In this issue:
- GLASE hosts horticultural lighting meeting
- Research: GLASE Lighting control
- Scientific Advisory Board Profile: Morgan Pattison
Greenhouse Lighting and Systems Engineering (GLASE) consortium brought together many of the major horticultural lighting companies in the United States on March 20, 2018. The purpose of the web meeting was to discuss how GLASE can accelerate the adoption of energy-efficient lighting technologies to expand the marketplace and to increase the profitability of controlled environment agriculture (CEA) facilities.
The GLASE consortium is developing a framework to support collaboration with lighting companies aimed to promote technology development and increase the adoption of horticultural lighting and control systems by CEA producers. Having identified lighting companies as the consortium’s primary beneficiaries and CEA producers as target customers, GLASE will work with its industry members to demonstrate the benefits of energy-efficient technologies and expand the market for all segments of the CEA supply chain. This includes LED manufacturers, lighting, sensing and control companies, and CEA producers and service providers.
The focus of the meeting was to discuss the proposed collaborative framework and how it resonates with industry members. Companies participating in the meeting included:
As a non-commercial organization, GLASE provides scientific-based data to demonstrate the applications and benefits of advanced greenhouse control systems and how it can increase CEA profitability margins.
Morgan Pattison, founder and president of Solid State Lighting Services Inc., says advancements in LED technology will have a major impact on the production of horticulture crops.
By David Kuack
With a PhD in materials science from the University of California-Santa Barbara, Morgan Pattison has long believed that light emitting diodes (LEDs) were going to eventually dominate the illumination market. His thesis research advisor was Dr. Shuji Nakamura who invented the blue LED. Nakamura received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2014 for his invention.
“Professor Nakamura was instrumental in showing me the importance of this technology and this put me in a good position to be involved with LED research,” said Pattison.
Pattison started Solid State Lighting Services Inc. in 2008. The company, which focuses on LED lighting, provides technical consulting to other companies and organizations assisting in understanding how the technology of LEDs fits together.
“Our biggest and longest running client is the Department of Energy,” Pattison said. “I operate as a contracted senior technical advisor to the DOE SSL Program. In that capacity, I do a lot of technology and scouting and looking for what is coming down the road in terms of applications for lighting. The LED technology platform continues to change what’s possible with lighting and this opens up new applications for lighting.
“The initial mindset is you change one bulb out for another bulb. It’s just changing the technology. But when the platform has so much more fundamental functionality then it’s not just a case of changing one bulb for another. Then you can change to a bulb that has extra features. That opens up new applications or expands use of existing applications for the technology. The technology keeps getting better and that keeps expanding the possibilities on the application side.”
Pattison works with the DOE to understand new components and materials that will advance the status of the technology and to determine promising R&D investment.
“DOE makes the decisions. I act as a resource for them,” Pattison said. “I try to understand how new applications will influence the technology development and also change the current energy landscape for lighting. Lighting uses about 20 percent of all electricity in the U.S. It is a big consumer of energy. New technology is going to change that. However, there also may be new applications which may use more electricity, but this can be okay if they are a more productive use of electricity and cut energy in different places. Lighting for horticulture is a prime example of this.”
In January 2018, DOE released a horticultural lighting energy report, Energy Savings Potential of SSL in Horticultural Applications. Pattison, who was one of the coauthors of the report, said the publication addresses the energy implications for horticultural lighting and transitioning it from conventional sources to LEDs.
“I engage with horticultural experts in talks and meetings to try to connect them with my understanding of LED technologies so that they can make informed research decisions,” he said. “There is a lot of information floating around about horticultural lighting. Because there are not a lot of defined characterization standards, it is more difficult to debunk some of the claims being made.
“From a market perspective or a consumer perspective, having more comparable performance of products is important, and that requires test standards. Everybody needs to be speaking the same language in terms of test characterization standards for products. This is something that happened very similarly with general illumination. Before there were standards that were applicable to LED lighting, there were all sorts of wild claims from lighting producers that really kind of flooded the market and slowed down the adoption of the technology. That is a market need that exists for horticulture. The standards for LEDs are what A.J. Both at Rutgers University has been working on. He got the idea from the existing lighting label for general illumination. LED lighting for general illumination went through the same growing pains that are now occurring with LED horticultural lighting.”
