Light is no longer a limiting factor with Illumitex’ Surexi :

“LEDs will become the sole lighting source for controlled environment agriculture”

For Illumitex's Paul Gray, the benefits of LED lighting in greenhouses are immense. While sodium lamps can bathe wide swaths of growing areas in light, LEDs offer more targeted options that can be set up for specific types of plants. Using the precise amount of light a plant needs can also save on energy costs, and while those are two very compelling reasons for why LED lighting should have the upper hand on other kinds of lights, Gray noted that LEDs have, in the past, lagged because suppliers weren't taking into account much of the science behind the lights as it pertained to plants. But he believes that by focusing on tailoring lighting schemes to the specific needs of plants, the benefits of LEDs will become apparent to growers and will become the norm for controlled environment growing. “A lot of things have changed. I can’t imagine to have had LED technology and knowledge available while conducting my research in my time at college.”

“We believe that in order for positive possibilities to be gained from lighting, you need to know the whole system,” said Gray. With a background in horticulture sciences, Gray handles Illumitex's research into the effects of different spectra on plants, so he knows the importance of taking into account the plant science when designing and selling lighting schemes. He added that designing lighting systems based on a specific desired outcome from plants can unlock the full potential of LEDs.

Caliber Biotherapeutics using a custom Eclipse fixture with F3 arrays. These fixtures were used for growing tobacco in a vertical farm. The tobacco was used to cultivate vaccinations.

“Because of how we deliver light through our LEDs, when you dial in the specific parameters of a project, we can deliver more light to the plants,” said Gray. “Light no longer becomes a limiting factor in an operation.” The unique science behind their light optic, coupled with their patented Surexi lighting array, gives growers the ability to deliver a targeted light level in a uniform manner. Gray estimates that their LED technology and the way it's deployed can deliver light levels up to 55 percent higher than the light levels of other lamps.

“Our patented Surexi array has 16 LED diodes in a package, and the optic sits directly on the surface of the LED,” explained Gray. “Because of that unique optic, which we manufacture ourselves, we can funnel photons from the LED to the target area in a way that puts more light on that target area.” That kind of performance is enhanced with their eclipse fixture, a four-foot long extrusion bar that helps maintain consistent light levels throughout the entire covered area. “This reliably consistent performance has made us the leading lighting provider among vertical growers,” said Gray.

660 nm Safari for flower propagation for a job in Kenya

“Because of the small footprint we have, and because of the way we can deliver light, we're the leading lighting supplier for vertical farming,” said Gray. In addition to the precise manner in which they can deliver light, they can also deliver light in a uniform manner. That consistency appeals to researchers and other growers who demand a precise, consistent light source. But at the same time, the precise nature of the system should also appeal to a wider market.

F3 Eclipse bars for Clarkson University Greenhouse project.

“In general, we can offer between a 40 percent and 60 percent reduction in energy costs because our lighting is more efficient,” said Gray. “We can offer a 20 percent gain in fruiting and flowering crops because we can put more light at a uniform spectrum that's dialed in to drive photosynthesis at its most efficient level.” He added that the broad concept that LEDs can be more efficient at lighting greenhouses was grasped years earlier, but the execution of the concept has suffered in the past from a lack of understanding of the mechanics of growing plants.

“Manufacturers of LED lights entered the horticulture market because they knew LEDs were inherently more efficient than the existing sodium lamps,” said Gray. “But in these days, manufacturers had no clue about what drove plant growth.” Gray thinks that focusing on plant science and making lights with an eye toward what plants need will ensure that LEDs become the only lights greenhouse growers use.

“There will always be growing outside because the sun provides free energy,” said Gray. “But as further research is done on how different light wavelengths affect plant growth, and as LED lights catch up to sodium lamps in how much area can be covered, then I believe LEDs will become the sole lighting source for controlled environment agriculture.”

For more information:
Paul Gray (e-mail)

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