Hort Americas new Supplemental and Artificial Lighting Education Video

Hort Americas just released its newest video designed to help people interested in using supplemental or artificial lighting in hydroponic, vertical farming, urban ag, tissue culture and greenhouse applications.

Whether you are looking to purchase high pressure sodium lamps, need photo-periodic lighting, learn more about LED Grow Lights or simply have any other lighting questions…this video series will help.

Understanding Light Quantity and Its Effect on Commercial Horticulture from C Higgins on Vimeo.

Visit our corporate website at https://hortamericas.com

Seedstock is bringing agricultural entrepreneurs and investors together

While the tech world has received the majority of
investor attention over the last few years, Seedstock is out to make a case for
entrepreneurs focused on sustainable agriculture as a viable investment choice.
By David Kuack
Seedstock in Los Angeles, Calif., is a young company,
less than two years old. But it is a company that cofounder and managing partner
Robert Puro said has a lot of potential.
“Seedstock was started because we saw that there was a
growing opportunity with respect to sustainable agriculture as a viable
economic opportunity,” Puro said.
The product that Seedstock offers is being a facilitator
between entrepreneurs and investors.
“We looked at the major challenges facing the
agricultural system and the amount of food that will need to be produced in
order to supply a growing population. We looked at the world demand. We looked
at that against the amount of land and water that are available. There are a
lot of challenges, but there are also a lot of opportunities. We have become an
aggregator of all of the startups and farms that are using sustainable
practices to show that there is a groundswell of activity in this country.”
Puro said Seedstock is looking at companies that are
trying to use sustainable practices that are helping those companies make
“We look at it from the perspective that sustainability
is not going to exist unless it can make you money,” he said. “The other
component is we want local economies to improve and we want to see the
environment improve, but unfortunately those things can’t happen if the
solutions that are used aren’t economically viable.”
Seedstock – Bringing Investors to Ag Entrepenuers.
Starting with a website
Seedstock began with a website to provide information for
investors and entrepreneurs.
“A lot of what we have been doing with our website is
building our brand and building trust among our reader base and our audience,”
Puro said.”
He said the Seedstock website is a resource of
information that people can’t find anywhere else.
“We track down the information and put it together and
try to get investors interested in it,” he said. “We provide investors with
information to make them more knowledgeable. Then we try to get the investors
together with entrepreneurs, at an event for example. Our goal is to facilitate
dialog between investors and entrepreneurs.”
Puro said that companies written about on the Seedstock
website can be either large or small.
“We really try to look at a company objectively, not
making any judgments,” he said. “In most cases we are writing business
profiles, including start-ups.
“We might write about the challenges a company is facing
with the LED lights it is using? How have its energy costs been impacted? What
are the company’s profits? How much funding has it received? What
considerations does sustainable agriculture play in the creation of the
company’s product? What are its objectives?
“We try to stay away from the advocacy stuff. If company
officials say that their company is trying to save the world, that’s them
saying it, not us.”
Other information posted on the website includes research
from relevant universities and product-related articles.
“It might be a 3-acre farm that is using an innovative
business application that could be potentially implemented in a bigger
operation,” Puro said.
The educational events sponsored by Seedstock are an
integral part of achieving its goal of bringing entrepreneurs and investors
together. Seedstock’s initial event was held on Nov. 27, 2011 at the University
of California-San Diego Business School. It was a panel discussion on the state
of agricultural entrepreneurship.
The company held its first conference on Sustainable
Agriculture Innovation at the UCLA Anderson School of Management this past
“The goal of the conference was to really focus on the
economic opportunities as well as the environmental and societal benefits of
developing and investing in sustainable agricultural solutions, technology and
practices,” Puro said.
The company is planning to increase the number of
educational events that it sponsors.
Seedstock conference in September featured big to small businesses,
including greenhouse tomato grower Casey Houweling.
Gaining momentum
While starting a new company during a down economy may
not have been the best timing, Puro is very excited about the opportunities for
“We want to facilitate more interest and get more
investors who may be thinking about high tech and the Internet to think about
the opportunities in farming and agriculture,” he said. “There are so many
challenges that could be addressed. As sustainability continues to play a
bigger role in agriculture there are more companies popping up. We are also
seeing more business school students looking at ag ventures. There is
definitely a feeling of momentum.”
For more:
Seedstock, (424) 229-1460; http://www.seedstock.com.
David Kuack is a freelance technical writer in Fort
Worth, Texas; dkuack@gmail.com.

Visit our corporate website at https://hortamericas.com

Hort Americas visits Plant Factories (Vertical Farms), Tokyo and Chiba University

Hort Americas had the opportunity of the year this past week.  Hort Americas was able to visit commercial horticulture businesses (including but not limited to greenhouses, garden centers, vertical farms and plant factories) in Tokyo and Yokohama and then head to an International Meetings on Plant Factory at Chiba University.

We know pictures are worth a thousand words, so please enjoy.

Small garden centers and poinsettias were everywhere.
Plus we had a chance to visit the Sakata Garden Center.

Japanese consumers are definitely willing to pay for quality.

Vertical farming concepts at Farming Frontier 2012

Plant factory research was one of the many reasons for our trip.

Local farmers market in downtown Tokyo.

We will save the details of this one for later.

Green walls on high-end jewelry stores on Ginza St.

Just one display of some of the amazing orchids we saw.

Chiba University is, in our opinion, providing students with an amazing opportunity to innovate  in the green world.
Dr. Kozai – nothing more needs to be said.

Climate-controlled propagation of tomatoes for the greenhouse.

Chiba University branded tomatoes.

Mirai’s Plant Factory at Chiba University.


Plant factories in the mall – Mirai.

University of Wageningen and Chiba University working together to innovate the horticulture industry.

A very nice reception at Chiba – International Meeting of Plant Factory 2012.

Chiba University

New technology from Mebiol – Greenhouse-grown tomatoes

One final garden center photo.

Should you have additional questions on any of the images, please email us at infohortamericas@gmail.com.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Visit our corporate website at https://hortamericas.com

Video of Vertical Farm Growing Hydroponic Lettuce

Philips Horti LED Division releases a new video of a commercial farm using vertical growing methods, hydroponics and led grow lights to produce hydroponic lettuce.

Enjoy and let us know if there are any questions.  You can contact Hort Americas at infohortamericas at gmail dot com to learn more.

Visit our corporate website at https://hortamericas.com

Vertical Farming Ideology Takes Hold in South Carolina

Hort Americas is always excited to hear about new ideas surrounding innovation and agriculture.

In this case the story is on Vertical Farming and is coming from WBTW News 13 (a CBS affiliate) out of South Carolina.

Watch this video and let the ideas of Urban Agriculture and Vertical Farming inspire you.

If you are interested in learning more on urban agriculture, vertical farming and commercial greenhouse vegetable production (including the use of hydroponic technologies) please watch out for Urban Ag Products (www.urbanagproducts.com).  Urban Ag Products is a new online community being created to help encourage education, innovation and collaboration in the new worlds of commercial horticulture and agriculture.

Visit our corporate website at https://hortamericas.com

Collaboration and Sharing in Horticulture, Vertical Farming, Urban Agriculture and Commercial Hydroponic Vegetable Production

What is the industries willingness to share information?

Who is willing to collaborate to bring new technology to the commercial horticulture industry?

Will Dutch Growers continue to lead the way in innovation as it regards to the Horticulture Industry?

Peter Klapwijk, founder and co-shareholder of the consulting company GreenQ (http://greenq.nl) in Bleiswijk, the Netherlands, is a strong proponent of sharing production information. Klapwijk, who is a former greenhouse tomato grower, knows the importance of cultivation expertise. Peter started as a tomato grower.
Working with a lighting supplier 10-15 years ago, Klapwijk identified production techniques for using artificial light to increase the yield and quality of greenhouse tomatoes. Klapwijk shared what he learned with other growers leading to further advancements in the application of artificial light in the horticulture industry worldwide.
Speaking with Fresh Plaza (http://www.freshplaza.com/news_detail.asp?id=101877#SlideFrame_1), Klapwijk said there is great demand for Dutch agricultural knowledge worldwide. He said unfortunately, this knowledge is often undervalued. Although growers may sometimes feel threatened by competitors who seek this knowledge, Klapwijk said it is this same knowledge that keeps growers working to improve their own operations. Growers can also use their knowledge to make advancements in new markets, particularly foreign ones.
Klapwijk calls for global cooperation in which the sharing of information will benefit both the provider and recipient.

