They’re well-known in the US, being one of the key players in horticultural lighting there – but in the Netherlands and Europe they are relatively unknown. Timo Bongartz is looking to change that. The new EMEA manager for Fluence by Osram explains to us how the company will expand in these new markets.
Timo Bongartz at the HortiContact this year
Fluence Bioengineering was founded in Texas in 2012 and has seen rapid growth ever since the start, resulting in them being one of the biggest players in the US and Canadian horticultural industry. Their LED solutions are popular in vertical farming and vegetables, and also find their way to the growing market of legal cannabis cultivation. “The trend from HPS to LED is general”, Timo explains. “There’s a difference, however, between new farms being equipped with LED lighting and growers replacing their existing HPS lights with LEDs. What we see is that the light solution is different in every way.”
HPS to LED
“It is often thought the switch from HPS to LED is just about calculating the right amount of mmol – but there’s so much more to put under consideration”, he continues. “The light recipe, the heating, resulting in a different climate in the farm. When building a new farm, this can all be taken into account. When you make the switch from HPS to LED and you continue to work with the same equipment, you need to realize the tools are different – and that’s what we are helping many growers with nowadays.”
Currently Fluence is the biggest player when it comes to LEDs for the legal cannabis market. Will their European expansion follow the same route? Timo explains how the company sees a growing demand from medical cannabis growers in Europe. “With every country following its own rules, it’s not an easy market, but there’s enough going on. The CBD producers in Switzerland, the Danish growers and the German medical producers – but also Greece, Malta, Portugal, Macedonia”, he sums up. “And then there’s Israel, with a lot of expertise on this crop. Whereas Switzerland and Germany are focusing on the indoor farms, the Danish and Mediterranean producers opt for the greenhouses. Fortunately we have solutions for both.”
Herbs and leafy vegetables
The European expansion is broader than medical plants though. The company is also a market leader in supplying LEDs to herbs and leafy vegetables, with clients like Bowery Farming. “Our RAZR and SPYDR solutions match the crop very well, and the companies match as well. These type of growers are used to innovating and are open to new developments .Therefore we also have a good fit with similar farms, especially in the Nordics: Sweden, Finland, Denmark for example. The fact that we’re supported by Osram gives them trust in our products as well.”
Timo refers to the acquisition by German company Osram last year. The company has been a specialist in the lighting industry for many years – for example, their LED chips have been used in Fluence products for quite some time. With the acquisition Osram starts building on their position in the horticultural market – whereas Fluence has the opportunity to quicken its growth. “The horticultural market is a global one and a professionalized one. We value our partners in the industry: both research institutions, growers as well as the greenhouse builders and installation companies. Our business model includes doing business with these partners directly. Partly thanks to the support of Osram, we’re able to build their trust and realize this. We demonstrate the synergetic setup between Fluence and Osram also by our new brand name “Fluence by Osram”.
It can be clear: Fluence by Osram is expecting further growth – something that their figures nowadays are proving as well. But there’s more going on. “While we’re well known in the MMJ market and indoor farming, we also have various solutions for the greenhouse growers: the VYPR products.” Timo explains how their fixtures for the high-wire crops gather interest from growers with special interest in Next Generation Growing. “Obviously the quality and the light recipe of LED products has to be good to get their interest. On top of that we see the design of our fixtures fits them: it’s simple and user-friendly. Growers interested in Next Generation Growing value this and we expect some interesting projects to be realized in the near future. Strengthening our goal in the fruiting vegetables is a clear goal – both in Europe and beyond.