Indoor growing has seen tremendous growth in the past few years, including the addition of new players, particularly in the vertical growing space. However, according to Agrilyst, glass or poly greenhouses still account for 47% of indoor growing facilities. "Regardless of whether a greenhouse or an indoor vertical farm is the right choice for your grow operation, a critical factor to understand is how the right choice in lighting can help address what may otherwise become hindrances to your long-term growth and profitability", the team with LED lighting company Violet Gro says. The company has developed various grow lights.
"In situations where lack of access to working capital or financing for startup costs exist, it can be very tempting to make a lighting choice that is less expensive initially, but this almost assuredly is going to end up causing you problems and costing you more money in total down the road", the team with Violet Gro says. "Lighting is a critical component of indoor farms and seems to be growing in popularity for supplemental use in greenhouses (since mother nature isn’t as consistent and reliable as the electrical grid), though estimates even just a few years ago said only 15-20% of growers used supplemental lighting."
Many growers have historically turned to high-intensity HPS lighting as their supplemental lighting solution. "While HPS lights may appear less expensive upfront, they require extensive amounts of electricity to operate (up to 1000W each), including a large electrical infrastructure to handle such an amp load", Violet Gro explains their choice for LEDs. "HPS lamps run hot and can raise room temperatures 15-30 degrees (which then has to be managed through large and expensive air conditioning infrastructure). And most of them require pretty regular bulb replacement. All of this downstream cost really needs to be part of the decision making, not just the upfront capital cost."
According to Violet Gro, LED lights have recently been growing in popularity due to their potential for lower energy costs. "Many of the early options available suffered from poor design and an LED technology that wasn’t nearly as developed as it today (and it just keeps getting better). As such, most of the early LED solutions did not produce the results that growers wanted and were still at the high end of energy requirements."
The Violet Gro team has developed LED grow lights answering to these problems. "We have demonstrated the ability to grow healthy plants, while keeping energy costs down (100-135W for a 4’ light bar) and producing substantially less heat, often requiring no external cooling infrastructure to keep the grow environment at the right temperature."
The patented technology behind Violet Gro enables direct contact between their specialized lens material and the LED light source. "Thus allowing more photonic energy to transmit to the plants versus being lost as heat. Many of the traditional lenses on the market would actually burn if placed in direct contact with the LED or other light source. Projected cost savings for our lights over traditional lighting can be as high as 70% while still providing the spectrum and intensity of light needed to produce optimal plant growth and vibrancy."
One of the major advantages to indoor growing is to protect your plants from environmental factors such as extreme heat, cold, and rain that could damage or prevent crops from being grown during certain time periods. However, this same protection is also offered to respective plant pests. Relative humidity inside greenhouses can also lead to mold and mildew issues. With limited pesticides available for safe use in greenhouses and increasing fungicidal and herbicidal resistance, it is increasingly difficult to protect plants against these threats. Unfortunately, noticing a problem too late can mean lower yields for your crops, or even complete crop loss to stop the spread.
"UV light, in addition to its proven ability to drive positive benefits like increased production of flavonoids in plants, has also been shown as an effective tool in promoting healthy growing environments", the Violet Gro team continues. "The UV-absorbing compounds produced by plants to protect them from receiving too much UV can aid in defending plants against infection, injury, and certain pests. Research suggests that, in addition to the direct killing power of UV, the increases in these UV-absorbing compounds might actually be able to change the “attractiveness” of the plants to these pests."
While more and more lights on the market are starting to claim that they include UV, most of them are only producing near-UV (400nm) in their spectrum, more akin to the old black lights used for posters.
"However, research suggests that UV-B (280-320 nm) light, which is invisible to the human eye, is the most effective in treating powdery mildew and spider mites. Dosages of UV-C (200-280 nm), which is also invisible, have been proven best for targeting Botrytis cinerea, or gray mold. So if you can see the “UV” light – it is probably not really UV. Violet Gro lights, because of the unique ultraviolet transmissive lens in their patented technology, are able to be configured to specifically deploy any of these targeted wavelengths in their lights. And unlike many of these other lighting solutions, the Violet Gro lights will not be subject to the degradation or destruction that comes with trying to combine UV light with traditional lens material such as acrylics or polycarbonates. Learn more about the benefits of UV in agriculture."
"Ultimately, investing in high-quality energy-efficient lighting can be one of the most important decisions you can make for the long-term success of your operations", the Violet Gro team concludes.
In Q1, Violet Gro will be at the INDO Expo in Denver, January 26-27 and the Michigan Cannabis Business Expo, February 26-27.