Pattison said as advancements are made in LED technology there could be an individualized LED light for each type of application.
“In the past there were only a handful of different bulbs,” he said. “There weren’t a lot of lighting technologies or options to choose from. In horticulture, generally speaking, growers are using high intensity discharge street lights to illuminate their crops. Most growers are still using street lights because right now that’s what works best for them.
“We are going to see more refinement on the application side because we have so much better control of the light in general. There is so much more that can be done with current LED technology. There is work that can be done at the LED level making them better still, including all of the materials and packaging.”
Pattison said improvements can also be made with the lighting fixtures and light distribution systems.
“In the case of greenhouses or vertical farms, this could affect how a room is organized, how plant trays are situated.,” he said “With horticulture, there is a lot of room to improve it to make it more economical and more effective all the way around.”
Pattison said another impact LED technology could have on horticulture is how greenhouses or any other growth environment are designed.
“The previous growth methodologies relied on previous lighting technologies and their restraints and shortcomings,” he said. “When those don’t apply any more, then the whole building design may need to be reconfigured. In greenhouses, for example, if a grower is providing LED light that may cause a change in the orientation or setup of the building. It may be a case of taking advantage of the sunlight during the day and LEDs at night. That is something that really has to be thought out for all types of controlled environment agriculture.”
Pattison said LEDs could also revolutionize how plants are bred and grown.
“Vertical farms are really revolutionary structures,” he said. “I heard one horticulturist say, “When plants are grown in a controlled environment they could be tweaked to take out a lot of their natural defense mechanisms because there’s not going to be pests, there’s not going to be floods, there’s not going to be droughts. All of the elements of the plant take energy to deal with these outside issues.” Plants could really be simplified if the focus was placed primarily on reproduction or production of whatever a breeder is looking for. A tomato could be bred for the easiest light recipe to give it. There is a development cycle that hasn’t been completed yet.”
Pattison said the transition to LED lighting has also forced everyone to rethink the change-out cycle for lighting products.
“We’re moving away from having light bulbs at all because LEDs can last so long,” he said. “The lifetime of lighting products, including horticultural products, is characterized based on how long it takes the output to depreciate by a certain amount. There are other reliability considerations. With general illumination, a light bulb may be good until it reaches 70 percent of its initial output because humans are very forgiving with light levels. But in horticulture if the light drops 70 percent, then plant growth drops 70 percent.
“There are different LEDs for horticulture. Red LEDs have different lifetime constraints than blue or white LEDs. Horticulture applications use more red LEDs and the LEDs can depreciate at different rates. The color could change to a less optimum level.
“There is also a catastrophic failure rate. LEDs might last 50,000 hours, but the light fixture itself could be an issue. There could be a bad solder joint, a manufacturing failure or a bad driver. There is a liability with horticulture that is different from general illumination.”
David Kuack is a freelance technical writer in Fort Worth, Texas; dkuack@gmail,com.
By David Kuack
EnSave Inc. is an engineering and consulting firm focused primarily on energy efficiency and renewable energy for the agricultural sector. In operation since 1991, the company, which is headquartered in Richmond, Vt., works with agricultural producers nationwide, including greenhouse growers.
“We have about 300 data collectors who we use throughout the country to facilitate the programs and services that we offer,” said Kyle Clark, vice president-business development at EnSave.
“Our primary clients are energy utility companies, state governments, state energy offices, non-profits and agricultural cooperatives. We have implemented programs for the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) over the past 20 years. We’ve run a number of programs including the Agricultural Energy Efficiency Program (AEEP) and the Agriculture Disaster Energy Efficiency Program. We are currently running the Agriculture Energy Audit Program, where we enroll farms and provide technical review to NYSERDA FlexTech contractors who provide farm energy audits. Then EnSave works with the farms to secure project funding.”
Starting with an energy audit
One of EnSave’s core services is conducting energy audits, which are typically done through USDA-sponsored programs. One of the programs called the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) is administered through USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The company also does energy audits and grant writing for USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program.
