With GM of Fluence EMEA about the future of horti
Added on 04 November 2022
We’re inviting you to read the full interview below.
HORTIBIZ DAILY: Tell us about yourself and Fluence.
TIMO BONGARTZ: As the general manager of Fluence I am responsible for overseeing all of Fluence’s activity in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Fluence is a horticultural lighting company that is focused on advanced LED solutions for plants. Fluence is based in Austin, Texas, and was acquired by OSRAM a few years ago and most recently by Signify this past May. Throughout the changes in parent companies, we have remained Fluence. We are happy to be part of the Signify family operating under the Fluence brand.
Fluence’s horticultural focuses are medicinal cannabis and commercial food production. We are the largest global lighting company for medicinal cannabis and we do a lot of projects in U.S. and Canada but also in EMEA countries such as Portugal, Israel, South Africa and Switzerland.
The other half of our business involves commercial agriculture crops like tomatoes, cucumbers and leafy greens, as well as flowers like orchids, chrysanthemums and more.
HBD: What does Fluence collaboration with Dutch propagator WPK mean for horticultural industry in Europe?
TB: WPK is a very innovative company and, as a propagator, they produce young plants. Many of our lighting partners and potential customers are buying their plants already.
While legacy high-pressure sodium (HPS) lighting has been the primary supplemental lighting format in the propagation industry, WPK has entered the next era of lighting technology with Fluence’s advanced LED solutions. When a large propagator like WPK adopts next generation LED lighting, it is a signal to the industry that LED technology is becoming the new standard. That includes market participants like breeding/seed companies that still use HPS lighting. As more and more growers use LED lighting technology in their greenhouses, it’s becoming more important that breeding companies also make the switch to LED lighting.
HBD: How did you meet WPK’s expectations?
TB: It’s always a process. Fluence and WPK set agreed upon goals in the beginning and then we collaborate on reaching them by applying different lighting strategies for different plants. It’s not as simple as installing new LED fixtures, though. It’s important to remember those lighting strategies will include adjusting and optimizing environmental growing conditions as well. Because LED horticultural lighting emits less heat than HPS fixtures, factors such as temperature and humidity will need to be adjusted accordingly. Fluence’s expertise extends into optimizing environmental conditions to get the most of out crops. We also have cultivators on staff who are former greenhouse growers or crop consultants and understand the nuances of updating facilities with LED technology. They can talk grower-to-grower to reach the targets after the installation is done.
WPK’s particular goals were exposing plants to more light in the early phase to reduce cycle time and increase plant production. Another was optimizing energy efficiency given the current energy concerns in Europe. In this case, it’s electricity that WPK wanted to save. The third goal was healthy and compact plants to better transplant them into the customer’s greenhouse safely and healthily.
To quantify the achievements of these three points: we wanted to increase the light intensity by 30%, we achieved that. We wanted to decrease the electricity consumption 40-50%, which we did. We wanted to improve the crop quality and keep it very uniform, so we curated our spectrum choices, mixed blue and green lights and kept plants compact.
HBD: What’s the vision of Fluence for the next 5 years?
TB: I think the goal is to ensure we are helping people grow smarter, an output of which would be having a more resilient food systems in different regions. We’re seeing a need for more stable food sources it in times of COVID-19 or political conflicts, and so I’m proud to work at a company that is a part of the process in establishing systems for countries and people to produce their own food year-round and independently.
Growing smarter also means avoiding or being better equipped to handle other crises as well, such as the current energy crisis facing many parts of the world. As LED technology is the most efficient horticultural lighting technology, that makes it the right tool for developing mor sustainable and energy efficient operations.
For more information:
General Manager of Fluence EMEA
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