"Since we're a lighting company, many would assume that most research is dedicated to our lights, however, we're covering the entire growth recipe. From genetics, seeds, irrigation, nutrients to light and climate. When the client doesn't have a clear plan or approach on what to grow, we can immediately show some concrete examples to eventually come to a final product," says Jarno Mooren, Plant Specialist Vertical Farming at Signify.
Ever since 2015, Signify aims to improve and introduce new grow lights and control systems for vertical farms through its GrowWise Center. And, of course, provide the right light recipes. In terms of cultivation, Signify can fully advise on the entire grow cycle.
A complete package
Signify offers full cultivation knowledge to the beginning and experienced farmers. For farmers that are eager to learn, the Signify team walks them through the basics. Discussing key elements such as: will it be single or multi-layer cultivation, what will the location be, what does the local market offer, what are the possibilities, which varieties are suitable to start with, and which sales channels are available. Due to the international scope and local presence, the team can easily adapt a local business case set for success.
"We all benefit from vertical farming being successful. That is why we are a big believer in starting small, then scaling up. The technical aspect of it isn't that hard, even though it is in a commercial sense. After-sales is really ongoing, as customers are always developing, and we continue to develop with them, e.g., on new growth recipes for new crops," Ellis Janssen, Global Director of City Farming Signify, notes.
Ahead of the market
Soon, the R&D team is set to grow raspberries due to growing demand. According to Jarno, there are a lot of questions coming from the market that Signify is taking into consideration in its research, but it also includes its own vision of what is going to be interesting for vertical farming.
"More than six years ago, it was strawberries, and nowadays, about every customer asks for them. You want to be ahead of the market. We've been doing this for over five years now, and through our dedicated growing rooms, we can make sure to stay ahead of the demand. That's why we want to have a solution ready before requests come in," Jarno explains.
A team of plant specialists and researchers focuses on translating crop yield into the most optimal ways to scale. In addition, a full-time group of researchers is dedicated to examining new crops, the nutrients, and the protocols that come along with them, like analyzing vitamin contents. According to Ellis, it's a big advantage to have access to an in-house lab as many have to outsource this, while Signify can validate some simple facts within a short period of time.
LEDs energy use
"The more efficient our lamps are, the less heat is being produced. Signify innovates on lighting to also manage climate, making sure that it remains in balance. In addition, we advise, in close collaboration with our certified Horti LED partners, on the total integration of light, irrigation, automation, and climate. Depending on the grower's wish, we'll go to the 'next level' to make the business case work."
When the lights are turned on, you use the power which consumes energy. As Ellis puts it, Signify develops LED lights with the lowest form of energy consumption and highest efficacy and output. Therefore, the company makes sure that its lights and drivers are as energy efficient as possible. This will help farmers maintain low operational costs and eventually allows them to obtain a fair profit.