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GLASE consortium aims to improve greenhouse energy efficiency

Even though the Greenhouse Lighting and Systems Engineering (GLASE) consortium is New York-based, the research it is doing has the potential to impact controlled environment agriculture worldwide.

The Greenhouse Lighting and Systems Engineering (GLASE) consortium is a partnership between Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Albany, N.Y. The consortium will be conducting research to improve controlled environment agriculture (CEA) operations including reducing energy consumption.



The goal of the consortium is to create a more sustainable and profitable greenhouse industry. Although the focus of the research will be on greenhouse production, the findings should also have application to indoor CEA production including vertical farms and warehouses. Greenhouses, which can be electricity-intensive depending on the level of automation, cover 720 acres in New York State. The consortium is looking to reduce greenhouse electricity use and concomitant carbon emission by 70 percent and to increase crop yields by 2030.

Erico Mattos, who was appointed executive director of GLASE in June, said he has been hired as a subcontractor by Cornell University and will be working to recruit industry members to join the consortium.

“Currently I have a 50 percent time appointment with GLASE,” Mattos said. “My time with GLASE will increase as we bring in industry members. I am living in Georgia, but will be moving to upstate New York over the next year and will be located between RPI in Albany and Cornell University in Ithaca.”

Mattos said GLASE is a seven-year project which has received $5 million from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). The money will be used to sponsor research between Cornell and RPI.

“The team leaders who will be doing the research are Neil Mattson at Cornell University and Tessa Pocock at RPI,” said Mattos. “They have a set of more than 300 milestones that their teams have to reach. They have already achieved some of these milestones.”

The research activities include improving lighting fixtures and systems that synergistically control lighting, ventilation, humidity and carbon dioxide, improving CEA operations and reducing energy consumption to create a more sustainable and profitable greenhouse industry.

“The teams at Cornell and RPI are well equipped with the resources they need to achieve the milestones of the core research proposal that has been sponsored by NYSERDA,” he said. “Even though the teams led by Neil and Tessa are completely self-sustainable, they may require some outside partnerships to achieve some of the goals.”

The GLASE consortium is headed by researchers Tessa Pocock at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Neil Mattson at Cornell University and GLASE executive director Erico Mattos.
Photo courtesy of GLASE

Mattos said in his role as executive director he will act as an intermediary between Cornell, RPI and NYSERDA making sure that the research is proceeding and that milestones are being completed on time.

“The most important part of my position is to create a consortium with industry members,” Mattos said. “The goal over the next seven years will be for the project to receive less money from NYSERDA and more money from industry members. We want to establish a consortium that is self-sustaining. By bringing in industry members we will have money to do our own-sponsored research, technology transfer, outreach, and market research, all these types of things and GLASE will be self-financing.

“My role as executive director is to ensure that the team moves in this direction. By bringing in industry members, offering them the project and making sure that we provide them with access to the technology that is developed by Cornell and RPI.”


Complementary research

Mattos said the research that will be done at Cornell and RPI is complementary and will not overlap.

“RPI will be doing more engineering-related research, such as looking at light fixtures and components including the drivers and controllers,” he said. “They are also looking at photobiology—how plants respond to different spectra as they grow and produce different nutritional compounds and changes in plant metabolism and morphology. The RPI research work is more engineering-related.

“The research at Cornell is going to be more applied in the greenhouse, such as interactions of carbon dioxide enrichment and lighting control studies. Cornell will implement some of the systems that have already been developed at Cornell. Cornell will also be looking at different systems and different crops. Initially the studies will be done with tomatoes, lettuce and strawberries and then will be extended as necessary.”


The research conducted at Cornell University will be more applied in the greenhouse, including carbon dioxide enrichment and lighting control studies.
Photo by Chris Kitchen, Cornel Univ. Marketing

Mattos said the research will be expanded to commercial size greenhouses in New York, which will be 6,000 square feet for a small scale greenhouse and 20,000 square feet for a large scale greenhouse.

“RPI will develop new systems and Cornell will implement the greenhouse tests and then move forward to a final demonstration,” he said.

Mattos said the researchers will also be working in partnership with A.J. Both at Rutgers University, who will be doing some of the energy efficacy and radiometric studies of the light fixtures.