(Hort Americas also found this article from Fresh Plaza very interesting as it implies that the Dutch Fresh Produce Industry (and maybe the fresh produce industry as a whole) “hate the massive amount of high-tech gadgets…” coming to the market.  And Hort Americas would love to hear from you.  Who has an opinion about this article?  Dutch Greenhouse Growers, any opinions?  Dutch horticultural technology suppliers, any opinions?  We cannot wait to hear from you.  infohortamericas@gmail.com

Visit our corporate website at https://hortamericas.com

Algae Production Using LEDs at the University of Kentucky

Algae production could help reduce greenhouse gases

Researchers at the University of Kentucky are using a greenhouse and LED lights to study the feasibility of growing algae with flue gas from coal-burning power plants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

By David Kuack

Algae are considered a nuisance by commercial greenhouse growers. The warm, moist conditions that occur in greenhouses provide the ideal environment for algae growth.
Algae can be found anywhere these conditions exist, including floors, walkways, under and on benches, on greenhouse glazings and walls, in irrigation pipes and emitters and misting lines, on the surface of evaporative cooling pads and on the surface of growing media in containers and ground beds. Algae can also be a food source for fungus gnats and shore flies. But algae also hold great potential in the production of value-added products.
Even though algae are a problem for growers, these simple green plants hold great potential in the production of biofuels, fertilizers, cosmetics, fish and animal feed and other value-added products. Members of the algae program at the University of Kentucky in Lexington are looking at the potential of algae production to help lower the emission of greenhouse gases, primarily carbon dioxide, from the burning of fossil fuels, particularly coal.
Andy Placido, an engineer associate with the university’s Center for Applied Energy Research, said the restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions will only increase as environmental issues gain in importance among the public and government and regulatory officials.
Kentucky’s Department of Energy Development and Independence is always looking for ways to make coal cleaner because it is a big part of the state’s economy,” said Placido. “State officials know that there is eventually going to be some type of restrictions or tax on greenhouse gas emissions. Coal produces more carbon dioxide per energy unit than natural gas and other fuels. So officials are trying to evaluate the technology that is available to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

Algae Production with LEDs
This culture closet is equipped with LED lights and temperature
control. It is used to grow algae from a few milliliters up to
15-20 liters. The algae is then moved into a greenhouse for further
production under  higher light levels and warmer temperatures.

An ample source of carbon dioxide
While most coal-burning power plants in Kentucky have been equipped with scrubbers to remove sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, Placido said little has been done to restrict the amount of carbon dioxide that is generated in the flue gas.
“We are going to be using post-scrubbed flue gas, which is going to contain about 12 percent carbon dioxide and not a whole lot more,” he said. “There is a minimal amount of sulfur and nitrogen. That is the reason we are looking at using the carbon dioxide because there aren’t any mature technologies for the capture of this gas. Right now, we are basically following the same route that occurred during the 1980s when these power plants were looking for the technology to capture the sulfur and nitrogen.”
If the research is successful in capturing and using the carbon dioxide, there is the potential to use some of the sulfur and nitrogen currently being removed from the flue gas by the scrubbers.
“We know that algae use sulfur and nitrogen in addition to carbon dioxide,” he said. “Algae might eventually allow for the scrubbers to be eliminated altogether.”

LED lights and a greenhouse
Placido said the algae culturing system starts in the laboratory where the algae are allowed to multiply.
“We work with the university’s Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering which maintains the algae strains in beakers,” he said. “The algae are purchased in small vials and then cultured up to a few hundred milliliters.”
Placido said this is when he and the other researchers start to work with the algae in an in-house designed culture closet equipped with Philips LED lights.
“We are growing algae indoors with temperature control,” he said. “We are starting to bubble in 5 percent carbon dioxide to allow the algae to acclimate to a higher percentage of carbon dioxide along with the LED lighting as we prepare to move the algae into the sunlight. When there is enough algae that have acclimated (0.05-0.1 gram of algae per liter of water), they will be taken from the culture closet to the greenhouse. In the greenhouse, it will still be a temperature-controlled environment. We’ll allow the algae to grow in the greenhouse and once they become accustomed to the higher light levels and change in temperature, we will take the algae out to the power plant where it will be exposed to outdoor conditions along with the flue gas. That is our algae process chain.”

Maximizing algae growth
LED lights are being used 24 hours a day in the culture room to provide constant light. Placido said they are also looking at using the LEDs outside as a supplement at night and possibly during winter at the power plant so the algae continue to grow.
“During the night algae start to respire during which they release carbon dioxide and take in oxygen,” he said. “This is the reverse process of what happens during the day. By using the LEDs we can keep the algae growing for 24 hours or at least reduce the respiration process. Because the LEDs are very efficient, we expect more algae will be produced than the energy needed to operate the lights.”
Placido said algae split when they grow so production is judged on doubling time. Under optimum light and temperatures in the lab a doubling time of 12-24 hours is achievable.
“With the outdoor conditions we will have with the flue gas, we are hoping to have a doubling time of two to three days,” he said. “We would like to increase the growth rate, but that is going to take some nutrient work along with optimizing the light and temperature levels. Outside we’re at the mercy of Mother Nature.”
Placido said algae growth is much better with the LEDs in a controlled environment than outside under natural conditions. He said the difference in growth comparing inside and outdoor conditions has not been quantified.
“We have gotten much greater algae growth rates inside in the culture closet equipped with LEDs than outside or in the greenhouse even under the best days in regards to light and temperature,” he said.

Algae Production in Photo Reactors
Algae is produced in photo-reactors that can be placed inside or outside  of a  greenhouse.
 The ultimate goal is to build a large reactor adjacent to a coal-burning  power plant
that  will use the carbon dioxide given off in the plant’s flue gas.

Real world use
Placido said when the system is set up at the power plant, more flue gas will be produced than can be used to grow the algae. The flue gas will be pulled into the photo-reactor, which is a series of glass tubes on a steel frame, as carbon dioxide gas is needed.
“Once the system is saturated with carbon dioxide, the algae will be allowed to grow and then will be harvested. More carbon dioxide will be added as it is needed,” he said. “We know that our reactor isn’t nearly big enough to capture all of the carbon dioxide. The reactor we are using only holds about 2,000 gallons of water. That’s a good size, but nowhere near the size we would need to capture all of the carbon dioxide. We have estimated to capture all of the carbon dioxide from this one power plant would require a reactor that would cover 100 acres and take millions of gallons of water.
Placido said the power plant can provide an unlimited amount of steam to keep the water in the reactor tubes from freezing during the winter.
“During the winter with the sun’s heat during day the water temperature would stay above freezing,” he said. “With the steam from the power plant to heat the water along with keeping the water circulating continuously, that should be enough to keep the system from freezing. Then we would supplement the natural light with the LEDs if it was needed.”

Grower potential
Placido said there are some possibilities for commercial growers to produce algae and use algae in the future.
“That is our goal, to find out how we can improve the process for making fuel and how does that compare with other algae-derived products, such as fertilizers, animal feed, etc.,” he said. “Our end goal is to make biofuel. In the future the ideal situation would be for growers to produce their own energy source.”

For more: Andy Placido is Engineer Associate II, University of Kentucky, Center for Applied Energy Research, (859) 257-0223; andy.placido@uky.edu.
David Kuack is a freelance technical writer in Fort Worth, Texas, dkuack@gmail.com.

Visit our corporate website at https://hortamericas.com

New Video Shows Hydroponic Greenhouse Tomatoes being Grown with LEDs

New Video on Growing Hydroponic Tomatoes in a Greenhouse with LEDs

In this video you will see first hand how a Ukrainian Glass Greenhouse Tomato Grower uses the Philips GreenPower LED Interlighting Module to increase production on their hydroponically grown crops.

Please notice that the Interlighting Module does not replace HPS lighting.  It simply enhances other light sources by allowing the lower canopy of the crop to continue to be photo-synthetically active.

Please send any questions you may have to infohortamericas@gmail.com.

Visit our corporate website at https://hortamericas.com

Consider edible greens as an alternative crop

Growers of ornamental plants can use empty greenhouses during winter to produce a variety of edible greens.

