In July 2021, the Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator (IN2) announced the five start-ups selected to participate in the initiative’s ninth cohort, with agtech company GrowFlux among the participants. The program is targeting the development of sustainable technologies for controlled environment agriculture. GrowFlux specializes in horticultural lighting control, having developed brand-agnostic wireless controllers that allow growers to control both HPS and LED lights. The controllers work with nearly all LED lights, while most HPS lights with dimming capabilities are compatible with the controller.
GrowFlux’s participation in the IN2 will provide up to $250,000 in non-dilutive funding from Wells Fargo as well as the opportunity to collaborate with the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center and National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
Enhancing precision branded software
According to CEO and founder Eric Eisele, GrowFlux will use the opportunity to enhance its Precision PAR® branded software controls, which will offer growers the ability to use PAR sensors to control any light according to grower defined lighting targets. The intelligent controls will also incorporate energy management features that will analyze natural light conditions in real time, compare it with historical data and electricity prices, then define the best time to light the greenhouse accordingly.
“Utility companies are challenged to meet the demand of the rapidly expanding lighting loads within the CEA industry. By coupling our lighting control technology with real-time sensor and energy pricing data, we can define the best time to light a crop to optimize for energy savings,” Eric explains.
GrowFlux plans to address the largest addressable market possible and is doing so by focusing on small- and medium-sized operations. As Alex Roscoe, chief technology officer, explains, these operations are focused on efficiency, ease of use and the eliminating the need for technicians where possible. However, growers’ reliance on proven technologies has previously made it difficult to implement new technologies in the industry. Through IN2, GrowFlux will be able to continue developing its technology and prove it in a near-production setting.
“Right now, we’re in the development phase and once we reach the field deployment phase, which will happen shortly after the program, we’ll be looking for participants to help us scale our technology and ensure that the technology is accessible to the majority of the market. Different cultivators have different priorities; some are light-centric while others lead with temperature and humidity. We want to work with all of these strategies,” says Alex.
Ensuring accessibility and reliability in cloud-based services
GrowFlux controllers are wireless and cloud-based, allowing growers to control their lighting system from any device. GrowFlux has also built redundancies into the platform to continue running the light plan should any Internet issues arise. With most facilities having back-up generators, power outages can quickly be mitigated and the redundancies allow the grower to quickly resume its lighting strategy. Cybersecurity has also become a main focus, alongside reliability, to ensure that growers can easily use the controllers and fully benefit from the peace of mind offered.
“We’ve built a controller that works across the entire industry and with any horticultural lighting. At the end of the day, we want to make energy saving controls as accessible as possible and see our industry grow sustainability,” says Eric.