“One of the milestones Cornell research associate Kale Harbick will be working on is modeling,” Mattos said. “This will involve trying to calculate in advance how much energy in a greenhouse is consumed and what happens if some of the variables are changed. The research will look at how these changes affect the general energy consumption of the greenhouse.”


Seeking industry support

Mattos said when GLASE was developed over 30 industry companies provided letters of support indicating they wanted to become part of the consortium as industry members. Since the consortium was started, many other companies have expressed their interest in becoming part of the consortium.

“Even though these companies signed letters of support that doesn’t mean they will all become consortium members,” he said. “Cornell and RPI are both already working in partnership with some companies to develop the core research. There is nothing official as industry members yet. We are looking to bring in other industry members and really make them a part of this consortium. We want to reach a broad range of industry members so this support could be both financial or it could be providing equipment to conduct the research. But the primary goal is to bring in financial support.”

Mattos said there will be a series of benefits that come with industry membership.

“They would pay for a membership and then they would get a series of benefits. We are now working with a marketing media company to promote the consortium and the opportunity for membership.

“We want to bring in large manufacturing companies, but we also want to address the other end of the spectrum and work with small growers. The growers will benefit the most from this research.”


Academic collaborators, information hub

Mattos said it is the intension of the consortium to expand with researchers from outside New York.

“We intend to establish future academic collaborations to develop new research projects partially funded by GLASE through industry membership funds and new research grants,” he said.

Another goal of GLASE is to create a hub for greenhouse lighting and systems engineering which includes the centralization of information.

“We will create a central database to indicate the academic research currently on-going in the U.S. (what, where and who) to facilitate the interaction between the industry and academia,” he said.


Impact on greenhouse, plant systems

The crops that are to be studied initially by Cornell and RPI researchers are tomatoes, lettuce and strawberries.

“These are commercially relevant crops,” Mattos said “I went to Ithaca and met some of the members of Neil’s team, including graduate students Jonathan Allred and Erica Hernandez and research technician Matthew Moghaddam, who have been working with tomatoes and strawberries. Lettuce is also one of the most commonly produced greenhouse crops.

“Part of the milestones that Tessa will be working on will be done in environmentally controlled growth chambers and growth rooms. Tessa does not have a greenhouse. Most of the research that she will be doing is related to photobiology. Everything that she will be doing has application to warehouse production even though she is not doing the research in a warehouse. This research will look at nutritional compounds and pigment production. The research in the growth chambers will be compared with greenhouse studies.”

The research conducted at RPI will be done in growth chambers and growth rooms, which should have application to commercial warehouse production.
Photo courtesy of GLASE

Although the RPI research is not targeted for commercial indoor farms, Mattos said the results could be used to support that type of production.

“The proposal is to reduce greenhouse crop production energy consumption by 70 percent in seven years,” he said. “The economic factor and the majority of the research will be looking at greenhouse systems and how to integrate them. Economically we are focused on greenhouses. But we will be doing studies in growth chambers that may have application to support indoor farm production.

“Tessa will be looking especially at biological efficacy. Everybody talks about the efficacy of the light fixtures themselves. A lot of people are looking at that. Getting less attention is the biological efficacy, which is if there is a different spectrum, the same amount of photons or micromoles, can have a different impact on plants. Not only the morphology, but also the pigments, the chemical pathways. This is the biological efficacy.”


For more: Erico Mattos, Greenhouse Lighting and Systems Engineering (GLASE) consortium; (302) 290-1560;;


David Kuack is a freelance technical writer in Fort Worth, Texas;

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LED Grow Light Video from Hort Americas

Hort Americas is please to offer the first in a series of innovative educational videos geared toward commercial greenhouse growers and hydroponic vegetable growers in controlled environment agriculture facilities.

The first will be product videos that provide you (the viewer) the necessary facts and information you need to incorporate these tools at your growing facility.

The second will be educational only videos.  These videos will focus on horticultural and hydroponic topics.  Topics will range from managing the root zone to managing light.  Please email us at if there are any specific topics you would like to see tackled.

