L4A Efficient Greenhouse Lighting

Heliospectra Meeting a growing global population’s food requirements creates a corresponding challenge: greening the globe’s greenhouses. Agriculture is changing — extreme weather, rising prices, and consumer demands for local and organic produce necessitate sophisticated and efficient growing solutions. As agriculture evolves, greenhouses must also adapt - structures will be built both above and below ground, and integrated into existing buildings to enable production close to the consumers. 

Heliospectra has combined a deep knowledge of plant physiology and photosynthesis with smart LED lighting solutions for professional growers and researchers. Heliospectra’s unique use of LED lights optimizes the growth of individual plant families at the same time that it gives the plants exactly the properties that consumers are looking for.

The Heliospectra package includes a complete biofeedback system, intelligent LED-based lights, sensors, and software to encourage plant growth.  The system ‘listens’ to the plants, and the plants convey back information using reflected light and fluorescence. This relayed information helps the system optimize the light spectrum to produce only the necessary light required while it also encourages desired plant characteristics.  The result is energy saved, yield increased, waste reduced, and quality improved. Heliospectra’s system also leads to more durable plants that require less water and have no need for mercury lamps. 

Part of Heliospectra’s innovation is to design the system as a cloud-based business model that is able to aggregate information from multiple growers and refine predictive algorithms for continual improvement. Best growing practices are captured, making growers less reliant upon staff while further enabling automation.

Providing food and energy for a growing population using a finite amount of arable land is a challenge today and for the foreseeable future. Currently, an estimated 30 billion square meters of commercial greenhouses globally are used to produce vegetables, herbs, and ornamentals. Many of these greenhouses use supplemental lighting in their production. The global urbanization trend drives demand for vertical greenhouses and for closed cultivation environments in densely populated areas. New technology is enabling greenhouse farmers to use the full spectrum of light, leading to increased yields per square meter. In combination with LED lamps’ relatively lower energy consumption, these systems offer the opportunity for substantial lowering the carbon footprint of global greenhouse production.

Assuming that one billion square meters of the world’s greenhouses use supplemental lighting, WWF estimates that L4A Efficient Greenhouse Lighting or similar systems could reduce CO2 emissions by 21 million tonnes per year if used by 20 percent of the target market by 2022.

Heliospectra is working to further refine its technology by further improving LED efficiency, which translates to increased energy savings. In addition, Heliospectra is evolving its sensor technology by incorporating smart cameras and software algorithms.  Finally, the cloud-based database and management system will be further improved to create a more complete system for growers in order to simplify their everyday tasks and improve their crops.  These improvements and the higher volumes will help growers outsource production and reduce production costs.

Heliospectra has begun to cooperate with greenhouse manufacturers as well as producers of control systems for greenhouses and other suppliers in the value chain to create a solution that is easy for growers to install and manage.

Having started in Sweden, Heliospectra will expand into new geographical and vertical markets. Already, initial sales have been achieved in the Australasian market as well as in North America. These sales are handled directly yet at the same time are developing important channels that can be used for future sales and support, enabling expansion.

Heliospectra was started in 2006 by plant biologists keen on improving greenhouse lighting, which was traditionally based on high pressure, inefficient sodium bulbs. Financing for field trials has been provided by business angels and later the Swedish Industrial Fund, Midroc New Technology, as well as from the Swedish Energy Agency and the Mistra Foundation.  Heliospectra’s 11-person team is international, with seven nationalities represented, and balanced between trained plant biologists and experts in engineering and marketing.

Award-winning plant scientist Tessa Pocock is Director of Research at Heliospectra. She earned her diploma in Horticulture Greenhouse Management in Olds Alberta, her honours BSc in plant science, her Masters in plant biochemistry and her PhD in environmental stress biology at the University of Western Ontario, London, Canada. She originally came to Sweden with a Marie Curie postdoctoral Fellowship to do research on the effect of climate change on photosynthesis and stress responses.

Staffan Hillberg is the CEO of Heliospectra.  He has an extensive background as a serial entrepreneur, investor, and board member in building, financing, and managing international technology-based companies.  His past experience includes managing QuickTime for Apple Computer, setting up the online activities for the Bonnier Group, as well as managing the MVI Group, Europe’s largest and oldest business angel network.  He has an MBA from INSEAD and studied Computer Engineering at Chalmers University of Technology.