As the cannabis industry continues to grow exponentially across the U.S., there’s an unprecedented demand from commercial growers to increase both yield quantity and quality, while also maximizing energy efficiency.
As with most industries, demand is pushing the upward limits of existing technology, especially when it comes to lighting innovation. Many growers fall prey to convincing descriptors such as “cutting-edge” and “industry-leading” without really understanding the technical limitations of products and how they can dramatically impact growers’ operations.
A short history
For years, small growers have heavily relied on high pressure sodium (HPS) lights, which had become the industry standard despite being used for everything from household lamps to tennis court lighting. As these cultivators migrated to commercial operations, they brought with them more than just growing expertise – they brought reliance on outdated technology.
Growers have become more sophisticated over the years and both the government and utilities districts have taken notice to the energy consumption imposed by cannabis facilities. As a result, governments and utilities have upped the ante. Growers command greater control over their yield, while balancing the energy consumption costs and limitations enacted by the public sector.
Next-generation LEDs are the unequivocal solution to successfully overcoming both of these challenges.
Seizing market share
While some growers may balk at the effectiveness of LEDs, it’s important to understand the enormous evolution taking place in LED technology. Originally introduced to the horticulture industry in the early 2000s, many field operators who, knowing the crucial role that correct lighting plays in maximizing growth, were reluctant to use a largely untested and misunderstood technology. Quite simply, many early versions of LED systems didn’t deliver when it came to intensity, uniformity, efficiency, heat management and spectral quality.
These early LED innovations weren’t designed for horticultural use. Some LED lighting is extremely inefficient and doesn’t account for the numerous variables commercial growers must control to maximize yields. Much to the detriment of the entire horticultural lighting industry, some current grow lighting providers continue to market this substandard LED technology as industry-leading, causing growers to employ many expensive and energy-intensive workarounds to adapt the technology.
Innovation leads to better quality, efficiency
But LEDs have come a long way, showing no signs of hitting technological stagnation. In fact, horticultural lighting solution providers, such as ProGrowTech, are continually developing new solutions, pushing the technology’s upper limits. Its offerings are among the most advanced, yet least expensive and have virtually zero maintenance costs.
Research and outcomes from LED lighting specifically developed for horticultural use have reinforced the short- and long-term value brought to field operations. A case in point is High Mountain Health (HMH), a leading medical cannabis grower and dispensary. Choosing a system that delivered an industry-leading efficiency rating of 2.1 µmol/j, along with an unprecedented level of variable control and flawless uniformity, HMH saw an increase in yield and potency in all strains almost immediately.
- Top flower grams per watt increased by 179 percent for the Harlequin strain from their old HPS system.
- An average of 10-15 percent increases in yield across all strain varieties.
- HMH has benefitted from lower power consumption, managed ambient and displaced heat and advanced spectral manipulation.
Choosing the right LED technology
Today’s LED lighting solutions are built to specifically meet the demands of cannabis growers. To seize greater control over their crop and maximize energy efficiency, growers should be looking for:
- LED lighting solutions that are industrially built, which ensures reliability and consistency for large-scale operations.
- Technology that incorporates on-board dimming and spectral tuning capabilities, which provide the ideal amount of light and most efficient power usage at each critical phase of growth from seedling to vegetative to flowering.
- Flawless uniformity that delivers even light distribution to plant canopies, creating an environment for consistent growth.