growing strawberries indoors several years ago, the practice was virtually unheard of.
“Orangeline wanted to do something different, something that no one else is doing- that’s what led us to strawberries in the first place,” says Grower Steve Stasko, “We want to take [all of our crops] to the next level.”
This goal is what sparked Orangeline’s interest in lighting their greenhouse with LEDs, which brought them to LumiGrow. Based on their initial trials using high-pressure sodium (HPS) lights, they knew that the heat from the lamps would be too extreme for the peppers and strawberries. Electricity costs in their area were also rising. The energy efficiency and lower heat output of LEDs made the choice simple.
At the end of December, Orangeline began a light intensity trial for their peppers. They introduced the LumiGrow supplemental light slowly over the first couple weeks, starting with 20-30 minutes of light each day, increasing the amount until the optimal photoperiod was reached.
“At the time of rooting, the roots were filling the slab much more in the trial with the higher light intensity,” Steve recalled. “When the first peppers set a couple weeks after that, we noticed that the higher light intensity trial was producing a higher number of peppers per plant.”
When Orangeline harvested their peppers this spring, they noticed that the crop had a higher average fruit weight and thicker sidewalls. This was an exciting, valuable result since peppers are often sold by weight. They also noticed that the peppers had a darker, richer color than the unlit peppers. LumiGrow’s research team continues to work closely with Orangeline on next steps towards helping them meet production goals. They are currently using smartPAR light sensors to take the guesswork out of hitting their daily light integral (DLI) and reduce the crop’s energy needs while maintaining the high quality that Orangeline is known for.
In pursuit of the best strawberries
“We quickly realized that LumiGrow was more than just a company selling lightbulbs,” said Steve, “They are a technology company looking to create the best customer experience. The extensive research team provides great value, collaborating with us on how to use light as a growth variable, as we would with any other variable in our operation.”
Orangeline’s initial strawberry trial last year compared several different light intensities with the goal of finding the most economical light level for growing strawberries during the fall and winter. Steve reports that the difference between the unlit control group and the lit crops was night and day. They were able to start harvesting from the lit section 3 weeks earlier than the unlit section. As the season progressed, the lit crop got further and further ahead in harvest sets. There was no way the unlit crop was going to catch up, recalls Steve. This year, Orangeline expanded their strategy by comparing different custom light spectrums by using the LumiGrow smartPAR Wireless Control System.
“I wasn’t surprised that the recommended LumiGrow spectral mix performed the best of the four light mixes we tested,” says Steve, “We’ve really dialed in our lighting strategy for our strawberries.”
“We noticed early on that we had shared values and shared objectives,” says Steve. “LumiGrow has been a great partner to work with – they have listened to what our objectives are, and tailored our light plan and trial based on our needs. They’ve empowered us to make the best decisions for our crop, and their research team has provided technical support and advice every step of the way.”
Publication date: 7/20/2018
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