By Tina Smith

Ornamental plant growers who close down their greenhouses for the winter may consider using an empty house to produce an alternative crop such as greens during the winter months. Production systems range from high tech hydroponic systems for lettuce to growing mixed greens in ground beds using minimal or no heat. Researchers in the Department of Plant Science at the State University of New York (SUNY)–Cobleskill, are using existing ebb and flow benching for short-term hydroponic raft lettuce production.
One thing that is common to most greens production systems is the use of a greenhouse structure. Since many greenhouses used to grow spring ornamentals are vacant between November and February, greens may be an alternative crop.

Start small
When growing a crop of greens for the first time, especially if new to vegetable production, begin on a small scale. Growers are advised to research the markets including demands for certain types of greens, harvesting techniques, post harvest handling, storage and packaging. Areas with winter farmers markets have seen a high demand for winter greens, though in some cases the market is getting saturated and competition is high.
Resources are available on growing greens in high tunnels that can be adapted to greenhouse production. It may take some trialing to develop a production system that works for your operation.

Greens being grown in ground beds.

Minimum heat production
Greenhouse growers who produce ornamental crops tend to grow greens in soilless mixes or compost in containers on benches. For production systems that use minimal heat, greens are sown from early September through the first week of October and harvested in November and December.

Planting times are one of the most critical factors for winter harvesting of greens. Successful growers develop planting schedules including expected harvest dates and record yields for future use.
Early sowing is necessary because greens achieve most of their growth before short days lengths and cold temperatures occur. The growth rate slows during the winter months due to cold temperatures and low light caused by cloudy weather and shorter day lengths. There is very little or no growth when the day length drops below 10 hours per day, which usually occurs at the end of November through the beginning of February in Massachusetts. If minimum heat is used, winter production of greens relies on the plants making their growth throughout the fall. Recent research at the University of New Hampshire suggests that some species are more sensitive to temperature than to light whereas others such as lettuce are more sensitive to light than to temperature.
One of the keys to success is to plant enough of a crop early in the season to be able to harvest through the cold season. For example, spinach may take several months to grow during colder months. Spinach seed should be sown in September and October so it is nearly full-sized in December and can be harvested through February.

Greens being grown in flats.

Types of greens
There are several types of greens that are grown for winter production, including Asian greens such as mizuna and tasoi, kale, lettuce (red and green leaf, oakleaf and romaine), mustards, gourmet cabbages, Swiss chard, spinach, arugula and claytonia.
If you unfamiliar with some of these greens, taste them first and check out recipes for greens that are new to you. This can help with the best way to market the different greens.
Lettuces are not as cold hardy as some other greens and some lettuce varieties are better adapted to cold weather and short days. Seed catalogs can help with specific growing requirements.
Spinach is very cold hardy. However, during the darkest period of winter, spinach grows very slowly. As the day length becomes longer spinach regrows rapidly and some varieties bolt before the end of winter (February or later).
Crucifers, including mustards, raab and Oriental greens such as pak choi and tatsoi, are good choices for cold-weather production. Swiss chard (Beta vulgaris), which is grown for its large tender leaves and rapid re-growth, is cold hardy and productive.
Growers have found it best to plant different varieties in separate production blocks rather than mixed them together, since growth rates and times of maturity are different. Trial several varieties because they may grow better under various light and temperature regimes. Some varieties are quicker to bolt than others. Mixed packages of greens can be created after they are harvested.

Cultural methods
Containers. Greens can be directly sown in a variety of containers. Open seed flats are popular and fit well on benches. Some growers cover the benches with landscape fabric and fill with medium to create one large bed.

Growing media and fertilization. Soilless media or composts are used for growing greens. Organic production requires growing media that have been approved by an organic certifying agent or have been designated OMRI certified. Plants need less fertilizer as the growth rate slows. Avoid over-fertilizing, which can lead to soft growth and aphid infestations.

Irrigation. Automatic sprinklers or hand watering can be used. Irrigate plants in the morning to allow foliage time to dry before temperatures drop at night, especially as the day length shortens. Under short days growth slows and less water is used. Avoid overwatering, which results in soft growth. Soft plants are less able to withstand cold and have less flavor.

Greens being grown on subirrigation benches.

Temperature. There are many options when it comes to temperature. Temperature affects the growth rate and also the flavor of greens. For example, arugula has a stronger flavor when grown at warm temperatures. Some growers produce a succession of greens harvesting every 14-21 days (micro-greens) at 50°F nights and 55°F days. Other growers provide minimal heat to maintain night temperatures of 37°F. On warm or sunny days, greenhouses are ventilated or the side walls are rolled up to increase air circulation depending on the structure.
Some growers use ground beds without supplemental heat. Some crops such as lettuce and arugula do not grow well without supplemental heat. Growers who are using high tunnels without heat tend to use row covers laid over crops on cold nights. The covers must be removed during the day to allow the plants to receive light. Greens cannot be harvested frozen and must be thawed before harvesting.

Light. Light affects the growth and flavor of greens. Decreased daylight results in slower growth. Increasing the temperature cannot compensate for the reduction in daylight. Greens tend to have a milder flavor under lower light. Mesclun grown under lower light is lighter colored than when grown under high light conditions.

Pests. Some of the pests that may be encountered when growing greens include downy mildew on lettuce and spinach (two different species of downy mildew). Some newer varieties of spinach are promoted as having resistance to many races of downy mildew. However, this resistance may not be for all races of the disease. Powdery mildew is a problem on lettuce under low light and high humidity conditions. Voles can be also be a problem when growing greens.

Harvesting and marketing. Greens can be harvested using a sharp knife, scissors or manually picked with no tools, one leaf at a time. Growers use both short and long blade knives. Greens can be harvested by either removing outer, larger leaves at regular intervals or by cutting the entire plant within an inch above the growing medium allowing the crown to remain. Leafy crops re-grow and can be harvested again.
Once greens are harvested, some growers move the crop to a storage area to bag them for sale. If the greens are dirty, then they need to be double rinsed and spun to remove excess moisture. Spinach tends to grow close to the ground and may need washing. Growing in a soilless medium or compost in containers on benches can eliminate this step.
Two popular markets for greens are winter farmers markets and restaurants. Many community-supported agriculture (CSA) farms are offering winter shares and some may be interested in buying in greens to add to the winter and storage crops they offer.
Tina Smith is with the UMass Extension Greenhouse Crops and Floriculture Program, (413) 545-5306; tsmith@umext.umass.edu.
This article first appeared in the July-August 2012 issue of the UMass Extension Floral Notes Newsletter.

References and Resources
1. Summer Flowers, Winter Greens; http://www.growingmagazine.com/print-7190.aspx
2. Four Season Farm: “Growing Winter Crops in Maine” and “The Winter Harvest Handbook”; http://www.fourseasonfarm.com/books/index.html
3. Cornell High Tunnels website: Cold Hardy Greens; http://www.hort.cornell.edu/hightunnel/crops/vegetables/salad_greens.htm
4. Michigan State University Hoop House website; http://hoophouse.msu.edu

Visit our corporate website at https://hortamericas.com

Solar Panels to Power University Greenhouse

Students and faculty at Southern Polytechnic State University in Marietta, Ga., will be studying and doing research in a new solar powered greenhouse.
by David Kuack