“We take the role as a trusted third party independent consultant,” Clark said. “We don’t have any financial relationships with equipment manufacturers or vendors. We seek to find the best opportunity for reducing energy costs for farms and greenhouses. Most of the farms we work with are in the poultry and dairy sector. We have also been auditing greenhouses for as long as we have been in business. We have done around 130 greenhouse audits throughout the country.”
Clark said greenhouse growers and farmers approach EnSave wanting to reduce their energy costs and looking for funding to conduct energy projects.
“The first step for most farms is having an energy audit done through the EQIP program,” he said. “They can receive funding from USDA to do the audit. Conducting these audits, EnSave has to follow industry criteria established by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers.
“During the audit we collect information on anything that is stationary, including lighting, heating, ventilation, motors, pumps, etc. All of that information is stored in a software program we developed called Farm Energy Audit Tool (FEAT). Analyzing the audit data we’re able to determine what recommendations to make regarding energy-efficient equipment. This is quantified in terms of a simple payback period. We prioritize all of the opportunities in the audit report provided to the farmers. They know which projects are going to pay back the fastest. Then we help connect them with funding at either the federal level through USDA programs or through utility incentive programs.”
Clark said that greenhouse growers are eligible to participate in all of the same programs as farmers.
“Greenhouse growers in the eyes of the USDA are treated as being agricultural producers or farm operators,” he said. “A greenhouse grower is going to be eligible to participate in all of the same programs including EQIP and REAP.”
Motivation for conducting an energy audit
Clark said one of the primary reasons that greenhouse growers and farmers conduct energy audits is to try to reduce overhead costs.
“In some ag industries, like the greenhouse and poultry sectors, the margins are very tight, so anything that they can do to reduce operating expenses is going to be a big help,” he said. “An even bigger motivator is the fact that an energy audit is required to access most federal financial assistance or incentive programs. For EQIP and REAP, both federal programs, a grower needs to have an energy audit conducted by a qualified third party in order to apply for that funding.
“EQIP provides financial assistance that covers a large portion, typically around 75 percent, which includes materials and labor. That is a very rich incentive. The REAP program covers about 25 percent of the costs. This is a major motivation if a grower is looking to do a large lighting or heating project.”
Partnering with GLASE
EnSave’s membership in the Greenhouse Lighting and Systems Engineering (GLASE) consortium developed out of its relationship with NYSERDA. NYSERDA is providing $5 million to fund GLASE for seven years.
“EnSave’s role is to provide GLASE with technical services,” Clark said. “Another major function of EnSave is going to be data warehouse saving and data mining.”
All of the audits that EnSave conducts track energy metrics associated with each farm and greenhouse. Data collected includes base-line energy usage information for heating, fuel usage, electricity usage and costs, number of lighting fixtures, type of fixtures, type of heaters, building construction, building size and building age.
“Going one step further, we also track the technologies that were implemented, the implementation costs and the impact on the energy usage and the carbon footprint of a farm,” Clark said. “Once we have completed the analysis we have all of our recommendations in the database. We have the largest data base for agriculture energy metrics in the country, possibly in the world.”
Clark said using EnSave’s data mining capabilities will enable the company to develop energy performance benchmarks that could be normalized on a per unit of production basis.
“These benchmarks could be amount of energy used per pound of tomatoes or any other crop produced,” he said. “There are very few benchmarks available partly due to the complexity of greenhouse operations. There is a stated need on the part of not just GLASE, but also other organizations like the Consortium for Energy Efficiency (CEE). CEE is engaged in similar activities as GLASE in terms of trying to better understand energy performance benchmarks. EnSave is also providing guidance to CEE.”
Clark said the work EnSave is doing with GLASE and CEE could lead to combining and disseminating information from these two organizations that are working toward similar goals.
“We also hope to provide services in terms of measurement and verification of new technologies as they are developed by the GLASE team. We do energy logging, which entails going out to a greenhouse or farm and measuring the electricity use in real time and analyzing the data. We would be a third-party tester or verifier of the performance of some of these new technologies.