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Horticulture Lighting Basics

Introduction:  Of all the environmental variables in controlled environment agriculture (CEA), light is quite possibly the least controlled and most confusing.  Yet, light is such an important factor.  Aside from temperature, light is arguably the most important environmental factor which affects plant growth.  Light is what drives photosynthesis (the conversion of light energy to chemical energy), photomorphogenesis (the light-driven plant development processes), and photoperiodism (plant recognition of daylength).  So what is light?  What we so commonly refer to as light is really a small segment of radiation within the overall electromagnetic spectrum (Fig. 1).  Electromagnetic radiation is measured in nanometers (one billionth of a meter, 1 x 10-9 meters, or 0.000000001 meters).  One human hair is approximately 50,000 nm in diameter.  There are three basic types of “light”: radiometric, photometric, and quantum. 
Radiometric is based on radiant energy or Joules (J) and the passage of that energy is a Joule per second (J·s-1).  One J·s-1 is equal to one Watt (W).  The rate at which surfaces intercept energy is expressed at W·m­2.  Radiometric measurements are inappropriate for plant growth as they often measure light below and above that which plants use.  However, that is not to state that they are useless.  These units are very important when dealing with the energy balance of a plant or greenhouse system. 
Photometric measurement is based on how the human eye perceives light.  In the U.S., the footcandle (fc) is the preferred photometric unit.  Elsewhere in the world the most common photometric measurement unit is the lux (lumens·m-2).  However, growers need to understand the limitations of photometric units.  Again, photometric units are based on how the human eye perceives light, which at a maximum is approximately 560 nm (or green light) and a waveband that is not correlated with plant photosynthesis.  Photometric measurements can be used to determine maximum light in a greenhouse and to determine light transmission (%) outside versus inside.  Furthermore, photometric units are instantaneous and do not accurately represent the amount of light that a plant has received over a 24-hr period. 
Quantum measurements are based on the number of photons (light particles) within a defined waveband (400 nm to 700 nm). This defined waveband is known as photosynthetically active radiation or PAR.  Photosynthetic photon flux density (PPFD) quantifies (in micromoles, µmol) the number of photons of light used for photosynthesis falling on a square meter per second (µmol·m-2·s-1, see Fig. 2).  So, PAR is the range, PPFD is the measurement. However, most people simply refer to the measurement as PAR.  A µmol is 1×10-6 (or one millionth) mole.  One mole is Avogadro’s number, 6.02×1023 particles.  If marbles were placed end to end over the surface of the Earth, one mole of marbles would represent a layer of marbles 50 miles deep!  Unlike radiometric and photometric measurements, quantum measurements are directly correlated to photosynthesis and plant production.  Furthermore, quantum measurements can be both instantaneous and accumulated (daily).  This is great because plants are really light counters.  You can think of a plant’s leaves as nature’s solar panels.  Therefore, it is better to know how much light is received by a plant over a 24-hr period versus taking an instantaneous measurement.  However, if you must take an instantaneous measurement to get an understanding of your maximum available light it is recommended to do so between 1100 to 1300 hr.  If you wanted to quickly measure rainfall over a 24-hr period you could set a rain gauge outside for 5 or 10 minutes and calculate the estimated rainfall.  Of course you are presuming that the volume of water falling in the gauge is uniform.  Is it?  How about light?  Does the sun simply turn on and off and project a uniform amount of light over the course of a 24-hr period?  Of course not, so why not measure light constantly over a 24-hr period?  The cost of light measurement equipment may be one reason not to do so.  However, there are companies which offer affordable light measurement technology.  Light measurements can provide valuable information.  The accumulated light a plant receives is correlated to plant quality and yield.  Are you familiar with Daily Light Integral (DLI)?  DLI is the light intensity and duration of PAR received each day and is expressed as mol·m-2·d-1 or mol·d-1. 
DLI is directly correlated to plant growth, development, yield, and overall quality.  Attributes of ornamental crops grown under optimal DLI are smaller and thicker leaves, shorter internodes, higher root mass, higher branching and flowers.  This should not be surprising.  Higher DLI is a common reason why plants finished in late spring generally are of higher quality than those produced earlier in the production season.  This is not to diminish the impact of temperature, which is another discussion.  Low DLI can be an indication that the greenhouse glazing needs to be cleaned or replaced; shade cloth needs to be removed or stowed; hanging basket density is too high; and/or supplemental lighting is needed.  The average target DLI for propagation of cuttings is 4 to 5 mol·d-1.  For bedding plants, containerized crops, and perennials the optimal DLI should be between 10 to 12 mol·d-1.  For food crops, a good rule of thumb is >12 mol·d-1.  For greenhouse tomatoes, it has been shown that for every 1% increase in light there was a subsequent 1% increase in yield.  For lettuce, 17 mol·d-1 is optimal.  So what is your DLI?  Your first step in DLI measurement can be to familiarize yourself with estimated outside DLI.  Dr. Jim Faust at Clemson University has developed DLI maps by month across the United States (Fig. 3).  However, keep in mind that average transmission loss in any given greenhouse can range from 40% to 70%.  Therefore, the next step is to begin measuring DLI.  While several companies offer light measurement tools for instantaneous light measurement (more photometric than quantum), only a few offer tools that will measure and calculate DLI.  Nevertheless, these tools are quite affordable.  A grower can begin measuring DLI for as little as $200.  More sophisticated sensors and data loggers range from $500 to $1,000 and up.
Summary:  Visible radiation, i.e. light, is one of the least controlled and often most confusing environmental growth factors.  Radiometric measurement refers to radiant energy and is practical when measuring the energy balance of a system.  Photometric measurement is based on how the human eye perceives light.  Photometric measurement is useful when determining maximum light levels and light transmission loss within a greenhouse.  Quantum measurement is well-suited for plant growth because it relates to light used for several plant-driven processes including photosynthesis.  Quantum measurements can be both instantaneous and accumulated.  DLI provides and accurate measurement of PAR over the course of a 24-hr period.  Plants grown under optimal DLI are generally of higher quality than plants grown under low DLI.  Increasing DLI can be achieved by adding supplemental lighting.  Please contact me at with additional comments or questions.  Keep growing and make it a great day!