When Marietta Power & Water contacted Southern Polytechnic State University about a grant program that could benefit the school, administration officials were eager to listen. The grant program, which was being administered by the power company and Electric Cities of Georgia, would enable the university to install 24 solar panels while paying only 1/3 of the total cost.
Electric Cities of Georgia received the grant as part of the 2009 American Recovery and Investment Act. Marietta Power & Water used a portion of the grant money ($54,000) for the solar panels. The grant allowed for the installation of solar panels that will generate 15 kilowatts of electricity. The electricity generated by the panels is enough to power 225 light bulbs.
“The grant was for 15 kilowatts of solar panels so we divided the installation,” said Steve Kitchen, senior director of facilities management at the university.
Sixteen of the panels were installed on the roof of the Engineering Technology Center and generate 10 kilowatts of electricity. The remaining 5 kilowatts of electricity will be generated by eight solar panels that have been installed next to a new 25- by 35-foot greenhouse constructed adjacent to the ETC. Each of the panels measures about 4 feet wide by 7½ to 8 feet long. Both installations were covered by the grant.
The 5 kilowatts of electricity generated by the panels will be used to support the greenhouse during daylight hours. The electricity will be used to power lights and a heater. The greenhouse will be used primarily for academic and research purposes.
Upgrading the installation
Although the greenhouse is nearly complete, Kitchen said there may be some opportunities available for upgrading the system.
“If it made economic sense, there could be an expansion of the panels on the roof of the ETC building,” he said. “The other change that could occur is finding a means to store the electricity generated by the solar panels so that it could be used at night. The 5 kilowatts of electricity generated by the panels is more than enough to operate the greenhouse during the day. If there was a storage system to store the electricity generated, we could use it to power the greenhouse during the night as well.”
Easily maintained
The university will maintain the panels, which Kitchen said is relatively simple.
“The most frequent activity to maintain the panels is to make sure they are kept clean to operate at maximum efficiency,” he said. “It doesn’t take much more than rinsing them off with water to keep the dust off of them. They are so new right now we’re not sure how often they will have to be cleaned.”
Interest in alternative energy
Kitchen said the university has had limited exposure to working with solar power. Solar panels had been installed on the old engineering building.
“There is a small array of panels on that building, referred to as Building G,” he said. “The students with the support of the faculty have built an electric bicycle recharging station. I personally haven’t seen any electrical bicycles on campus, but we have a recharging station for them.”
Kitchen said that the university does have an alternative energy program and he expects that the faculty involved with that program will be interested in learning more about the solar panels. He said they are always interested in looking at alternative energy sources and would likely be supportive of an expansion of solar panel installation.
Kitchen said any consideration for use of alternative energy sources would probably not occur unless it was associated with a major renovation of one of the university’s buildings.
“There is no other building on campus that is currently using alternative energy sources.” Kitchen said. “Part of it is the faculty and the research they are doing and what they are teaching the students. The other part is the practicality and the cost associated with using alternative energy sources.
“Cost is a major factor. There is always a cost associated with bringing technology to campus. We are looking for projects, like what we did with Marietta Power, that we can team up with and offset the costs.
For more: Steve Kitchen, Southern Polytechnic State University, (678) 915-3939; skitchen@spsu.edu; http://www.spsu.edu.

Visit our corporate website at https://hortamericas.com

Hydroponic Fodder Trial

With drought affecting much of the United States I was reminded of a method to produce fresh
feed for livestock with minimal input: hydroponic fodder.  Hydroponic fodder production is simply that,
growing livestock feed (barley, oats, clover, alfalfa etc.) hydroponically.  Generally speaking, production time of
hydroponic fodder is rapid.  Barley for
example can be ready to harvest in as little as 7 days!  A
grower can expect approximately seven pounds of fodder for every one pound of barley seed. Possible additional benefits of hydroponic fodder include higher meat and milk production and better heat cycles.  So,
the Hort Americas Research Division set out to grow barley seed under LEDs in a
recirculating hydroponic system. Johnny’s Selected Seeds has a wide selection
of seed.  Johnny’s has organic barley
seed available in a variety of bag sizes.  We
selected two, 5 lb bags for just under $9.75 per bag.  Fifty pound bags are also available.  There are other bulk seed suppliers and we will continue to compare product and pricing.

Barley seed in propagation trays.

Upon receipt, the seed was poured into the propagation trays
at a depth of approximately 1/2”.  The
drainage holes were plugged and the seed was submerged in water for 24 hr.  After 24 hr. the water was drained
from the trays and discarded.  After
draining the water, a half-strength nutrient solution was prepared using Kimitec
brand fertilizer (see below).  Lighting was initiated
at Day 1 using GreenPower LED Deep Red / Blue 120 Production Modules (DRB 120).  The DRB 120s were placed over the center of
each tray at 12” above the table.  A Li-Cor
quantum sensor and meter (LI-205A) was used to measure instantaneous light
intensity.  Light intensity was
approximately 70 µmol·m-2·s-1
and photoperiod was 18 hr.  This produced
a DLI of approximately 4 to 5 mol·d-1.  To maintain adequate moisture and provide nutrition,
the seeds were irrigated every two hours for 5 minutes.  Radicles were visible at Day 1.  After two days root formation was
obvious.  At Day 3 coleoptiles began to
form and a full strength nutrient
solution was applied to the plants.  By Day 4, the coleoptiles appeared to double
in length and the first leaves were visible.  At Day
5, leaves continued to grow and the root mat was well developed. Plants appeared to be ready by Day 6, but we decided to continue growing the barley
for 7 full days before harvesting.  On Day
8 the fodder was harvested and delivered to a local goat farm within 40
minutes.  We want to thank Katherine of Harrison Farm for expressing interest in this trial and for allowing us to bring the fodder to her goats.

So in summary:

  • Day 0:
    • Seed poured directly into hydroponic
      propagation trays at a depth of ½”.
    • Seed soaked in water for 24 hr.
  • Day 1:
    • Drained/discarded the water from the trays
      after 24 hr.
    • Began irrigating with a half-strength
      nutrient solution every 2 hours for 5 minutes:
      • 2 ml of Espartan per gallon of water
      • 2 ml of Amifort per gallon of water
      • 6 ml of Caos per gallon of water
      • 3 ml of Tundamix per gallon of water
      • 0.5 tsp of MgSO4 per
    • Lighting provided to seeds via DRB 120s
    • One DRB 120 was placed 12”
      above the center of each propagation tray (three total).
      • Light intensity was
        approximately 70 µmol·m-2·s-1. 
      • Photoperiod was 18 hr.
      • DLI was between approximately 4 to 5 mol·d-1.
      • Energy consumption per DRB 120 is 35 Watts
        •  Daily energy consumption = 1.89 kW per day
        • Total energy consumption (7 days) =  12.23 kW
        • Local electrical rate = $0.08 USD per kWh
          • Daily lighting cost = $0.15 USD per day
  • Day 2:
    • Continued irrigation and lighting protocol
  • Day 3:
    • Nutrient solution was increased to
      full strength:
      • 4 ml of Espartan per gallon of water
      • 6 ml of Bombardier per gallon of water
      • 13 ml of Caos per gallon of water
      • 6 ml of Tundamix per gallon of water
      • 1 tsp of MgSO4 per
  • Day 4 through 7:
    • Continued irrigation and lighting protocol
  • Day 8:
    • The fodder was harvested and delivered to a local
      livestock farmer within 40 minutes.

NOTE: Nutrient regimen was a trial. Basically, we used  recommended Kimitec fertilizer rates per gallon for coco slab growing and applied it via a completely soilless, recirculating system.  We will continue to adjust the nutrition and should we conduct tissue analysis, we will post the results.  We have selected to postpone the discussion comparing the cost per ton of hydroponic fodder versus cost per ton of hay/grain.  To be continued…

Keep growing and make it a great day!
Dr. B.

Day 1 – radicle emergence
Day 2 – root formation

Day 3 – coleoptile formation

Day 4 – coleoptile and first leaf formation

Day 4 – coleoptile and first leaf formation

Day 4 – barley under LEDs

Day 5 – root formation

Day 6 – first leaf well developed

Day 7 – ready to harvest

Day 8 – harvested and delivered = happy goats!

Visit our corporate website at https://hortamericas.com

Hort Americas is offering a Vertical Growing System

Hort Americas is working to help those interested in Vertical Farming develop their ideas.

One thing needed is a “system” that allows new growers to test their theories.  Hort America’s feels they have come up with an option.

Hort Americas has developed a Vertical Growing cart that allows the grower to set up a germination area and a finished plant area.  The customer can customize the Horticulture LED Grow Lights (referring to light quality and quantity), the planting intensities, the crops and the nutrient selection.

The Vertical Growing Cart is heavy duty and portable, giving the grower the flexibility to try different locations and systems.

For more information on Vertical Farming using these customized carts, please email Hort Americas at infohortamericas@gmail.com.

Photos of the First Cart designed to be shipped from the farm to the market using nutrient film technique, LED grow lights and organic fertilizers.

Heavy Duty and Portable Vertical Growing Carts

This cart using Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) 

Stock Tank(s), Germination and Finished Production in one area.

Artificial Lighting Provided by Horticultural LED Grow Lights

Visit our corporate website at https://hortamericas.com

Hort Americas Partners Well Represented at Floriade 2012

Hort America’s Valued Vendor Partners are Important Participants in Floriade

Hort Americas’ partners Philips and Horticoop are participating in this year’s Floriade. Philips lighting has been installed in the Dutch pavilion My Green World. The 49-foot high pavilion forms a landmark in the Education & Innovation part of the exposition.
Within the pavilion is My Green Lab that includes a 16-foot tall structure made up of an eight-layer cultivation system. Each layer is fitted with Philips GreenPower LEDs under which fresh basil is being grown. Other than the LED lighting, the structure is completely dark, showing visitors how plants can be grown without sunlight.

