EINDHOVEN, the Netherlands – Signify is celebrating 15 years of Philips LED lighting solutions for horticulture. The Philips Horticulture LED Solutions team was formed in 2007 and has demonstrated the advantages of LED solutions to the industry. Today, Philips is a market leader in LED solutions for horticulture, having successfully completed hundreds of commercial projects worldwide. Some 60% of all crops grown with LED are lit by Philips lighting.
LED becomes a production tool
“In the early 2000s, LED technology was developing rapidly. We knew it had a lot of potential,” says Udo van Slooten, Business Leader of Horticulture LED Solutions. “Compared to high pressure sodium lighting, the dominant technology at the time, LED lights used considerably less energy. So, we started looking at applications where the efficiency of LED could help our customers transform their business. At the very start the efficacy of the LEDs wasn’t good enough, but it has improved drastically over the past 15 years. We expected from the beginning that this would be the case, hence why we entered the market early and started developing products to improve crop growth.”
This led to the formation of the LED Horticulture Solutions team in 2007. The team began by discussing with growers the opportunities available to them, which evolved to field testing, looking at how LED technology could improve the operational costs and business model of greenhouses. “It required a mindset change for us“, says Udo. “Growers were using light as a production tool. For us that was a totally new way of thinking about light. We had to learn how to optimize product development for that purpose and develop light recipes accordingly.”
Organizing projects around the grower
To bring such revolutionary technology to market, Philips developed its unique ‘triangle’ approach, which supports customers with a set of dedicated competencies that help them implement the benefits of LED lighting. The three areas of expertise in the ‘triangle’ are the key account manager, who selects the LED solution that fits the grower’s business case, the plant specialist, who decides on a custom-made light recipe that fits the crop, and the application engineer, who delivers the final lighting design for the best grow light solution.
“This is the golden combination,” says Udo. “We not only offer the best, most rigorously tested technology on the market – measured and tested according to international standards – but our customers also receive expert advice in how to grow their specific crops with our LED lights, such as how to achieve optimal taste for their basil or tomatoes, or the longest stems for their roses. We help them make the best choices for their business.”
Industry-leading research and technology
Philips’s research into the effect of lighting on plant growth began almost 90 years ago. In 1933, the company set up studies into the use of neon light to support plant growth. By 1936, it was testing neon lighting tubes in greenhouses.
Since 2007, Philips has led the way in the race for efficient and high output LED horticulture lighting. “In the early 2000s, LED lights were characterized by cold, white light,” says Udo. “But our technology teams developed new ways to improve the quality of light level, spectrum and uniformity.” This has resulted in more than 150 dedicated light recipes, which are tailor-made instructions for lighting that help growers achieve the best results for their specific crop and conditions.
Knowledge, cooperation, and community
Philips light recipes and other such knowledge are the results of hundreds of trials and projects among growers, researchers and Signify plant specialists to investigate how LED grow lights affect various crops and the growing phases of plants under different cultivation methods.
In 2015, investments into building LED knowledge resulted in the opening of the Philips GrowWise Center in the Netherlands. It’s the largest research facility of its kind for vertical farming production. Here, Signify teams develop more sustainable approaches to growing healthier and tastier fruits and vegetables, regardless of where in the world the production facility is located. Potential investors and builders of vertical farms can visit the facility to see demonstrations of different grow systems, technologies and crops.
Cooperation and community are cornerstones of the Philips horticulture program. “We have created a network of industry-leading partners and top university research teams,” says Udo. “For the key crops, we organize annual events where growers from around the world meet up to exchange ideas and experiences with each other and our partners, and to visit growing facilities. These events are crucial for our program development, and very much appreciated by the growers, many of whom return each year to look for more ways to improve their business. They also become important ambassadors for our solutions.”
The greener side of LED
Several global trends are increasing demand for high-tech LED horticulture installations. The COVID-19 pandemic increased consumer awareness about dieting and health, and exposed our dependency on logistics supply chains. This creates a demand to grow fruits and vegetables closer to home, as opposed to shipping them around the world. It adds to a growing consumer preference for locally produced products. “Reduced logistics mean less energy consumption,” says Udo. “That’s good because governments and consumers are demanding more locally produced products that are grown in more sustainable ways.”
In addition to energy efficiency, horticulture LEDs offer some other surprising sustainability benefits, such as reduced water consumption. “It takes 200 liters of water to produce a head of lettuce in the open field,” says Udo. “Thanks to water recycling in a vertical farm, lit by Philips LED grow lights, that same head of lettuce can be grown with 1.5 liter of water. That’s an amazing level of efficiency.”
Connected and data driven
Each year, the number of Philips LED installations worldwide increases. This is in line with a global trend toward more high-tech horticulture, in which light is a crucial element. Part of the ‘triangle’ approach is that, after installation, it offers growers specialist support for their specific plants to maximize the results of their investment in LED grow lights.
To serve this expanding community of growers, Signify is applying smart new techniques to maintain its position as a market leader. “We are digitizing our global plant specialist support by giving growers who make use of this service remote access to data, wherever they are located,” says Udo. “Using artificial intelligence, we analyze the data to provide them with advice, and to continuously improve our solutions in general.”Tagged with horticulture, Signify