Figure 1.  The electromagnetic spectrum.  The visible spectrum encompasses approximately 380 nm to 780 nm.  Photosynthetically active radiation or PAR is 400 nm to 700 nm.
Figure 2. Image depicting photons of light falling on one square meter.

Figure 3.  Map of outdoor DLI by month throughout the United States.
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Philips to Introduce LED Technology at OFA Short Course

In recent years there has been quite a bit of hype regarding LED technology and it eventual impact on artificial lighting in the horticulture industry.

And in most cases, that is all that it was…hydpe!

We, at Hort Americas, believe that this may finally be changing.  In 2010 and 2011 we anticipate  there will be studies, data and products released from different sources that will start to make LED’s viable for different segement within the horticultural industry.

During this same time, Philips will be introducing their approach to LED’s in the North American horticulture industry at this years OFA Short Course.

Here is a sneak preview:

LED’s future in horticulture is going to be knowledge and optimal lighting “recipes.”

With a light recipe as a starting point, every crop will be approached differntly and will be optimized using all variables in the greenhouse such irriagation, nutrition and environmnental manipulation (CO2, temperature, humidity, etc.)

Currently these recipes are either under development or have been developed for the following areas:

  1. Research
  2. Storage and Transport
  3. Tissue Culture
  4. Propagation
  5. Multilayer Production (Vertical Farming)
  6. Greenhouse Interlighting

Philips has spent many hours working on:

Gerberas, Chyrsanthemums, Kalanchoes, Greenhouse Grown Strawberries and Greenhouse Grown Tomatoes
The results from test in these areas and on the selected crops are showing:
  1. Faster Growth
  2. Better Quality
  3. Higher Yield
  4. Decreased Temperature Issues, (as well as enegy savings depending on application.)

It is important to know that Philips has a vast amount of knowledge in regards to horticultural lighting (this includes traditional lighting methods as well.)  They are currently working together with growers, breeders and other qualified partners to provide the optimum lighting solutions (measured by improved performance and ultimately lower cost.)

Contact Hort Americas to learn more about Philips and their current offering.

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