Advancements in LED lighting continue to open the door for growth in the controlled environmental agriculture (CEA) sector. Although there are many LED light producers, Illumitex has grown its business into one of the most well-known LED light developers for CEA applications.
Innovative vertical farms such as FarmedHere and Green Spirit Farms are using Illumitex LED grow lights to supply Chicagoland customers with fresh kale, lettuce and basil. Progressive university agriculture departments such as the one at Penn State are using Illumitex lights to educate the farmers of the future. And the planet’s largest plant research facility is using Illumitex grow lights in its advanced research labs to learn how to grow more food in more places to meet the needs of an exploding world population.
Now, the LED pioneer is using its resources to help other growers take advantage of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) recent initiatives to stimulate economic growth in rural America. Last week, LED horticulture light manufacturing Illumitex announced that it has launched a program to help growers take advantage of USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). The program provides grants to agricultural entities in both rural and urban settings that implement energy-efficient improvements or a renewable energy system.
The way Illumitex sees it, REAP creates an opportunity to help CEA customers recover up to 25 percent of the cost of energy-efficient Illumitex LED lights — both encouraging growers to choose Illumitex products while promoting energy efficiency across the CEA sector.
“Starting up a vertical farm involves a significant capital outlay,” says Illumitex vice president of horticulture turnkey lighting solutions Paul Hardej. “The REAP program, facilitated by our experts, can make a significant dent in these costs. We encourage all existing and potential Illumitex customers to contact us immediately for assistance in filing grant applications with the USDA.” In providing grant application assistance to growers, Illumitex is hoping to bring access to fresh and nutritious produce grown close to home, while reducing energy consumption, water usage and “food miles.”
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AgFunderNews recently had an opportunity to ask Hardej five questions about Illumitex’s initative to help growers apply for REAP funding and what may be next for the LED powerhouse.
What inspired Illumitex to create this program?
We found that there was a gap in knowledge and expertise to process grant applications. We want to fill that void. We work closely with government agencies on all aspects of CEA and through the process we have learned about this innovative support program from the USDA. After we prequalified our horticulture LED grow lights, we decided to make it easier for our customers to receive the grants, and launched our own grant-writing program. Let the growers stay busy growing — we will take care of the grants.
How will the REAP program help growers?
This program will lower capital costs for expansions, additions, new construction or even replacement projects. We know that lighting may be expensive and is one of the most integral part of any CEA grow operation. REAP will pay up to 25 perfcent of total project costs or up to $500,000 in funding.
Is there a specific type or category of grower that you have in mind when it comes to providing assistance?
We are as inclusive as the grant programs allow us. In this case, USDA took a very innovative and inclusive approach and decided to fund grants not only for rural farms but also for innovative urban vertical farms. We are glad to see USDA leading in ag innovation also.
What kind of support will Illumitex provide to growers through this program?
We have retained experienced grant writers who have worked, among other places, with NASA and sustainable food non-profits in order to provide a service that has never been provided before – grant writing for LED grow lights. Simply put, our team represents the applicant and we take a lead in the process to take the load off our customer’s shoulders. Just another difference between Illumitex and any other LED company. Because we are US-based and our LED are assembled right here in Austin, it makes perfect sense to tap into the U.S. government resources.
Can you provide any insight on what may be next for Illumitex?
We continuously innovate, not only with horticulture LED lighting products but also in the service space. We are unique because we do provide services beyond lighting. Soon we will launch our own ‘Hortitecture Division’, where we will provide hands-on lighting turnkey solutions to all greenhouse, vertical farm or medical marijuana growers. More to come in the future for sure.
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