With the increasing shortage of land resources and the growing population, feeding more people with limited resources has become a significant challenge these days. New cultivation methods such as smart greenhouses, urban agriculture, and plant factories have been continuously innovated in recent years, and the demand for plant lighting is also increasing. Recently, HortidailyChina interviewed Richie, a technical consultant in the field of horticultural lighting. Richie is currently working at Fluence.
"I have been in the field of plant lighting since 2016, and I am mainly responsible for the Chinese market. This is a very promising and growing market with a lot of potential. At present, China's agricultural practitioners are primarily the older generation of traditional farmers, with an average age of 40 and a limited ability to accept new knowledge. China's horticulture will explode in 10 or 20 years when the older agricultural practitioners retire, and the new generation becomes the main workforce. We do a lot of exploration now to pave the way for the future. "
"Horticulture has had ups-and-downs in the past years in terms of development and establishment, and the gestation time of large-scale projects is usually about two years. China is currently building some high-tech parks, which has further stimulated the development of the industry. In my opinion, grow lighting still needs a lot of promotion and publicity to let growers understand the benefits. The current lighting utilization rate in greenhouses is not as high as that in plant factories. China's urbanization process is still accelerating, and the vegetable self-sufficiency rate of megacities is also a problem. More efficient agricultural production methods such as plant factories and community-coverage production will become a trend, and plant factories have also developed more in large cities such as Beijing, Guangzhou, and Shanghai. "
"For now, the profit of flower greenhouses is better than that of vegetable production. Flower growers mainly consider price when choosing artificial lamps and will consider operating costs more; the initial cost of vegetable greenhouse investment is huge, and the return period is relatively long, which puts a lot of pressure on operators. We have found that growers are increasingly focusing on operating costs and are gradually switching from HPS to LED, which can save more than 50% in energy. "
"In addition, the current production costs of greenhouse production and plant factories are relatively high, and the selling price of vegetables out of these facilities is significantly higher than that of open-field production. How to reduce production is one aspect, but consumers also need to understand the production of green vegetables, thereby promoting the development of consumption. Another important phenomenon is that online sales of vegetables currently account for a small proportion, and most of them are sold offline, so the price is not high. At present, some domestic parks combine primary, secondary, and tertiary industries, which can bring in some income but cannot fully cover operating costs, especially when travel is restricted due to the current COVID-19 situation. "
Richie said, "Operating costs, initial investment, and other factors are all issues that everyone is very concerned about. Brand influence will also be considered for large enterprises, and ready-made experience and complete services are required. Growers of large-scale private enterprises will consider the cost-effectiveness comprehensively, and some small enterprises that produce at low cost will consider more investment. "