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Solar simulator leads to horticulture light revolution
Programmable light spectra without loss of power
G2V Optics has a history of designing high precision optoelectronic equipment for research applications. Initially, the company wasn't active in horticulture at all, but that all changed when they realized the programmable light spectra developed to simulate sunlight, was ideal for use in grow lights. Ryan Tucker, Operations & Strategy Lead at G2V, tells us more.
The base technology for the company's grow light came from the development of solar simulator light sources for characterizing research-grade solar cells. These lights have orders of magnitude, higher uniformity and stability requirements than grow lights and can be configured to match the true spectra of the sun at any geography, season, or time within a few percent. "As we began deploying the technology for other applications such as photocatalysis and hyperspectral optics, it became clear that there was a massive benefit for controlled environment cultivation. A perfect match to the sun isn't necessarily required, but the ability to mimic spectral changes of seasons has been proven to significantly enhance plant growth. We've taken the underlying tech and designed it into a cost and form factor for the horticulture market."
Light recipes that pack a punch
G2V's lights are all "variable-spectra" (also known as programmable spectra, or multi-channel), which allows for colour changing recipes to evoke responses in plant physiology along the growth cycle leading to cultivar- and environment-specific optimization. Multi-channel lights are nothing new and there are a handful of commercial grade manufacturers of "programmable-spectra" lights. "In fact, most of these lights are simply a series of wavelength channels which can be dimmed individually - to change the spectra you are sacrificing power", Ryan says. "G2V's perihelion lights have taken the technology from our solar simulators such that the total power (e.g., PPFD) remains in force when changing the spectra. We've packaged this into a highly uniform fixture that's capable of well over 2000 µmol/s output with uniformity designed for close-to-canopy and vertical farming."
The lights are often integrated into industrial PLC controllers with analog signals, but can also be driven directly from G2V's control interface where individual wavelength bands can be modulated to create spectra, and spectral recipes set in time.
Tailored to the crop
Ryan tells us that at G2V they always try to learn the most about the client's facility and growing goals as possible. "Different growers are trying to optimize different parts of their crop (yield vs. chemical content vs. energy use), so we work to understand their driving goals to build a system configuration around it." G2V has been working with customers growing high-end greens, tree seedlings for reforestation in harsh environments, and medical cannabis. "Our customers have been blown away. They're raving about producing record yields and vastly improved quality with less power use, especially in the cannabis space where this brings huge financial returns... although we're keen on engaging with as many crop types as possible."
As for the future, G2V is working with partners toward fully digital horticulture solutions with fully integrated lighting, monitoring, and data-driven feedback loops throughout. "We believe the future of horticulture is moving toward highly compact, ultra-low land-, water-, and energy-use cultivation. We're always looking for highly innovative growers who want to help build that future with us", Ryan concludes.
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