Cannabis Science & Technology: An LED Company's Perpective
Jan Mol the sales Director at Oreon, discusses his company’s role in the Legal Cannabis Coalition (LCC), light-emitting diode (LED) lighting, research and education initiatives, and more.
Recently, the formation of a group called the Legal Cannabis Coalition (LLC) was announced, which consists of a dozen Dutch horticultural companies. During the past two years, these companies participated in a joint scientific study to optimize greenhouse cultivation of medicinal cannabis that was organized by Wageningen University & Research (WUR) in The Netherlands. Here, Jan Mol the sales Director at Oreon, his company’s role in the LCC, light-emitting diode (LED) lighting, research and education initiatives, and more.
How did you first get involved in cannabis cultivation?
Jan Mol: Oreon is a developer and producer of LED lighting. We started in 2005 with LED lighting for domestic use. In 2006 Street lighting followed and in 2009 we were the first to introduce LED lighting for greenhouses. In our design we combined the generic characteristics of LED lighting (long life span and low energy consumption) with specific demands of growers. They wanted independency of light and heat, a balanced climate in general, the right spectrum for their crops, and a very compact fixture that could hang under the trusses and minimized shade. The result was our water-cooled fixture. Since then this fixture has been used over various crops such as lettuce, herbs, and tomatoes.
With the prospect of legalization of the cannabis market in various countries, we anticipated on the demand for high light levels. High light levels also mean possible heat problems, which is something that we have solved. No extra radiation heat of the fixtures in the greenhouse. This together with the highest efficiency (3.4 uMol/Joule), an output per fixture of 3400 uMol/s, and the small size of our fixture made our product very attractive for the legal cannabis industry.
Can you tell us more about the Legal Cannabis Coalition (LCC)? How did it form and what are the goals of the group? How much collaboration is involved from the various parties in the group?
Mol: Together with the Wageningen University and Research (WUR), Oreon started to test their fixtures on cannabis in 2016. We followed the developments in legalization in various countries and wanted to be able to answer the specific questions of growers. Besides that, we wanted to know in what way our fixtures (and spectra) had advantages compared to other lighting, for example, sodium lighting. That is why we started the trials. Over the years, more and more, best in class suppliers of horticulture products wanted to test their products. That was the moment that we decided that combining our individual efforts resulting in more and bigger research was in best interest of the individual companies and our clients. During the past 4 years, we have been testing on a large scale and on multiple crops per year. Researchers of WUR, led by Filip van Noort, gathered so much information on various areas from screening, light (intensities), nutrition, soil, substrate, temperature, RV, grow systems, plant resistance, laboratory science, pharmacy, and so forth that we decided to combine this information and make it available to our customers through a centralized organization. Behind this combined information there is the individual knowledge of the members. That is why we started the LCC. As individual members we already tried to work together as much as possible, but now our common knowledge is available through a professional organization: The LCC.
What kind of educational efforts are you involved in with the LCC?
Mol: Oreon concentrates on lighting. Our developments are being tested at WUR, integrated in the entire grow system, and evaluated together with other results by the various members of the LCC. The goal is to provide our customers with the best information possible based on actual data and tests.
How will the LCC’s research efforts impact other cannabis research or help the industry develop further?
Mol: Within the LCC a wide range of disciplines are combined. From building a greenhouse and installing lights, to quality testing and pharmaceutical development of the harvested cannabis. The collective knowledge, in combination with the various research licenses the members of the LCC hold, allows multidisciplinary research projects. Research is done with LCC members, but also companies and universities from outside. Through consulting as well as education services, this knowledge benefits LCC’s customers and therefore the industry.
What is the biggest challenge facing cannabis cultivators? Are there unique challenges for medicinal cannabis cultivators?
Mol: The biggest challenges are standardization of the cannabinoid and terpene content of the cultivated cannabis (especially for medicinally used cannabis), and lowering the cost of production because of more intense competition with cultivation in low cost countries, and cultivation outside in the field. Also lowering energy consumption of the lamps, not only for cost, but also for environmental impact, is another challenge.
Can you tell us about the technology behind your company’s water-cooled LED lights?
Mol: Of course, in how many words? A plant needs light to grow. Our goal is to provide light in the most efficient way. In general, that means the right spectrum, the highest output, the best uniformity, the smallest fixture ,and no (negative impact) on the climate in the greenhouse because of radiated heat. The result is a perfect grow against the lowest cost. Besides growing advantages, the water cooling also has many economic advantages such as longer lifespan, possibility of re-use of the heat, and savings on cooling and CO2 costs.
What benefits do water-cooled LED lights offer compared to other LED lights on the market?
Mol: LED’s need to be cooled. In general, this can be done in two ways: passively and actively. The cheapest is to put them on a heat sink that radiates its heat to the air. More power results in more heat and a bigger heatsink. That is something you don’t want in a greenhouse because you do not want to block the light from the sun. Besides that, the fixture and electronics still stay quite hot which doesn’t support durability.
The best way to cool a led fixture is to use water. By using water both the LED’s and the electronics are being cooled in an optimal way. This ensures durability, a small fixture, and no extra heat in the greenhouse or facility.
What are your plans for the future with the LCC or LED lighting for cannabis?
Mol: We want to continue supporting cannabis research organized by the LCC and support collaboration between the various members of the LCC. We think that is in the best interest of our mutual customers, the industry, and therefore in the interest of the individual companies.
Text by Megan L'Heureux.