Multilayer Horticultural LED Grow Light Display

Horticultural LED Grow Lights at Floriade 2012

My Green Lab is a futuristic and experimental part of My Green World where visitors can learn more about the challenges facing the planet in terms of energy supply, water conservation and food production. My Green Lab offers insight into a variety of topics including algae cultivation for biofuel production and photosynthesis and cultivation without light.
Also on display in the My Green World pavilion is a trellis carrier, which is marketed by Horticoop. This motorized rail system enables greenhouse workers to access any part of a commercial production facility. Partners in the development of the trellis carrier include TU Delft, Wageningen University, The Hague University and the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation.

Horticoop participates in My Green World

Horticulture research, interactive game
Wageningen UR Greenhouse Horticulture, along with several greenhouse systems suppliers, is presenting research and new techniques for sustainable horticulture at Floriade. The Innovation Cluster is a modern greenhouse where five research themes are discussed: energy and climate, water and emissions, crop quality, crop protection and sustainable cultivation and production.
Wageningen UR Greenhouse Horticulture and TNO are presenting the game My Cool Greenhouse at Floriade. Through an interactive game on a touch table, visitors can experience and see how a perfect greenhouse is created and what is involved in its operation. The game is also available to play online.

University of Wageningen is playing an important educational role

High tech greenhouse video
Be sure to check out the YouTube video Innovatie Cluster Floriade.wmv. During this 2-minute video a group of children explore a high tech tomato greenhouse that has been built to provide sustainable growing. As they discover what happens in the greenhouse, the children learn how growing medium, water, carbon dioxide, air, environmental control, systems integration and research are combined to produce tasty tomatoes.

Floriade Dialogue 2009-2012
Floriade 2012 started a scientific and practical support program in 2009 called Floriade Dialogue 2009-2012  Floriade Dialogue presents discussions on issues of great social importance related to principals of sustainability with impact on the quality of life.
The emphasis of Floriade Dialogue in 2012 is to influence the process of social change needed to deal with the limitation of natural resources that global society will face in the future. Topics to be discussed during the Floriade Dialogue Sessions include:
1. Adequate and safe food production.
2. Responsible use of natural resources.
3. Balancing the built and natural environment.
4. Use of the potential of nature to improve the quality of life.
5. Regular access to enough high-quality food to lead active, healthy lives.
6. Expand economic growth and job creation through sustainable use of natural resources.
7. Strengthening horticultural and agricultural value chain operation and collaboration.
8. Generating logistic synergy and creating opportunities.
The outcome of the sessions will be published under the title “The Self-Supporting and Livable City”. The publications will be available online in two editions of “Change” magazine.

Visit our corporate website at https://hortamericas.com/

Floriade 2012: U.S. greenhouse growers visit and revisit the Netherlands for ideas and inspiration.

Rick Brown of Riverview Flower Farm hunts for consumer-friendly plants at Floriade 2012

Florida industry leader and greenhouse grower Rick Brown visited Floriade in the Netherlands in search of plants that would survive for consumers under Florida’s weather extremes.

By David Kuack

Rick Brown of Riverview Flower Farm in Seffner, Fla., sells Florida Friendly Plants. That may not sound unique or different, but Brown said the horticulture industry needs to do a better job at the regional level of testing, promoting and retailing plants that meet consumers’ expectations.
“One of the problems at retail is there are so many different annuals to choose from,” Brown said. “Every year there is a subtle change, a little difference. But does that change really matter in the long run to the Florida consumer who is coming in for a red flowering plant? In some cases it does, but too often we are selling consumers something that is guaranteed to fail.
“How many consumers buy a universal cook-book combination basket of annuals, take it home and hang it in the sun and watch it quickly decline? They become dissatisfied because they have to water it twice a day and some species in the combination melt quickly in the Florida heat. What they thought they were buying was a pretty flower with growth potential. Unfortunately we are selling failure over and over again.”
Brown said part of the problem is that retailers, whether large chains or independents, want to sell something new and different—the latest and greatest rather than the tried and true. Just like in other parts of the country, there are peak periods in Florida when consumers are coming into the garden centers.
“It is during those times that retailers are going to have all of that “different stuff”, including kangaroo paws, calla lilies and other flowering potted lilies in their stores,” he said. “And that is the time when we are starting to go into hot weather here in Florida. These plants aren’t going to survive for Florida consumers. A customer may take home a combination annual basket and in two days she’s wondering why she bought it.
“New lines of nationally marketed dwarf buddleia or butterfly bush grow to half the size of traditional varieties. The dwarf plants only survive half as long due to the pressures of rust, spider mites and nematodes, which is the reason these buddleia are non-existent in Florida landscapes.”

Rick Brown and Sydney Park Brown at Floriade 2012

Looking for plants that survive
Brown visited Floriade for the first time in 1982. He hadn’t been back to the event in 30 years. Floriade is a horticultural exposition which is held in the Netherlands every 10 years. This year’s Floriade covers 163 acres and is open from April 5 through Oct. 7. It consists of gardens and pavilions including Villa Flora, the largest indoor flower exhibition in Europe.
One of the primary reasons that Brown went to this year’s Floriade was to look for new and different succulents. He has been growing succulents for six years.
“You’ve never seen all of the succulents,” he said. “There is always different ways of growing them to make them look different.”
Brown said succulents are good patio plants in Florida.
“They can sit outside and be neglected, exposed to a wide range of temperatures, light conditions and water conditions. They can take a lot of stress in Florida,” he said. “That’s why people like them so much and the sales are increasing. Succulents have always been available here, but the plants haven’t been promoted.”
Brown said another reason that succulent sales weren’t strong previously was because of their limited availability.
“Now we are offering the plants in more formats, including different sizes and different varieties, and making sure they are regularly available,” he said. “That’s what I was really looking for when I went to Floriade. I was pleasantly surprised by the displays they had there and picked up some ideas that we can possibly use here.”

Bird’s Eye View of Floriade 2012

Offering consumers options
Brown, who sells his products through Home Depot, offers succulent assortments of different species in a nine-count tray. He said the assortments, which can be transplanted into the consumer’s choice of containers, are doing very well. He is also offering sedum assortments in a nine-count tray that is also selling well.
A succulent product that Brown introduced last year is the Classic Living Walls™, which is a nine-count tray that can be hung.
“It’s nine 60-mm Elle pots that stay in their cells because they are rooted so well,” Brown said. “The tray has holes that enable the consumer to hang the plants on a wall. It’s the cheapest vertical garden a consumer can buy. It sells for $15 at retail. Other vertical gardens start at $150 per square foot plus the cost for maintenance. Consumers can hang our living wall on a fence or on the side of their house.
Brown said he built some frames that are used in the stores to show how to use the Classic Living Walls™.
“It kind of has a picture frame effect that is commonly used for living walls,” he said. “It’s part of our store display. We get asked for the frames occasionally, but not often enough to consider making the frames for sale.”
Brown said he isn’t currently looking to expand the living wall concept beyond succulents because many plants have limited application in this format.
“One problem with the living wall system is the plants still have to be watered,” he said. “With succulents, the tray can be taken down, the plants can be watered, and then the tray can be stuck back up. These plants are so forgiving. If other types of plants are used, it’s usually a short-lived event. Then there is maintenance too with other types of plants.”
Plants in the Classic Living Walls™ include different species of sedums, portulaca, senecios and kalanchoes.
“There is quite a selection of succulents that look good for quite a long time,” he said. “But it has been a learning experience over the years to come up with this collection of plants that work.”
Brown said he is looking for plants that have good shelf life in the stores and also good consumer performance.
“We are going back to plants that are easy to care for and last a long time,” he said. “I hear over and over again people tell me, “Those succulents I bought two years ago keep looking great and they multiply.” I rarely hear anyone say that they killed all of their succulents.”

