Making the switch to LEDs

Increasing Profits - Lighting

How Fluence helped Tomerel upgrade from HPS to LED lighting.

August 24, 2022

Photo courtesy of fluence

Founded originally as a strawberry farm, Antwerp, Belgium-based Tomerel boasts a deep history of cultivation expertise. Tomerel is currently helmed by CEO and co-owner Jelle de Ryck — son of founders Els and Eric. The multi-generational farm now specializes in glasshouse-grown tomatoes, with a particular focus on cherry tomatoes on the vine. Like many growers in the region, de Ryck scaled his facility using supplemental high-pressure sodium (HPS) fixtures. However, when de Ryck sought to maximize his glasshouse’s light output and energy consumption, he turned to Fluence’s advanced LED technology.

After installing Fluence’s VYPR 3p top light solution, what were once critical limitations to the farm’s lighting strategy became opportunities to boost yields and reduce energy costs. Traditional HPS fixtures produce excess heat and feature inflexible spectral options. Fluence LEDs, however, run cooler and use a more efficient spectrum. With exploding energy prices in the region, the lightened load on the glasshouse’s HVAC system in combination with the LEDs’ overall more efficient energy usage enabled Tomerel to decrease its energy input while increasing the facility’s light levels.

The Antwerp area also experiences lower natural light levels in the winter season, requiring innovative lighting strategies to supplement tomato growth during the year’s darkest months to maintain production levels and fruit weight. Tomerel’s overall goal was to stabilize crop quality and consistency during the winter months when demand for tomatoes and tomato prices are both high. Through LED technology, de Ryckand the Fluence team optimized plant growth for taste, quality and production without undertaking excessive energy costs.

Fluence’s horticulture services team supported de Ryck and the staff at Tomerel throughout the HPS retrofit and in optimizing the facility for winter production.

“When other growers come to me and ask about my experience with Fluence, I always say I am happy,” de Ryck says. “We weren’t just looking for lights — we wanted a team that could strategize with us from installation through harvesting. Fluence provided that service and more.”

Tomerel leveraged Fluence’s ongoing support and global research insights to extend the duration of the tomato crop’s growth while also improving sugar translocation. In close coordination with Fluence’s technical team, Tomerel implemented a PhysioSpec™ DUAL R9B spectral strategy to accommodate plant efficacy. This strategy enabled Tomerel to decrease energy input by 5% even while increasing the amount of light by 40%, ensuring stronger cultivation conditions for Tomerel’s tomato crop. As a result, Tomerel also increased its yield by more than 5% despite the facility receiving 5% less natural light over the winter season. Furthermore, Tomerel established a flexible energy strategy that uses light when energy prices are low and sells energy back to the grid when prices are high. With Fluence’s technology, the Tomerel team sold 25% more of the glasshouse’s electricity produced by co-generation back to the grid during peak energy prices and saved 5% of its total gas consumption.

“It is fascinating to see growers like Tomerel make innovative, smart cultivation decisions regarding energy usage,” says Timo Bongartz, general manager for Europe, the Middle East and Africa for Fluence. “The Tomerel team is saving energy wherever possible and also optimizing their facility in such a way to enable them to sell energy back to the grid. And all that without sacrificing plant quality. Fluence is delighted to support Tomerel in running a future-proof glasshouse.”

See Fluence’s technology in action at Tomerel’s facility and hear more from de Ryck on how his team optimized their lighting strategy at the QR code here: