“With the introduction of LED grow lights, we ended up in horticulture,” says Wim Hogenhout, sales manager at Chess. The Dutch company indeed started in 1998 when Chess – which stands for Computer, Hardware en (and) System Software – was active in the wireless control systems, specifically wireless payment systems. As the LED technology greatly advanced, the company saw an opportunity to apply its expertise to horticulture. Their wireless lighting technology was already in use in the real estate sector, but also at Chess’ office in Haarlem, the Netherlands.
And that shows. As you get out of Wim’s office, the lights indeed go out, thanks to the sensors installed in the room. “The system is inspired by nature, in which a flock of birds or a school of fish moves forward in enormous numbers without colliding, but notably without one clear leader.” This is exactly how their system works, as that is not dependent on one central point, making it potentially endlessly scalable, according to Wim.
The endless scalability is an advantage for growers, says Wim. “Without cables, with the right software and with the use of dimmable fixture, growers can have a more nuanced control over their lights.”
The company’s background in wireless payments has proved itself to be extremely useful also for the lighting system, as Chess has leveraged their expertise to make that very secure. “We developed the technology behind the first wireless mobile payment terminals,” he points out. “We also apply strict requirements to make this safe in horticulture. On top of that, each module we produce has unique encryption and identification.”
A schematic representation of the use of Mymesh in a greenhouse environment. Click here to enlarge the image.
The wireless network usually works with a server in the cloud. This makes it possible for growers to operate the network remotely and for Chess Wise to offer remote support and implement the latest developments. The only thing needed for this connection is a 'gateway'. Most growers choose to work without the cloud connection, with an entirely local working network linked to the climate computer, Wim says. "The gateway is present and is used by Chess for remote support and control at the grower's request."
A new development being worked on is dimming light by color. This could even be done automatically if a grower is wearing a tag that communicates with lights, so that they change as they walk by. While this thing is already widely used in the real estate sector, it is still not much adopted for cultivation.
Another feature Wim and Chess are working on concerns the use of four power supplies simultaneously to even better control the light spectrum. The German tomato grower Vitarom is going to install such a system already this summer, says Wim. “With this, the grower will be able to better control the spectrum.”
Such a system can be particularly useful during times when energy cost is spiking. “If you can control your lights in such a nuanced and targeted way, you can be more efficient not only for end-of-the-month’s energy savings, but also for growing better crops.”
The systems are always installed in consultation with the grower, especially when it comes to sensors. “Sensor technology is not supplied for horticulture applications yet. The installer has to take care of installing the fixtures, the power supplies, and our modules. We visit projects to put the systems into operation,” Wim concludes.