Plants with potential
One plant that Brown saw at Floriade in several displays was rhipsalis or jungle cactus, which is an epiphytic plant.
“The plants looked really good in vertical gardens,” he said. We could start putting some of those in our assortments. And they looked really good in hanging baskets too.”
Another crop that Brown is excited about is the Garvinea line of perennial gerbera from Florist Holland BV. He started a relationship with the breeding company when he went to the Netherlands for the first time in 1982. He began growing gerbera in 1979 but had to discontinue their production because of the heavy disease and pest loads the plants encountered in Florida.
“We started out doing tissue-cultured plants, but they weren’t really adaptable for Florida landscapes,” Brown said. “They were short-lived because the leafminers, powdery mildew and other diseases would take them out. We could keep the plants growing outdoors as long as we kept spraying them for leafminers and diseases. But once the plants got into the homeowners’ hands, they couldn’t control the pests and diseases.”
Brown said the gerbera breeding 30 years later has addressed these problems. He said he has seen some trials with the Garvinea in Florida landscapes and the initial results have been good.
“I have seen the plants in California during multiple years in established plantings and they looked great,” he said.

Cactus and Succulent Display at Floriade 2012

Brown said that numerous kalanchoes were also displayed at Floriade.
“Kalanchoes live in Florida as a perennial,” he said. “I’m familiar with the different breeders and what is being developed among the kalanchoes.”
Euphorbia, including Euphorbia milii (crown of thorns), also does very well in Florida.
“I’m always looking for new euphorbia species,” he said. “I’m looking for new ideas on presentation and how to use them in combinations. I’m trying to make a better product to try and make a happier customer.”

For more: Riverview Flower Farm, http://www.floridafriendlyplants.com./
Photos courtesy of Riverview Flower Farm.

David Kuack is a freelance technical writer in Fort Worth, Texas, dkuack@gmail.com.

Visit our corporate website at https://hortamericas.com/

Horticultural LED Grow Lights – Grower Looks to Increase Efficiency with LEDs

Filip Edstrom at Green Masters Inc. is seeking to quantify the advantages of switching from fluorescent to Horticultural LED Grow Lights in his company’s growth chamber.

By David Kuack

Filip Edstrom has seen the writing on the wall and it says “LEDs”. Edstrom, vice president at Green Masters Inc. in Apopka, Fla., said LED lights are where flat screen TVs and laptop computers were five to six years ago.
“If you look at what the cost of flat screens TVs and laptop computers are now compared to a few years ago. It’s just a matter of time for the volume of LEDs to go up and the cost to come down,” Edstrom said. “LEDs are the next wave in lights. This is something that has been going on in Europe and we are just starting to trial the lights.”

Cyclamen being grown under LEDs in a Germination Chamber

Why LEDs?
Green Masters, which is a flowering pot plant producer, operates a 1,000-square- foot growth chamber equipped with 480 4-foot fluorescent light fixtures. The chamber is air conditioned so that it can be used for seed germination and growing on some crops including cyclamen.
Edstrom considered LEDs because he was looking for lamps that were more energy efficient and generated less heat than the fluorescent lamps.
 “The cyclamen plugs can’t be grown outside during the summer. We have to grow them inside where it is cool,” Edstrom said.  “With nearly 500 fluorescent fixtures there is a considerable amount of heat generated,” he said. “Because it is an air conditioned room, the heat factor plays a big factor in how much air conditioning is needed and how much electricity is used. Energy savings is the primary reason for looking at the LEDs.”

No wasted energy
Working with Hort Americas, Edstrom has set up a trial to compare electricity usage and plant growth under the LEDs and fluorescent lamps.
“We are using the Philips GreenPower LED production module,” he said. The modules provide the dark red and blue wavelengths that the plants use so that we are not wasting energy on light the plants don’t use,” he said. “What we have been told is that by using these certain wavelengths the plants will actually be more compact so that there will be less need for growth regulators. Also by only putting on the light that the plants need we are being better stewards of the environment because we are not wasting energy.”
Edstrom is currently running a trial using one of the benches in the growth chamber that is equipped with the LED modules.
“The fluorescents were state of the art when we installed them in June 2000. There is really nothing in regards to fluorescent fixtures that is more efficient.”
Edstrom said replacing the 4-foot fluorescent lamp fixtures with the 120-centimeter LED modules has been very simple.
“We take out the 4-foot fluorescent fixture and mount the LED module and we’re good to go,” he said. “We didn’t have to make any changes to the height of the shelving. Take the fluorescent fixture out and put the LED module in. It’s that simple.”

Side by side comparison with traditional lighting and LED grow lights

Quantifying the benefits
Edstrom said the feedback on the performance of the LEDs from the grower who oversees the growth chamber has been positive.
“The grower has said the crops under the LEDs are growing just as well, probably a little bit better,” Edstrom said. “The plants that are under the LEDs seem to be a little more compact. The plants once they are out of the growth chamber and transplanted, they are performing just as well or a little bit better. The question is the payback there?”
Edstrom said that during the summer there is not a lot of production occurring in the 8 acres of greenhouses and shade houses. The company produces about 45 different crops, including annuals, perennials and herbs.
“We are trying to determine is there a crop or certain crops that benefit being under the LEDs,” he said. “We are also trying to determine is there a difference between each of the colors or varieties.”
Edstrom said initial light measurements have shown that the LEDs are delivering 5-10 percent more light vs. the fluorescents.
“Also, if we can shave off a week’s crop time in the chamber that is worth something,” he said. “Or if we can produce more compact plants without having to apply a PGR, that’s worth a lot.
“I can determine how much electricity I’m using and how much electricity I’m saving with that fixture. The variable that we don’t know yet and why we are doing this trial is if we can improve plant quality and reduce the crop time in the growth chamber. If we find that certain crops do better under the LEDs, those plants will go under the LEDS. For the others where there isn’t a big difference, those we’ll keep under fluorescent lamps.”
Edstrom said the initial cost of the LED lamps has come down and as the price continues to drop it will make financial sense to replace the old fluorescent fixtures.
“If we were building a brand new growth room today and we had to buy the bulbs and fixtures, we would choose the LEDs even though there is higher investment cost,” he said. “The payback would be much quicker.”

Gerberas being grown under Horticultural LED Grow Lights

For more: Green Masters Inc., (407) 889-2416; www.greenmastersinc.com. Hort Americas, www.hortamericas.com; infohortamericas@gmail.com.
David Kuack is a freelance technical writer in Fort Worth, Texas, dkuack@gmail.com.

Visit our corporate website at https://hortamericas.com

OFA Short Course 2012 – Hydroponic Substrates, LEDs and Orchids

Hydroponic Cucumbers Propagated in XL-Coir Plugs from Hort Americas
Hydroponic Cucumbers Started in XL-Coir Plugs under LED Grow Lights

Hort Americas is spending the next couple of weeks preparing for the 2012 OFA Short Course in Columbus Ohio. (http://ofashortcourse.org/)

Please come visit us in booth 1051.  You will have a chance to see many crops propagated under LEDs, new hydroponic substrates and a new Orchid growing media.  You will also have a chance talk to Hort Americas about ideas behind vertical farming, urban agriculture, commercial hydroponic greenhouse production.

We hope to see you there.

Visit our corporate website at https://hortamericas.com

Purdue University investigating the effects of LEDs

Below is a press release from Philips Horti (responsible for the Philips GreenPower Horticultural LEDs.)

Hort Americas is very proud to be very involved with this project and looks forward to speaking to many of you about this trial and others at the OFA Short Course 2012.

Now that Philips’ LED range has been certified for the American market a number of projects have immediately been started. One of them is taking place at Purdue University in the United States, to investigate the effects of LEDs during floriculture young plant (plug) production. Purdue started in 2010 with a four-year United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Specialty Crops Research Initiative grant to improve and evaluate LED lighting for greenhouse use. The project is titled “Developing LED Lighting Technology and Practices for Sustainable Specialty-Crop Production.” The goal is to increase greenhouse yields and decrease producers’ energy costs. Cary Mitchell, a professor of horticulture and project director for the grant, said Purdue researchers will collaborate with Rutgers University, the University of Arizona, Michigan State University and Orbitec Technologies Corp. “We believe that LED supplemental lighting with a high red and blue ratio will produce high-quality marketable plugs at an earlier date than HPS supplemental lighting, the current industry standard.”

Philips Lighting is happy to cooperate with Purdue University to map out the possibilities for using LEDs in the greenhouse, with a view to finding a sustainable method of producing crops in a greenhouse. This will benefit the horticulture sector in America. The LED solutions of Philips lighting are based on years of experience and close co-operation with the horticultural world. Successful field tests with growers and breeders around the globe gave them an unparalleled knowledge of the growth effects of lighting on different crops throughout their growth cycle. It’s allowed Philips to create a unique approach to lighting with specific “light recipes” that can be tailored. A wide variety of crops can benefit from LED while it is possible now to grow in multilayer environments without any daylight. This is also proven in practice for the tissue culture segment as well.

