The application of UV Light to controlled-environment agriculture (CEA) remains an area of active research and innovation, with a recent focus on pathogenic resistance. One company, BioLumic, is focusing on ways to supercharge plant growth and quality through short-duration UV Light Signals. "We're programming plants with light at an early stage to unlock their natural genetic potential without chemicals or genetic modification," says Steve Sibulkin, CEO of BioLumic.
Shapes of light
The company specializes in plant photomorphogenesis or light-mediated regulation of growth. BioLumic's UV Lights Signal Recipes combine UV and visible light spectra to seeds or seedlings with customized "Light Signal Recipes that are powerful biological catalysts for growth. Because of commonalities around plant photoreceptors, underlying plant signaling pathways, and genetic markers, the BioLumic's work in one crop often extends to many. Efforts in strawberries, for instance, can accelerate treatment success in cannabis. This approach has quickly enhanced the company's library of Light Signal Recipes. With seeds, BioLumic has focused on soybeans and corn and is exploring canola, rice, and other crops. With seedlings, the company has worked in cannabis, strawberries, leafy greens, broccoli, and tomatoes. "The results are transformative," Steve adds. "We've produced 40% yield gains in strawberries with no loss of sweetness across three seasons and multiple cultivars. In cannabis, we're reaching large double-digit gains in both dry flower yield and THC concentration, with greatly enhanced terpene and cannabinoid profiles."
The underlying work began when photobiologist Dr. Jason Wargent, the company's founder and CSO, began focusing on the plants' innate ability to adapt to UV light and particularly UVB. At the time, most scientists were assessing the potential negative impact of natural UVB on plants. Dr. Wargent's attention, however, was on precisely controlled UV light signal applications that could impact the pathways and mechanisms that drive morphological and phytochemical changes. Steve says, "Jason discovered that tiny Light Signal permutations—of which there are billions and billions—can dramatically upregulate or downregulate outcomes, and also impact different areas of genetic expression." He added that Dr. Wargents' efforts began two decades ago and have accelerated with the converging knowledge of UV-specific photoreceptors, molecular biology, and quick advances in LED lighting technology.
Steve says UV Lights Signals Recipes are a "front door to unlocking plant potential that is clean, accretive and scalable," and the current commercial yield and quality gains are just the beginning. He notes that since Light Signals work across crops, growing conditions, and outcomes, they are naturally globally relevant. "Light Signal Recipes can improve root growth for better nutrient efficiency and drought resistance, create more photosynthetically efficient plants, and unlock greater disease and pest resistance. We're improving the energy efficiency of indoor cultivation by triggering quality yield without adding more kilowatt hours, "Steve said. "In crops like cannabis, we're able to work with existing strains and create true experiential variety through higher yield, potency levels, and terpene balances for flavor and aroma."
For young plants, BioLumic's Light Signal Recipes are deployed through a "rack" treatment system that fits into the propagation room and deploys a range of short-duration Lights Signals alongside all photosynthetic requirements. This is all done without changing the crop cycle or impacting any other process.
To expand its reach with cannabis cultivators and other CEA companies, BioLumic recently announced a partnership with Fluence, a leading LED lighting supplier in the global cannabis market that will integrate BioLumic's Lights Signals with its offering. "Our goal at Fluence is to drive cutting-edge plant science and innovations in agriculture technology," says David Cohen, CEO of Fluence. "We're excited to pursue that goal in collaboration with BioLumic and create the next generation of leading lighting solutions for cannabis and produce growers around the world."
Steve added that the partnership between BioLumic and Fluence extends the photobiological leadership of both companies. The companies are initiating the program with enterprise cannabis cultivators in the U.S., which are being enlisted now. Steve said that BioLumic is also engaged in partner conversations with large seed and genetics companies, which will further accelerate BioLumic's Light Signal platform development and use.