“The GLASE consortium is bringing together greenhouse growers, equipment manufacturers and vendors and academia. There is a lot of potential for specialized consulting projects that could come from being a member of the consortium. This could include evaluating technologies to try to add them to federal incentive programs like EQIP. There is a whole process that technology manufacturers go through to get them on that list and that is a huge asset to their sales. But they need a third party to do the verification. Our hope is that we are able to provide some of these technical services as a third party engineering firm.”
David Kuack is a freelance technical writer in Fort Worth, Texas; email@example.com
Heliohex, a New York State-based designer and manufacturer of unique LED lighting for horticulture based at CenterState CEO’s The Tech Garden, recently teamed up with Cornell University’s Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) research team to optimize the production of commercial crops. The partnership, created through New York State’s Jumpstart Research Grant, focuses on light uniformity flaws and new opportunities for indoor farms and greenhouses. Their most recent findings emphasized the potential for new LED lighting solutions to achieve light uniformity improvements which ultimately increases plant growth and a grower’s production.
Indoor farming entrepreneurs and experts came to Cornell in early November with a goal: leverage the innovation at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences to create viable businesses for local vegetables and produce grown indoors.
Known as controlled environment agriculture (CEA), the systems combine greenhouse environmental controls such as heating and lighting with hydroponic and soilless production, enabling year-round production of fresh vegetables. The process extends the growing season through a range of low-tech solutions – such as row covers and plastic-covered tunnels – to such high-tech solutions as fully automated glass greenhouses with computer controls and LED lights.
Led by Neil Mattson, director of Cornell CEA and associate professor in the School of Integrative Plant Science, Cornell has become a world leader in CEA research. In early November, the Cornell CEA Advisory Council, which was formed in 2015 to expand the retail and food service markets for products grown using CEA, hosted on campus more than 80 entrepreneurs and stakeholders from across the Northeast to discuss the state of the indoor farming industry, urban agriculture, supermarket trends and new technology.
At the conference the group announced the formation of the Controlled Environment Agriculture Global Association, an organization to foster growth, understanding and sharing ideas related to controlled environment agriculture and associated industries.
Erico Mattos, executive director of the newly formed Greenhouse Lighting and Systems Engineering (GLASE) consortium, presented his vision to advance CEA by bringing together expertise from industry and academia to create solutions.
“The CEA Advisory Council meeting provided a great opportunity to connect with key players from the different segments of the CEA supply chain in New York. I was impressed with the quality and quantity of the ongoing initiatives in this area supported by Cornell University professors and staff members and the level of engagement from the industry members,” Mattos said.
Mattos said private companies and public research from Cornell offer collaborative opportunities that can advance the CEA industry.
Growing crops in controlled environments – in greenhouses, plant factories and in vertical farms – provides alternatives to conventional farming by producing food year-round near metropolitan areas, reducing transportation costs and water use, and improving land-use efficiency. Such local systems also offer valuable educational and psychological benefits by connecting urban people to the food they consume.
At the same time, there is little concrete evidence to show how so-called controlled-environment agriculture (CEA) compares to conventional field agriculture in terms of energy, carbon and water footprints, profitability, workforce development and scalability.
Cornell will lead a project to answer these questions, thanks to a three-year, $2.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation, through its new funding initiative called Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy and Water Systems.
“By putting all these pieces together – including energy, water, workforce development and economic viability – we hope to discover if CEAs make sense for producing food for the masses,” said Neil Mattson, the grant’s principal investigator and associate professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science.
GLASE Executive Director Erico Mattos was one of the co-authors who received the American Society for Horticultural Sciences Outstanding Cross-Commodity Publication for papers published in 2016.
The award was given to the paper A Chlorophyll Fluorescence-based Biofeedback System to Control Photosynthetic Lighting in Controlled Environment Agriculture [J. Amer. Soc. Hort. Sci. 141(2):169–176] published in partnership with a team from the University of Georgia.
The announcement was made at the Award Ceremony during the Plenary Session at the 114th ASHS Annual Conference at the Hilton Waikoloa, Waikoloa, Hawaii on September 19th.