GLASE Uses Outreach Activities to Inform and Educate Growers, Manufacturers and Suppliers

Greenhouse Lighting and Systems Engineering (GLASE) consortium is using outreach activities to provide controlled-environment growers, lighting manufacturers and service companies with pertinent information to increase energy efficiency and improve their products and operating procedures.

By David Kuack

The goal of the Greenhouse Lighting and Systems Engineering (GLASE) consortium is to create a more sustainable and profitable greenhouse industry. The consortium is a partnership between Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Albany, N.Y. GLASE is supported by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and by industry partners.

The consortium is conducting research to improve controlled environment agriculture (CEA) operations. Research activities include improving lighting fixtures and systems that synergistically control lighting and developing plant lighting and carbon dioxide control strategies. These strategies would ultimately reduce energy consumption to create a more sustainable and profitable greenhouse industry. Although the focus of GLASE research is on greenhouse production, the findings are expected to have application to other controlled-environment production systems including vertical farms and warehouses.

Information for the CEA industry

In addition to the research being conducted by GLASE, the consortium is also offering a variety of outreach activities to provide growers, lighting manufacturers and service suppliers with information that can assist them in improving their business operations. These activities include webinars, technical meetings and trade journal articles.

“The webinar series is the one activity that GLASE has been doing the longest,” said Neil Mattson, horticulture professor and greenhouse extension specialist at Cornell University and GLASE principal investigator. “The webinars are open to the entire industry. Some have been more oriented towards growers. Others have more application to the supply side, including manufacturers and service providers.”

Improving energy efficiency through benchmarking

“One of the webinar topics we covered is our energy efficiency benchmarking platform, Mattson said. “GLASE worked with sustainability solutions service supplier EnSave Inc.. The company does farm energy audits and also helps farms to apply for grants to make energy efficiency improvements. What the company found working with other agricultural commodities, including dairy farms and poultry producers, is there are more solid benchmarks on how much energy those industries use. The greenhouse industry is highly fragmented in regards to the crops grown and the numerous geographic locations of growing operations. What’s lacking is a unified data bank or benchmarks of typical energy usage numbers for heating and lighting relative to the crops that are grown.”

Neil Mattson at Cornell University said GLASE is using a variety of outreach activities to provide CEA industry members with information that can assist them in improving their business operations.Photo courtesy of Neil Mattson, Cornell Univ.

Because of the diversification of the horticulture industry, Mattson said it has been more difficult to collect energy-use data.

“Through this collaboration with EnSave we are hoping that growers will use this benchmarking database,” he said. “We’ve tested it and we’re trying not to make it too onerous for the growers so it’s as easy as inputting their monthly utility bills. The growers would also input their productivity units, which could be heads of lettuce, pounds of tomatoes or number of 6-inch ornamental plants. We are looking to collect information from both greenhouse vegetable and ornamental plant growers. The data base could accommodate both types of crops.”

“The real strength of this data base would lie in having a critical mass of users. For the individual users of the data base, they would be able to see how their operations compare to other industry benchmarks. Growers would be able to compare their businesses to an anonymous group of similar operations. If growers find they are using more energy per output, they could try to determine why they are using more energy. Nationally this could be useful to growers who are trying to obtain federal funds from grant programs for adopting energy-efficient systems. We would also like to be able to share with the industry some of this anonymous benchmark data that is collected.”

Horticultural lighting label

Another GLASE webinar topic was on a horticultural lighting label. The webinar was presented by A.J. Both, a professor and extension specialist at Rutgers University and member of the GLASE research team.

One of the GLASE webinar topics was the horticultural lighting label which has helped to educate growers about lighting fixtures. Photo courtesy of A.J. Both, Rutgers Univ.

“This webinar was oriented toward greenhouse growers, educating them as to what to look for and what questions to ask lighting manufacturers when they are considering adding lights or looking to make changes to their lighting systems,” Mattson said. “The webinar was also aimed at the lighting manufacturers that potentially would adopt the label.”

Mattson said the lighting label has helped educate growers about lighting fixtures.

“Growers are learning the lighting units to use when comparing lighting fixtures,” he said. “Although lighting manufacturers haven’t adopted the entire label yet, they have incorporated elements of it. Lighting manufacturers have become much better at providing technical specifications. They are talking about lighting units in terms of plant lighting not human lighting. They are talking about micromoles of light instead of lumens of light. Rarely are footcandles used anymore by growers and lighting manufacturers.”