“The high-intensity discharge lamps used today are inefficient. When you have acres and acres of greenhouses with these lamps in them, it really adds up,” Mitchell said. “With LED lighting, we should be able to do as well or better with much less energy.”
The specialty crop industry plays an enormously important part in American agriculture and is valued at approximately $50 billion every year. These projects will be key to providing specialty crop producers with the information and tools they need to successfully grow, process, and market safe and high-quality products. Mitchell’s work will include testing LED lighting on high-wire tomatoes. Those plants can grow taller than 20 feet, and traditional overhead lighting doesn’t reach the lower parts of many plants. Mitchell believes that using LED lights on the sides of plants will increase photosynthesis and flowering, improving yield.

Erik Runkle at Michigan State will test flower initiation of ornamental crops with different colors of LEDs, as well as performing project outreach. The Phillips and Purdue project will managed by Assistant Professor Roberto Lopez and graduate student Michael Ortiz. This research project will compare young bedding plant growth and development under traditional high pressure sodium lamp lighting to different combinations of red and blue Philips LED lighting. The goal is to find a sustainable lighting strategy of producing high-quality young plants in the shortest amount of time that will benefit the commercial floriculture in a greenhouse industry in America by consuming less energy. During the first phase of the trials the top 10 bedding plants produced in the United States will be investigated, such as petunias and geraniums. These bedding plant crops represent a large proportion of the total floriculture sector in America.  Philips GreenPower research modules are being used for the trials at Purdue University. The advantage of this lighting solution is that they are dimmable and available in various colors, including deep red, blue and far red. The initial test results are expected in June and final results are expected at the end of 2012. Hort Americas, Philips’ LED Horti Partner for the United States, is involved in this project, as well as Dr. Johann Buck as Technical Services Manager.

For further information contact:
Hort Americas at infohortamericas@gmail.com

Keith Robinson, Ag Communications
Purdue University
Tel.: (765) 494-2722
E-mail: robins89@purdue.edu

Visit our corporate website at https://hortamericas.com

Cutting Propagation in a Snap!

Ecke Ranch has developed a packaging system for shipping
offshore callus cuttings that can help growers lower input costs and reduce
production time by two weeks.
By David Kuack
Ecke Ranch offsite manager Jon-Paul Williams said the
biggest change that had occurred in the propagation of vegetative cuttings over
the last 25-30 years was when companies supplying domestic growers moved to
offshore production.
“The process of propagating those cuttings really hasn’t
changed,” Williams said. “There have been other advances in propagation
programs such as tissue culture, but in terms of how the cuttings are handled
very few changes have occurred.”
Once Ecke, which is headquartered in Encinitas, Calif.,
began to do offshore propagation, chief operating officer Steve Rinehart began
to ask what the company could do differently in regards to handling vegetative
“Steve had this vision of growers being able to receive
cuttings that were pre-stuck, that could be placed on the bench to root and
have the same results if they stuck the cuttings themselves without having the
labor costs and production input costs,” Williams said. “We have been working
with a company for about eight years to develop different kinds of packing
materials that could be used with offshore cuttings. Two years ago we
introduced the Ecke SNAP System™ (http://www.ecke.com/ecke/?page_id=1042) that
consists of a packing material for offshore callus cuttings that acts as a
rooting medium once the cuttings arrive here in the United States.”
Easy to root
Williams said that when Ecke began working on the SNAP
System the company started by trying to merge packing foam with a growing
“The company we worked with was familiar with plants,” he
said. “We worked with a number of different iterations of this product to get
to a material that we were satisfied with. The most important factor was once
the cuttings arrived on shore we wanted them to root well. The Ecke SNAP System
provides a really good environment for root development. There is a lot of
porosity, good water-holding capacity, but also good aeration.”
Clean callus
Ecke has propagation facilities in Guatemala and Mexico.
Geraniums, poinsettias and spring annuals are stuck in a different medium prior
to being packed in the Ecke SNAP System.
“Cuttings are not callused in the SNAP packing material,”
Williams said. “Each variety has a different callusing time, usually anywhere
from 10 days to two weeks. Once the callus is established the cuttings are
removed from the medium and placed in the SNAP packing material.”
Williams said there are a couple of reasons the cuttings
are callused in a different medium.
“We want to ensure the cuttings do not root in the
packing material offshore,” he said. “We want to make sure we always comply
with all USDA requirements.”
Another reason for callusing the cuttings in a different
medium is to keep them clean.
“We don’t want algae or other organic matter in the
packing material or callus protector as we call it,” Williams said. “We want
the cuttings and packing material to be as clean as possible.”
Advantages of the SNAP
Williams said that like unrooted cuttings processing the
callus cuttings offshore is a quick process. For most customers there is
usually a 36-hour turnover. When a SNAP System order arrives at a customer’s
facility, they receive three strips of 26 cuttings in a tray that holds 78
“The advantages for the customer is that we have put the
first two weeks of production on in Guatemala or Mexico,” Williams said. “The
most challenging part of propagation for many growers is the first two weeks
typically for most crops. During this time they require the most heat, the most
intensive care. With the SNAP System that part is done offshore. Growers save
two weeks of propagation and the inputs that they would require during those
two weeks.”
When the cuttings arrive they are already in a pre-stuck
“It’s not a medium, it’s a packing material that doubles
as a medium,” Williams said. “When the cuttings arrive growers don’t need to
buy a tray or a rooting medium so they are saving on their inputs.”
Another advantage is the reduction in labor costs
involved with sticking cuttings.
“A typical grower sticks about 1,000 cuttings an hour,”
he said. “Depending on the variety it could be more or it could be less. So the
grower doesn’t have to pay someone to stick the cuttings. This helps to reduce
shrink losses on the bench.
“The advantage with the SNAP system is a grower is
handling 26 cuttings at a time. If a grower using the SNAP system can handle
500 trays in one hour that results in 13,000 cuttings being stuck in an hour
instead of 1,000 unrooted cuttings. That is a significant reduction in the
labor demand.”
Another advantage to the SNAP System is that all of the
grading has been done offshore eliminating the need for growers to grade the
cuttings once they arrive.
“They also don’t have to worry about inconsistent
callusing because that is done offshore,” Williams said. “The cuttings can be
planted, placed in the greenhouse, and then they move right into the next two
weeks of rooting. Typically during the two weeks that the callused cuttings are
rooting there is usually less heat needed, less risk and less labor during the
final rooting stage. We are trying to eliminate as many of the variables as
propagation deficiencies
Williams said for those growers who may not have all the
right conditions for handling callus cuttings, the SNAP System may be a little
more forgiving.
“For growers who are doing direct stick the SNAP System
may work very well because sometimes growers have a tendency to over saturate
the medium.” Williams said. “This commonly occurs with poinsettias because
growers are sticking cuttings during the hottest time of the year. The SNAP
System can provide a little more flexibility preventing the area around the
base of the stem from becoming oversaturated. Also, growers who are doing
direct stick with poinsettias can’t afford to fail because they are typically
on a tight schedule.”
Other growers have found the callused cuttings in the
SNAP System to be a better alternative to rooted cuttings.
“We have customers in the Southwest who do a lot of
production in the summer, items like geraniums that require propagation during
a period when the outside temperature is 100°F and very low humidity,” Williams
said. “Unrooted cuttings struggle in this type of environment.”
Williams said growers in the Southeast have a similar
“We have customers who have issues producing geraniums
because of the high humidity levels during the summer that are needed for fall
orders,” he said. “They have found that the SNAP System is a very flexible
system for them.”
Williams said that other plant species that are
challenging to root any time of the year are easier to callus offshore.
“Some of the aromatic crops like agastache, lavender and
rosemary, these plants can have issues sticking them as unrooted cuttings,” he
said. “We can harvest the cuttings and stick them offshore and once they are
callused they don’t have that same sensitivity to shipping. The SNAP System is
also enabling us to look at some crops that in the past were difficult to root
or ship. With the SNAP System we can look at those crops again because this system
may eliminate some of those issues and allow us to add them to our offerings.
For more: Ecke
Ranch, (760) 753-1134; www.ecke.com.

David Kuack is a freelance technical writer in Fort
Worth, Texas, dkuack@gmail.com.Visit our corporate website at https://hortamericas.com

Improving Greenhouse Production with LED Lights

U.S. researchers are looking at the potential benefits to
the propagation and production of greenhouse ornamental and vegetable crops
using LED lights.

