Discussing how Philips GreenPower LED toplighting helps his operation produce healthier, stronger plants throughout 700,000 square feet of commercial greenhouse space, Kalamazoo Specialty Plants’ (KSP) Rick Ouding shares a simple yet startling factoid.
“To give you an idea what we face up here growing in a greenhouse, last January we had a total of 10.5 hours of sun for the entire month,” the owner explains. “Having these lights gives us a lot more sunny days to work with, even though it wasn’t actually sunny at all outside.”
It was roughly a half decade ago (2016) when KSP made the switch to all Philips LEDs for its supplemental lighting needs. Since moving away from HPS fixtures, Ouding has noticed an increase in his operation’s ability to have more plants ready faster. He also notes improved branching and faster flowering since going all-LED.
“I would say these lights are helping us do more turns, as well as being a little more consistent in the plants we produce. And I’d say they’re allowing us to have more plants ready to ship earlier in the season, which is opening more markets in the South for us,” he says.
Additional months of growth
Without the supplemental lighting, Ouding would probably be running a seasonal growing operation versus the year-round production schedule he and his crew at KPS are required to maintain to serve its southern customer base. At the beginning of the year, the low light levels in Michigan make it impossible to grow certain crops without lighting, he says.
Ouding has also noticed some efficiency gains as a result of the improved plant growth uniformity they are seeing with the Philips GreenPower LED Toplighting.
“We’re having to do less manual pinching and there’s less grading and sorting that we have to do when we transplant up, which is a big labor saver for us,” he says. “And when we are transplanting, again, plant uniformity is improved. All of these things tend to add up — it’s hard to say how much time we used to spend grading and sorting plants — but we’ve definitely cut down on that, and uniformity at shipping has also increased.”
Being able to more efficiently manage shipping is a big deal for Ouding and management at KPS. Dealing mostly with independent garden centers, orders aren’t always quite as steady as dealing exclusively with big-box retail customers.
Thanks to steady DLI provided by Philips lighting, KPS knows exactly when plants will be ready. That means the grower can accurately schedule shipments and meet deadlines, no matter the weather.
“We all get to look like geniuses in April and June. That’s relatively easy,” Ouding says. “Producing top-quality plants at this scale in the dead of winter? That’s what makes us look good to our customers, and we simply couldn’t do it without these supplemental lights.”