Lighting fixture analysis

Another one of GLASE’s outreach activities is to drive adoption of the horticultural lighting label. GLASE has partnered with Intertek, a total quality assurance provider, to work with its lighting company members.

“Intertek has the specialized equipment for quantifying light output and light distribution,” Mattson said. “Each lighting company that is a GLASE member can submit one lamp a year for testing by Intertek. Intertek conducts a series of measurements with each lamp. GLASE then takes the raw data generated by Intertek and we provide the lighting companies with a lighting label for each lamp that is analyzed.

“There are currently six lighting companies that are GLASE members. This spring we had the first companies take advantage of the lamp analysis. The companies decide whether they want to share the lighting label GLASE provides them. This is a good way to introduce the GLASE lighting company members into the process of what it takes to generate the information that is needed to prepare a lighting label.”

Informational conference calls

GLASE has been offering its members periodic informal conversations on industry-related topics.

“These industry talks enable GLASE members to learn in a more informal setting where there is not a large audience,” Mattson said. “This provides GLASE members more time to have their questions answered by the speakers which could directly help them with their business.”

The first industry talk was a video conference call with lighting researchers Kevin Folta at the University of Florida and Bruce Bugbee at Utah State University who discussed the potential benefits of green light in plants.

“The green light conference call was geared more towards the growers, but GLASE manufacturer and supplier members were also able to participate,” Mattson said. “The informal format for these calls has been conducive to discussion between members and the speakers. There are 20 minutes during which the thought leaders talk about the topic and then that evolves into a question and answer period with the members. The program format enables the participants to have their questions answered.”

One of the informal industry talks offered by GLASE to its members discussed the potential benefits of green light on plants. Photo courtesy of Kevin Folta, Univ. of Fla.

Another industry talk covered power supply and power distribution options for CEA. This call was geared more to the lighting manufacturers. The speakers included Bahram Barzideh, principal engineer of LED lighting components at Underwriters Laboratories (UL), and Frank Cirolia, systems and application engineer at Artesyn Embedded Technologies.

“For LED lights some of the energy is used by the diode,” Mattson said. “This is the energy used to produce the light. Some of the energy is used by the power supply as well as the driver. There have numerous developments in power supplies, which have helped to improve the energy efficiency of the new generation of lights. Regarding power distribution, there are opportunities for improving energy efficiency related to the way power is delivered to the fixtures.”

Articles on research findings

Technical articles about GLASE research results are the newest outreach activity.

“GLASE will be rolling out these articles this summer,” Mattson said. “Some of these articles will be geared more to the growers. Other articles will have application to suppliers and lighting manufacturers.

“Topics will include the plant research and the lighting control studies that we have conducted at Cornell. There will also be articles on designing more energy-efficient lights, which is what researchers at RPI are working on.”

The following articles will appear in CEA-related magazines in the coming months.

July: Multi-spectrum research LED lights

August: Greenhouse light and shade system implementation controls

September: Light distribution measurements in tall canopies

October: Spectral acquisition systems for greenhouses

November: Plant responses to integrated light and CO2 controls

December: Horticultural lighting fixtures analyses

For more: Neil Mattson, Cornell University, School of Integrative Plant Science, Horticulture Section, Ithaca, NY 14853; (607) 255-0621; nsm47@cornell.edu; http://www.cornellcea.com; http://www.greenhouse.cornell.edu.

 

Editor’s note: Neil Mattson will be doing three educational presentations at this year’s Cultivate’19, July 13-16, in Columbus, Ohio

Biostimulants: Another Tool for the Grower’s Toolbox
Sunday, July 14, 2:45 p.m.-3:45 p.m.

Greenhouse Light and Carbon Dioxide Management to Enhance Crop Yield
This educational session will include information related to GLASE research.
Monday, July 15, 11:30 a.m.-12 p.m.

Lighting Approaches to Maximize Profits (LAMP)
Tuesday, July 16, 9:30 a.m.-10:30 a.m.

David Kuack is a freelance technical writer in Fort Worth, Texas; dkuack@gmail.com.