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LED collaboration sets its eyes on customizable solutions

The recent partnership between Acuity Brands and Hort Americas marks a new chapter in horticulture lighting for the two companies, one focused on advancing technology and improving energy efficiency. With Acuity Brands' acquisition of the Arize® family of horticulture lighting products in January, the company expanded its presence in controlled environment agriculture.

Jacob Palombo, director of horticulture lighting at Acuity Brands, and Chris Higgins, president and general manager of Hort Americas, are key players in this initiative. The collaboration between both companies aims to bring advanced lighting solutions and new technology to the market, leveraging Acuity Brands' position as North America's largest lighting manufacturer.

"Indoor horticulture is firmly aligned with where we want to focus as a company — the intersection of technology and sustainability," said Palombo. "Our overarching goal is to use technology to solve problems in light and space [and more things to come] for our customers, communities, and our planet. We believe and understand the growing importance of indoor horticulture in today's world and the role it plays in our communities. We have a strong focus on sustainability and using technology to reduce our carbon footprint for both our business and our customers. Indoor horticulture lines up with this in a major way."

Acuity Brands launched their horticulture lighting-focused brand, Verjure, a few years ago, and were looking to increase its presence and focus at the right time. With the addition of the Arize® products into their portfolio, they feel well positioned to support every indoor horticulture application.

"Our next plan will be to leverage our strong focus on innovation, quality, and manufacturing to continue to build upon these platforms and take performance and reliability to the next level to meet customer needs," Paolombo added.

"At Hort Americas, we understand the need to scale to compete in the global horticulture LED grow light industry," Higgins commented. "Therefore, it made sense for us to partner with North America's largest LED light manufacturer. This partnership, combined with the products offered by Acuity Brands, will play a key role in enhancing greenhouse connectivity, especially as AI advances and value increases for additional sensors.

"Also, by leveraging Acuity Brands' advanced technology, Hort Americas is strengthening its product offerings. At the same time, we're able to enhance our customer service and support capabilities as the exclusive distributor for Arize® lighting."

An enlightened collaboration
Growers need a lighting partner they can trust from both a performance and reliability standpoint. They also need to know their lighting company will be around to service their needs and stand behind the products.

"Being the largest lighting manufacturer in North America with some of the most trusted and most recognized brands, we feel we can be that partner of choice," Palombo said. "We feel the grower will have peace of mind with a product warranty backed by Acuity Brands. Quality and reliability are at the forefront of everything we do. Also, by producing much of our portfolio in North America, we can service our customers quickly and reliably, with scale to support any opportunity."

"This partnership allows Hort Americas to continue providing top-quality products, backed by a strong warranty that gives growers peace of mind. Together, we're also capable of scaling quickly and changing to meet market demands," Higgins said.

At the same time, both companies are making a strong effort to promote sustainability in horticulture.

"We're committed to environmental stewardship, which is reflected in Acuity's EarthLIGHT mission that promotes eco-friendly practices within the horticulture lighting industry," Higgins added. "This demonstrates a dedication to sustainability that benefits both growers and the planet." The initiative is complemented by Hort Americas tailored customer service and industry knowledge. This is especially important as demand grows for more efficient and effective horticulture lighting solutions.

Advancing the LED space
Acuity Brands has been active in lighting for decades, having a significant impact on innovation in the LED space.

"Part of what we bring to this industry is decades of experience in designing and producing reliable and high-performing LED lighting design, including drivers, optics, electro-mechanical design, light engine design, and controls," Palombo explained. "We are especially excited to extend our vast capabilities in wireless lighting controls to our new portfolio. We offer wireless controls and building management systems that are robust and scalable and capable of not only controlling the lights but also creating smarter spaces and integrating with other systems."

Higgins noted how instrumental Acuity Brands was in advancing the LED space, especially when it comes to integrating wireless technology and smart space concepts into LED fixtures. "The advancements in LED fixtures by Acuity Brands — including enhanced efficiency, light quality, and control capabilities — benefit growers in ways that can improve plant growth and yield. These are important innovations for driving the industry forward because they enable more precise and sustainable growing practices," Higgins pointed out.

Lighting sustainability
Acuity's EarthLIGHT sustainability program is based on three pillars: focusing on minimizing carbon footprint and helping customers improve theirs, making a positive impact on communities, and operating with integrity and transparency. All of this led Acuity to be a fully carbon-neutral company, according to Palombo.

"Acuity Brands is 100% carbon neutral through a combination of our carbon reduction measures at our operations and offsetting measures," he explained. "In FY22, we contributed to 100,000,000 metric tons of carbon avoidance through LED and controls sales."

EarthLIGHT is about being good stewards of the environment, and Acuity Brands feels this is strongly aligned with indoor horticulture.

This is a sentiment that Higgins and Hort Americas fully share.

"Hort Americas will continue to only partner with companies committed to sustainability and transparency, even though the industry continues to debate the concept and value of sustainability, Higgins said.

"The fact remains there's a strong demand for sustainable solutions in the horticulture industry. Lighting, in particular, is essential to sustainable agricultural practices, underlining the importance of developing solutions that support eco-friendly and efficient growth.

Future lighting
The horti world advances constantly. LEDs are no exception. Once the Cinderella of fixtures, they have gained a prominent status among growers – even among those who didn't believe in LEDs.

"We believe the indoor horticulture lighting market will continue to grow and evolve, and technology will lead the way. Lights will continue to become more efficacious, and more optimized for the plants and environment they are designed to serve, and easier to control," Palombo commented. "We are excited to help lead this transformation, as we feel we are uniquely positioned to drive and lead this change with our Intelligent Spaces Group of Acuity Brands."

Higgins continues to see growing interest in wireless dimming and integrated sensors, reflecting the industry's progression toward more sophisticated and adaptable technologies. He said advancements such as these signal a move toward more customizable lighting solutions."Preparations to meet these evolving demands involve continuous innovation and adaptation to customer expectations," Higgins added. "Industry standards are likely to change too. We're making sure that our offerings stay at the forefront of technology and sustainability in horticulture lighting."

For more information:
Hort Americas
Chris Higgins, CEO