By David Kuack
Although U.S. researchers have started studying the
effects of LED lights on the production of greenhouse ornamental and vegetable
crops, much of the data being used by American growers comes from studies done
in Europe. Purdue University horticulture professor Cary Mitchell said that studies
currently being done in the United States will provide growers with information
that is relevant to their production and climatic conditions.
Mitchell is leading a team of university researchers who
have received a $4.9 million grant, including $2.4 million from USDA, to study
LED lighting for greenhouse applications. Mitchell along with Purdue
horticulture professor Roberto Lopez is working with scientists and engineers at
the University of Arizona, Michigan State University, Rutgers University and
Orbital Technologies Corp. Mitchell is working with graduate student Celina
Gomez to study the impact of LED lights on the propagation and production of
high-wire tomatoes. Lopez and graduate students Christopher
Currey and Michael Ortiz are studying the use of LED lights on bedding plant
cuttings and plugs.
Propagation trials
Due to limited greenhouse research space, Gomez is using
one bench to compare the effect of providing supplemental light from a high
intensity discharge lamp or from LED lights with control plants that receive
only natural daylight. During the first year of the propagation study, Gomez is
conducting an experiment every month. The experiment includes a control group
of tomato seedlings that receive no supplemental light, an overhead HID lamp
that provides the industry standard and overhead LED arrays that provide three
different ratios of red to blue light.
“The propagation experiment is repeated for three weeks
every month,” Mitchell said. “We are measuring the differences in plant growth
from one month to the next. As we enter spring, the ambient light levels are
increasing. Gomez will measure the daily light integral (DLI) that is occurring
and the different red/blue ratios and what the plants prefer and determine what
they need. In addition to the plant metrics being collected, we are also
measuring the amount of electricity used for supplemental lighting.”
After the tomato seedlings reach the stage at which they
would be grafted onto the rootstock, data is being collected including plant
dry weight, height, stem diameter, leaf span and leaf area.
Mitchell said the propagation area that is equipped with
the lights receives 5 moles per square meter per day of supplemental light in
addition to the natural solar daily light integral that varies throughout the
“Since we have only done the experiment a couple of times
so far this year, we’ve yet to see what kind of plant response pattern emerges,”
he said. The supplemental light we are providing now might not be enough light
during the dead of winter. Any benefits of supplemental light that occur during
the winter should disappear as the trials move later into spring. Once we have
obtained a full year profile of seedling response, we will be able to determine
the optimum amount of supplemental light to apply each month.
“One of the best management practices that we hope comes
of this long term study is to determine at what point it is important to use
supplemental lighting, as well as when it is no longer useful to do so.”
For the propagation study the tomato seedlings are
receiving supplemental light for 23 hours a day in order to achieve a daily
light integral of 5 moles per square meter per day.
Tomato seeds are being germinated in a substrate called
steadyGROWpro plugs. Six different tomato varieties are being tested: ‘Success’,
‘Komeett’, ‘Maxifort’, ‘Sheva-sheva’, ‘Liberty’ and ‘Felicity’. Seedlings of ‘Success’
and ‘Komeett’ are used for the production study after being grafted onto ‘Maxifort’.
These varieties were recommended by Marco de Bruin at Bushel Boy Farms in Owatonna, Minn., because they have
different growth habits.

Production trials
In the production experiments the grafted seedlings are
being transplanted into Coco Agro coir slabs.
“The lighting treatments containing both test cultivars
are blocked into separate half rows in order to determine if there are position
effects within the greenhouse that could affect yields,” Mitchell said.
The plants are being provided with supplemental light
twice a day. He said they are applying a daily light integral of 9 moles per
square meter per day.
“In early March we were lighting for 12 hours per day,”
Mitchell said. “Lighting usually starts well before sunrise and begins again
before the sun goes down.”
The first production study in 2012 began at the end of
January. Mitchell said the tomato plants that had received supplemental light
treatments were already setting fruit in early March.
“The control plants that didn’t receive any supplemental
light were way behind,” he said. “They were barely setting fruit. That’s what
you would expect in a cloudy region like Indiana.”
The first production experiment of 2012 will be
terminated after six months and a second will begin immediately. Mitchell said
the second experiment will be the exact opposite of the first in terms of solar
daily light integral changes.
“We want to see what challenges there are both with the
propagation and the production starting in the summer and going into the winter,”
he said. “If production is started in the greenhouse in July, the plants are
going to be receiving a lot of sunlight. As the photoperiod starts to shorten going
into fall that is when supplemental lighting will be more valuable.
“We are hoping to come up with recommendations for
growers in this region or in any other northern region that has cloudy weather regarding
when is the best time to start lighting their crops. We are also looking at
timing the production so that growers are not competing with home-grown or
field-grown tomatoes. That way the greenhouse growers are not competing with
availability and price for what’s being grown in backyards or in the field.”

Priming the ornamentals
propagation pump
Purdue horticulture professor
Roberto Lopez and graduate students Christopher Currey and Michael Ortiz are
studying the effect of supplemental light on the propagation of ornamental
vegetative cuttings and plugs.
“We’re looking at the top three
flowering crops that are produced from vegetative cuttings, which are
geraniums, petunias and New Guinea impatiens,” Lopez said. Currey and Ortiz are
comparing rooting, dry mass accumulation and other quality parameters under red
and blue LED lights to high pressure sodium lamps. Initial trials with cuttings
have shown that there are not a lot differences in terms of rooting time and
quality between the two light sources. Additionally, preliminary data is
showing no differences in the time to flower or quality of cuttings propagated
under the various LED lights and high pressure sodium lamps for the three
annual crops.
“Initially, the results
are very similar for
both rooted cuttings and finished plants,” Lopez said. “But this is very
preliminary. There were really no differences seen for these three crops. What
we were mainly trying to achieve was a certain daily light integral with both
the high pressure sodium and red and blue LEDs. With the additional trials that
we will be doing we will also be looking to quantify the amount of electricity
used by the high pressure sodium lights and the LEDs.”
Best timing,
amount of light
Lopez said none of the vegetative cuttings received
supplemental light during the first seven days of propagation because that is
when the cuttings are forming callus.
“A grower typically wouldn’t use lights during this
period unless the light level was really low,” he said. “During that period the
grower is trying to baby the cuttings to get them to form callus. If the light
level is too high during this period the cuttings could be stressed. After a
week the cuttings begin to form roots and start to photosynthesize. A grower
can maximize photosynthesis during rooting by increasing the daily light integral.”
Currey’s research and studies
Lopez performed at Michigan State University indicate growers should
provide a daily light integral of between 8-10 moles per square meter
per day to be able to increase rooting and the overall quality of the cutting.
Lopez and Ortiz are also
testing LED lights during plug propagation of celosia, cosmos, impatiens,
geranium, marigold, pansy and petunia.
“One of the biggest challenges with
plug production of annual bedding plants is keeping the plugs compact,” Ortiz
said. “Compact plugs ease transport in boxes and allow for a higher volume of
plugs to be transported at one time. This is definitely something to consider
as fuel prices continue to rise.
“Plugs are often grown in dense
288- or 504-cell trays that promote rapid stem elongation. We are using red and
far red LEDs in end-of-day treatments in an attempt to manipulate the
phytochrome-mediated genes that are responsible for stem elongation under dense
planting conditions. If LEDs can be used to control seedling height, the
industry can decrease its reliance on plant growth regulators.”
Lopez and Ortiz are also
investigating red and blue LEDs as a supplemental lighting source during winter
bedding plant plug production.
“The goal behind this
experiment is to quantify root development under different ratios of red and
blue LED light and high pressure sodium light,” Ortiz said. “We also are also
trying to determine if supplemental light from LEDs can offer more rapid root
development than light from high pressure sodium lamps. This can make a big
impact on energy use in the industry.”
Lopez said producing cuttings is much different than producing
“With plugs a grower is starting out with plants that
have roots,” Lopez said. “A grower may end up being able to delay the sowing of
the plugs if he is using lights. We may find that the LEDs might prove to be
even more beneficial with plugs than with cuttings.”
For more: Cary Mitchell, Purdue
University, Department: Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, (765) 494-1347;
Roberto Lopez, Purdue University, Department of Horticulture
and Landscape Architecture, (765) 496-3425; rglopez@purdue.edu;

Visit our corporate website at https://hortamericas.com