“If you look at the industry today and at the current energy crisis, there are various assets growers have to manage on a daily basis: electricity, gas, and water, for example We even hear of growers switching lamps off an hour earlier to save on their electricity bill. With everything happening in the world right now, it is safe to assume the energy cost will keep on increasing."
With our LED grow-lights, growers can address the issue with their energy costs. With that in mind, we looked at another challenge growers have to deal with: how do we help them adopt LEDs? Everyone today has technology to help with energy savings, but how do you combine it with a tool to adopt it easily? That’s where our financing packages come in. We’ve found a way to mitigate a growers’ capital investment they will pay on day one for their LED projects,” says James Fleet from GE Current, a Daintree company, soon to be known just as Current.
Current has a 130-year lighting manufacturing heritage dating back to Thomas Edison, who invented the first practical lightbulb. Their horticulture pedigree dates back to 2011, initially focusing on vertical farming, but now they provide both vertical farm and greenhouse lighting & control solutions. In addition to Current’s American presence, their European activity includes installations in various countries: for instance, numerous cucumber and tomato projects in Finland, tomato, lettuce and strawberry projects in the UK, and tomatoes and flowers in the Northern Italy and Spain.
“Our core philosophy stays the same, irrespective of the crop – enable growers to easily adopt reliable and sustainable lighting & control solutions that enhance yields whilst reducing energy consumption”.
According to James, LEDs have now been adopted in the market as a proven technology. “A lot of the initial skepticism has disappeared due to proven case studies demonstrating that LEDs do not compromise the yield. Of course, HPS is a proven technology as well, yet it’s extremely energy-hungry – which is what brings us to the fundamental issue of why LEDs have become even more interesting: growers today need to address the energy operational expenses, their OPEX, within their business. LEDs give them an easy way for doing that.”
Making technique accessible
Then, there’s the other side of that challenge: making the technique accessible to growers. GE Current, a Daintree company has developed models to allow growers to easily adopt these techniques. James explains how they looked at three key points to ensure successful adoption. “One is to never compromise on yield. Over the last couple of years, efficiency has started to creep up in the horticultural market as more important than yield, with stories on the most efficient fixture and the most efficient spectrum. It could be true energy-wise, but a technology that claims to be efficient should also be efficient plant performance-wise. We do not want to compromise on yield by using grow lights.”
“We also do not, have never, and will never compromise on the quality of the product”, James adds. “The technology is proven and tested and we believe we have the best in class reliability statistics to help growers lower their energy usage while keeping their yield – a reality that starts to become very interesting now that utility rates have gone up by 60 percent and will reach a 100 percent increase if you believe the market projections. Investing in LEDs will ensure 50 to 60 percent energy savings.” As an example, he looks at the Netherlands. “Energy rates that have gone up from 7 ct/kwh to 15 ct/kwh and it will hit 20 cts before we know it, basically doubling the electricity cost of a grower. That’s a linear graph: it doesn’t matter what your acreage is, as long as your hours of lighting do not change. With our LED technology, we keep it simple and offer a one-for-one replacement that doesn’t require re-wiring the existing electrical layout and that produces a slightly higher, but approximately the same 400W, 600W or 1000W HPS output while reducing the energy costs by 60 percent. So investing in LED will lower your operational costs.”
Lease models to alleviate cashflow
Yet, of course, LED is more expensive than its HPS counterparts, and the market is challenging at the moment. “That’s why we came up with models to alleviate the upfront cash flow of buying LED.”
Bluntly put, this means that Current can finance the replacement of a LED lighting system. The company offers models to take on 50% up to 100% of the CAPEX investment with a 1, 3, or 5-year term. “Or, if growers prefer, they can lease the models and make the energy benefits outweigh the leasing benefits”, James says.
Local subsidizing options
Since its introduction, the system has been applied to various greenhouse projects all over Europe. “We’ve done a series of funding models adapted specifically for the markets we operate in. For example, Dutch growers have different subsidizing options than Finnish growers and of course, we help to incorporate those as well. We believe removing CAPEX from the initial decision and replacing it with a scheme that makes the energy savings outweigh the payments. All in all, this ultimately provides growers with a model that details how to adopt LED, as they understand why this is beneficial for their operation. We help them achieve said better energy efficiency, which even preserves your cash flow. This is particularly appropriate considering today’s economic environment.”