During the panel session, LED Lighting for Flowers, Fruits and More, at this year’s Cultivate, four growers spoke about their experiences of growing under LED lighting and the impact the new technology is having on their businesses. Each grower talked about how they first trialed LEDs before moving forward with expansion plans. Here is a highlight of their stories.
Kathleen Baughman, Iwasaki Bros., Inc. – Hillsboro, Oregon
Kathleen Baughman is the operations manager for Iwasaki Bros., Inc., a wholesale grower of annuals and perennials with 17 acres of undercover growing area located west of Portland, Oregon. Iwasaki Bros. completed an installation of Philips LED toplighting over three growing areas in early 2017 and after one year of growing under LEDs, the team at has a better understanding of adjustments that will be needed in the next growing season.
Baughman said she saw “huge improvement” and “much better economics” particularly in the species that typically struggle because they “need a lot of light”. In addition, Baughman noted in a comparative trial—Philips LEDs vs HPS—done with Snapdragons, Cosmos and Petunias, the LEDs “virtually eliminated the use of PGRs.”
The LEDs did present a challenge as well. For example, some crops progressed to the “sales ready” stage much faster than anticipated, by as much as two or three weeks. However, due to local frosts, sales were delayed.
Check out the Iwasaki Bros. case study and video here
Drew Koschmann, Walters Gardens – Zeeland, Michigan
Drew Koschmann, head grower at Walters Gardens, talked about the process and timing in which Walters Gardens approached LEDs. With approximately one-third of Walters Gardens’ production greenhouses under light, the trialing department has been researching and investigating LEDs for several years.
To help them understand how LEDs could help their business as it continues to expand and grow, Walters’ conducted a small trial in late winter of 2015. As a result of the positive response, the next step was to conduct a larger trial in a production setting and track the results “all the way from start to finish.” Walters Gardens proceeded with an installation of Philips LED toplighting over approximately 10,000 square feet for the 2017 growing season, and conducted comparison of different lighting scenarios.
For example, one area was lit for 16 hours by LEDs. In another area, LEDs were run intermittently — on and off depending on outdoor light levels. And another area was intermittently lit by HPS.
Koschmann mentioned that the improvements in crops grown under LEDs included more leaf development and root development in Ligularia and more branching with Agastache and Perovskia.
Phil Tiemstra, Gull Valley Greenhouse – Alberta, Canada
Located in Alberta, Canada, Gull Valley Greenhouses produces more than a dozen tomato varieties, sweet peppers, basil and lettuce within a growing area of 180,000 square feet. Their fresh produce is sold to farmer’s markets and local retailers as well as through wholesale channels.
Because of their northern latitude in Alberta, Canada, Gull Valley struggles to grow efficiently during the winter months due to low light levels. Which is why the company first stepped into Philips LED grow lights in February 2016 with a small trial installation over one of their 13 bays of tomatoes (Beefsteak, Roma and Grape.) With the first trial, Tiemstra noticed a significant improvement with the biggest gains in their Beefsteak tomatoes—an increase of “about 30 percent production."
When it came time to build a greenhouse addition and after being presented a business case for LEDs, Tiemstra decided to pursue a full LED solution of Philips LED interlighting and LED toplighting; much to Tiemstra’s surprise, the plan was quickly approved by Farm Credit Canada, and the installation was completed in late 2016.
With the addition of LED lighting, Tiemstra said, Gull Valley can now grow year-round and supply the same high-quality tomatoes with a fresh “summer taste” during the winter months. As Tiemstra put it, LEDs allow for “July production in January.”
To read more about LEDs can reduce or eliminate the need for PGRs, read “Lighting the future” here
John Bonner, Great Lakes Growers – Middlefield, Ohio
John Bonner, the owner of Great Lakes Growers, said he was originally drawn to LEDs after seeing them in use during a visit to greenhouses in Europe in 2015. He said that it was clear that LEDs offered some qualitative improvements over high-pressure sodium (HPS) systems.
Upon his return, Bonner continued his research into LEDs. Great Lakes Growers – which produces hydroponically grown lettuces and herbs – was in the middle of constructing a research greenhouse and kept LEDs in mind during this process. Once the structure itself was completed, technical experts from Philips Lighting visited the facility to help Bonner set up a lighting plan and a small trial.
Bonner was somewhat skeptical that the LEDs would make a notable difference but proceeded with an installation and trial in January 2016. He then grew one set of lettuce crops under Philips LED toplighting and one under HPS to see which would do better. Bonner said it was clear that the use of LEDs resulted in a faster production cycle and higher quality.
In the fall of 2016, Bonner ran the same test with their herbs—comparing growth under Philips LED toplighting to growth under HPS. The results clearly demonstrated the noticeable benefits of the LEDs at which time Bonner moved forward with replacing all the HPS fixtures with Philips LED toplighting.
To read more about Bonner and Great Lakes Growers, read “Making financial sense” here
Photo: Chris Manning