The smart greenhouse market could reach $2.1 billion by 2025, increasing from $1.4 billion in 2020, according to a recent report exploring emerging trends in rooftop farming operations in urban areas. Between hardware and software, hardware devices like HVAC systems, LED grow lights, sensors, irrigations systems, and control systems will comprise a large share of the growth with commercial growers likely being the strongest driver of demand.
As a testament to the growing interest in cultivating food behind glass walls, Bayer recently opened a $100 million state-of-the-art corn breeding greenhouse facility in Marana, Arizona. It will serve as a global product design center for corn. The number of bells and whistles found in a cutting edge greenhouse facility are numerous, but one facet still remains a core area of innovation for indoor growing systems: light.
Greenhouse lighting startup Sollum Technologies recently raised a C$3.9 million ($3 million) seed round from Investissement Québec with participation from its initial inventors: Real Ventures, Alter Ego Capital, BoxOne Ventures, and a group of private investors including François Arbour and Jean-François Grenon. The new round of funding will be used to help the startup accelerate product development and establish a market presence in the smart lighting technology sector in North America.
“Beyond capital, our investors share and support our overall vision and provide the guidance to reach our objectives. Furthermore, they give us the visibility and the access to a vast network of relevant stakeholders in our industry,” Louis Brun, Sollum president and CEO, told AFN.
Founded in 2015, the Canadian startup claims to offer greenhouse producers the only smart LED lighting technology that reproduces the full spectrum of the sun’s natural light. Based in Montréal, it works with clients to create lighting recipes adapted to the growth cycle of each product.
“The light fixture itself dynamically recreates and modulates the full spectrum of the sun’s natural light with up to 98% accuracy. The key innovation is in the combination of our light fixture with our SUN as a Service platform, which enables greenhouse producers to create customized light recipes tailored to their specific produce and adjust the fixtures remotely and in real time.”
The technology can also compensate for the difference between a greenhouse’s ambient light and a producer’s target spectrum in terms of light intensity and light spectrum, he adds.
As part of its expansion goals, Sollum plans to link up with a number of research centers including the Institute of Food Technology (ITA) in Saint-Hyacinthe, The Université du Québec in Outaouais and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) Research and Development Centres of St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Québec and Harrow in Ontario.
It currently works with a number of independent greenhouse producers like La Boîte Maraîchère in Québec, which cultivate fresh and organic produce, The Chef’s Garden in Ohio, which cultivate produce with optimal nutritional qualities, and Ulysse Biotech in Québec, which specialize in the creation and development of eco-certified biostimulants.
Part of its marketing strategy involves addressing some of the environmental concerns associated with food production. It claims that its technologies support seven of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals like promoting resilient agricultural practices, affordable green energy, and reducing chemical emissions. The controlled environment agriculture space has seen an uptick of interest recently, making for some fierce competition. LED lighting technologies have come down in cost as the technology has improved, bringing a bounty of options to market all vying for the same limited space inside greenhouses.
“Given that the horticultural lighting industry is in the midst of a technological shift from HPS to LED lighting systems, there is significant competition in the greenhouse tech space from companies such as Fluence by Osram, Signify, Current, Oreon, Lumigrow, and Heliospectra, amongst others,” Brun explains. “We are confident, however, that our IoT approach to horticultural lighting represents a considerable innovation that reflects positively on our technology in comparison to that of our competitors.”