Do TotalGrow solid-state volumetric lights grow healthier plants faster using less energy? We’ll have answers to that question soon, thanks to a trial being conducted by Fred Lau, owner of Mari’s Gardens in Honolulu.
Lau is testing three shelves of TotalGrow lights (one shelf with eight lights, one with 10 and another with 12 TotalGrow lights), supplied by The Energy Alliance Group of Michigan, and seven shelves of T5 and LED panel lights. EAG had custom shelves built for the lights to be mounted in the grow towers.
This trial is being run as part of a project that involves the development of an aquaponics grow system, designed to fit into standard ISO shipping containers. Lau’s Mari’s Gardens specializes in aquaponics and was hired by a Japanese company, Horimasa International Company Ltd., owner of Vegilab, to create these containers to grow fresh greens (and raise fish) for the Asian market.
Aquaponics is an interesting plant growing method as fish provide nutrients that the plants need and the plant roots serve as biological filters cleaning the water to be returned to the fish. Horimasa is looking to grow primarily lettuce and other greens for the Asian market. In this trial, Lau is using aquaponic nutrient water, with the fish tank being located outside the container.
The end result will be produce that is certified organic. “The baby greens are being grown on coir mats and will be sold live and uncut in the growing trays directly to restaurants in Honolulu,” Lau said. In this trial, he’s growing brassica and a mustard mix of plants. “
In the future, he’s planning another test, using organic nutrients so he is able to compare results of aquaponic water to nutrient dosing.
In an effort to test the efficiency of each lighting system, Lau is monitoring:
- Speed of growth (time of planting to sell date);
- Size of plant material (measured in inches); and
- Weight of plant material (measured in grams);
In initial lighting testing, results looked promising for TotalGow. According to Lau, TotalGrow lights provided 30 percent more PPFD (photosynthetic photon flux density ) than the T5 LED lights and 20 percent more than LED panels. PPDF , is a measure of the number of photons in the 400-700nm wavelengths of the visible light spectrum that falls on a square meter.
“TotalGrow has a more even distribution of light pattern than both of the other lights with less ‘fall off’ at the margins on the shelves and the TotalGrow eight-light tower used 30 percent less energy than the T5 and LED towers,” Lau said, adding that more testing needs to be done with the 10- and 12-light systems to compare electricity costs.
Since the trial is in the early stages, plants haven’t grown enough to be measured or weighed yet. Lau said there seemed to be little difference in plant germination between lighting systems. “Approximately the same number or seeds germinated in all of the trays on all of the shelves in the same amount of time,” he said.
The trial is a result of The Energy Alliance Group’s (EAG) participation in the Pacific Agriculture Innovation Summit and Conference in Honolulu, last September.
EAG’s Founder Scott Ringlein presented at the two-day conference, aimed at prospecting and promoting innovative agriculture and energy solutions for worldwide populations. “There was quite a bit of interest in our TotalGrow lights and we were happy to introduce this technology at the summit. And it was really interesting for us to learn what’s going on in the areas of agriculture and energy efficiencies at the global level,” he said.
He met Lau at the conference, toured Mari’s Gardens, and they began planning the TotalGrow trial.
TotalGrow, the TotalGrow brand, and SSVL are wholly-owned brands of Venntis Technologies, with headquarters in Holland, MI.