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Phormium's cannabis research:

Using screens to achieve strong flowering response, while saving energy

"Phormium got involved in the Cultivation for Compounds consortium due to our interest in the floriculture industry," explains Jesse Verbeke, Product Manager at Phormium. "Cannabis is a crop that requires a short-day light cycle to initiate flowering, it is extremely sensitive to light leakage into the growing area. Already before getting into the cannabis sector, Phormium has been supplying energy-saving and black-out screens for other short-day crops such as chrysanthemum and gerbera. Therefore, adding cannabis to our portfolio was a natural extension of our existing business expertise. Since we entered the cannabis market, we have supplied large installations in America and are increasing our presence in Europe."

Providing screens
Phormium is specialized in weaving textiles for the horticulture and agriculture industry. The company has its roots in the Belgian textile industry: it was founded almost 100 years ago in Lokeren and started with the weaving of natural jute for packaging. The name 'Phormium' comes from this first activity as it is the name of the type of flax that was used for it. As time progressed, the market expanded. Eventually, Phormium saw an opportunity to weave geotextiles and later also agro textiles and climate screens for the horticulture industry. Therefore, Phormium vastly expanded its know-how about polymer processing, a capability it is still holding and enlarging today. All of Phormium's textiles are manufactured in Belgium and shipped to markets in North and Central America, Europe, and the Middle East, where Phormium is the market leader.

Jesse Verbeke joined Phormium 5 years ago. Jesse has a background in material science as a Mechanical Engineer and was a member of the R&D Department before moving on to sales. As Product Manager, Jesse is in direct contact with growers to gather their feedback on the performance of the types of climate screens that exist today, intending to improve Phormium's screens even further. "There is no doubt that Phormium's climate screens will keep evolving in the future to tackle the challenges growers are facing," Jesse says.

Cannabis research
When asked why Phormium entered a partnership with CfC specifically, Jesse stated a few reasons. The company wanted to make use of the opportunity to conduct cultivation research on cannabis in the Netherlands, better service the increased interest in cannabis cultivation in Europe, and build a strong network with the other companies involved in CfC. At Vertify, Phormium has installed screening for the entire project. This means both a black-out and a shade screen above the crop, as well as the vertical black-out screens for the sides of the greenhouse. In addition to controlling the amount of natural sunlight that enters the greenhouse, the black-out screen is also used to control the amount of artificial light that exits the greenhouse. Thus preventing light pollution when the lights are used. With these screens, the CfC consortium can carry out screening strategies and light period control with confidence.

Phormium has several goals for the CfC. "For us, it is important to gather feedback on the implementation of our screens. We wanted to prove that our solutions could be used for a high-level research project. As previously mentioned as well, we aim to build our network in the Netherlands and communicate with cannabis growers from all over Europe. Especially the events organized at the World Horti Center allow us to connect with people from the industry. The speakers at the events shared their insights, and we learned a lot from them." Jesse continued, saying that besides feedback on the screen's performance, Phormium also wants to dive deep into the effect of different screen types on cannabis cultivation. "For example, it could be interesting to test different screen layouts. Could we make the topside of the screen aluminum and the underside white so we can reflect more light onto the crop and improve energy saving when the screens are closed? What would be the impact, and how could we develop these screens for different markets, especially when considering temperature and radiation differences between regions."

So, what is Phormium's vision for cannabis cultivation? "At Phormium, we are oriented to the future for sure. Due to our way of manufacturing screens and weaving, we have systems that can last for 25 years. We can supply cannabis growers with all the screens needed to have a strong flowering response and save energy at the same time. With our involvement in CfC, we show that our systems work in practice and that Phormium is dedicated to improving its screens for cannabis cultivation specifically."

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