Indoor horticulture is becoming a major source of new demand for electric power in some utilities’ markets and a major source of revenue for manufacturers of specialized horticultural lighting. It’s not just about cannabis, though the proliferation of legal growing operations is a significant part of the trend. Over the long term, the desire to shorten agricultural supply chains and the crowding out of farmland near major cities will drive growth in greenhouse and indoor farm operations worldwide, four experts in horticultural lighting told a room of Lightfair attendees Wednesday.
The opportunity for companies in the lighting business is significant and growing. Indoor growers have long relied on high-pressure sodium lamps for growing operations, both single-end and double-end forms, predominantly 1,000W versions. Some phases of the plant life cycle have also made use of fluorescent (mostly T8 HO) and ceramic metal halide. LED lighting is only beginning to make serious inroads in replacing HPS but it’s clear that LED will in time replace all other light sources as further research and development improve efficiency and tailored spectrum and output levels boost plant growth, said Doug Oppedal, program manager/senior lighting specialist for Evergreen Consulting Group, LLC, Beaverton, OR.
Horticultural lighting is a $3 billion market globally and expected to grow to more than $8 billion by 2020. Forecasts by Philip Smallwood, director of research for Strategies Unlimited, see high intensity discharge sources continuing to dominate the horticultural market well past 2022 but he said LED will post rapid growth, especially in dollar terms, reaching about 30% of the market by that point due to its higher costs despite still being a small fraction of the installed base. Smallwood pointed to Europe as the largest market for horticultural lighting because of its much deeper history of greenhouse growing but said the U.S. and Canada are seeing a surge and Asia may be the largest market in the long term.
The lighting industry must keep in mind that growers focus on revenue generation more than cost savings, said Travis Williams, VP of marketing and research for horticultural lighting manufacturer Fluence Bioengineering, Austin, TX. Williams walked attendees through a brief overview of how plants use light and how lighting selection, design, intensity, color and other parameters affect the performance of controlled environment agriculture (CEA).
The growth of horticultural lighting has prompted the DesignLights Consortium, a key reference source on lighting performance whose database is used by utilities to plan lighting rebate programs, to develop a new set of testing and reporting requirements for horticultural lighting specifically. Said Damon Bosetti, program manager for DLC, the new requirements are tailored to address the needs of the growers. An initial draft is up for public comment now and a final version expected in September 2018.