GrowFlux, a Philadelphia agricultural technology start-up that is trying to make the industry more efficient, won a $250,000 grant last week from the Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator for research at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Colorado. The aim is to reduce energy consumption in greenhouses by fine-tuning the amount of artificial light that crops receive.
Simple timers are traditionally used to turn lights on and off in greenhouses, said Eric Eisele, GrowFlux’s chief executive, and cofounder. “They’re not dialing in the light in accordance with when the crop is actually using light most efficiently,” he said. “It results in a fair bit of energy being wasted.”
The GrowFlux system, to be further developed with the help of researchers at NREL and the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, measures the natural light available and then adjusts the artificial light to add more when needed.
GrowFlux estimates that it can cut energy use by 20% to 30%. While the grant, funded by the Wells Fargo Foundation, involves GrowFlux’s lighting controls, the University City company has a broader target with sensors that monitor carbon dioxide levels, humidity, temperature, and other factors that determine how well plants grow.
Eisele, 35, and Alexander Roscoe, chief technology officer, founded GrowFlux in 2017. Both are Drexel University graduates. GrowFlux’s first products, launched in 2018, were horticultural lights with built-in wireless technology. “The lighting space became very competitive in horticulture due to legalization of cannabis,” Eisele said.
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