Financing agriculture in a controlled environment breeds optimism for post-pandemic growth


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Photo credit: Image by iamereri via Pixabay; used under a free license for commercial or non-commercial purposes.

Back in 2019, LED magazine published an article on the pace of investment and market outlook for horticultural solid-state lighting (SSL) and products and systems for Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) operations. We were just beginning to see how venture capital funds and research grants were distributed among the CEA producers themselves in a wave of investments in advanced farming methods. Indeed, as editor-in-chief Maury Wright wrote of the early planning days of the old horticultural lighting conference, “we suspected that the main interest would be to invest in companies providing technology. which could be deployed in vertical farms around the world. Instead, the industry would soon see huge investments in the farms themselves. “

Although the pace of announcements has slowed slightly amid the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve covered quite a bit of research in plant science, optimization studies for horticultural lighting, and capital investments. And I am happy to see that the prospects are developing for companies working on technological integration in this sector.

For example, the Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator of the Wells Fargo Foundation (IN2), which is co-administered by the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), has just announced the latest cohort of startups to benefit from its funding and partnerships with NREL and an independent research institute, the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, MO. All companies in this phase are focused on building sustainable indoor agriculture.

GrowFlux CEO Eric Eisele was kind enough to let me know about the program news, which you can read in the linked press release on our site. For the bottom, GrowFlux is a 2021 LED magazine Sapphire Awards finalist for its GrowFlux Dimmer lighting controller. This product is designed with ease of use in mind to allow an end customer to easily deploy smart controls with no programming experience or no technician to configure.

“With the increasing complexity and changing practices around horticultural lighting control, our user-friendly setup experience and app takes away much of the frustration,” said Eisele. “We have developed compatibility for all major horticultural lighting manufacturers to make this energy-saving control technology as accessible as possible, especially for the many small and medium-sized businesses in the controlled environment agriculture industry. “

Each company participating in the IN2 cohort will receive $ 250,000 and will work at NREL and the Danforth R&D center. When asked what GrowFlux plans to do with its funding, Eisele said the company will partner with a sensor maker to combine wireless controls and PAR sensors to determine PAR levels in real time. in the indoor environment. The idea is to analyze the PAR data and program the lighting control system to evaluate and manage a Daily Light Integral (DLI) target.

The word “automation” has come up. GrowFlux is not the first organization to explore the concept of bringing together software intelligence, lighting and systems controls in a way that offers both streamlined and adaptable operations to reduce energy consumption in a greenhouse or other CEA environment (see the Automatoes challenge and a presentation of AgEye in our previous HortiCann Light + Tech overviews). However, Eisele explained, the GrowFlux wireless dimmer is compatible with the offerings of many well-known horticultural lighting suppliers (e.g. Fluence, GE Current, BIOS, Heliospectra, etc.) installation and interoperability with the next generation of technological development, rather than pursuing custom designs.

Funding placements like this will propel breakthroughs for CEA and AgTech, increase technology adoption, and prove the ROI of integrated horticultural systems.

Learn more about funding, horticultural research / AgTech

Federal grant strengthens higher education in AgTech

SSL and AgTech horticultural science flourishes

Horticultural SSL activity: the market gardening sector intensifies, cannabis soars

Register for the HortiCann Light + Tech virtual conference


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