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US (CO): Growing rudbeckias with LED

Brian Austin is living his dream. He was born into the greenhouse industry, and honed his pedigree by completing degrees in horticulture and landscape sciences at Colorado State University. He joined Dutch Heritage Gardens (DHG) in 2009 and achieved his lifelong dream in 2014 when he was named Head Grower. But that was just the start to a new chapter as he couples his restless approach to progress with DHG’s same philosophy to continual improvement at the 9-acre greenhouse located in Larkspur, Colorado.

The state-of-the-art greenhouse was designed with various environmentally friendly practices in mind with a mission of going green through eco-friendly practices such as energy efficient furnaces, controlled automated irrigation systems, recycled water and growing methods that greatly reduce, if not completely eliminate, the use of harmful chemicals.

And now DHG has added Fluence LED lighting solutions to their ever-expanding list of eco-friendly, innovative solutions.

Historically, DHG would source their young plants (plugs and liners) from a third-party and finish them in their greenhouses. That changed in 2012 when DHG expanded to propagate 95% of production in-house, but quickly realized the need for good, quality light on younger crops. Having a few HPS lighting systems sitting around, Austin quickly started experimenting.

While the addition of light from HPS was showing decent results, it came at a cost: maintenance issues, bulb replacements, heat, high energy consumption and less-than-ideal plant quality. He tried fluorescent, but experienced similar issues resulting in suboptimal morphology due to plant stretch.

At this same time, Austin was introduced to Fluence who offered a better approach to accomplishing his goals. Working with the already advanced greenhouse infrastructure, Fluence recommended attaching the RAY66 lighting solution to their boom irrigation systems from Cherry Creek. The Fluence LED solutions deliver a better quality spectrum for improved crop initiation and develop, and came with a lower operating cost. At just 120 watts, RAY66 offers a dramatic decrease in energy consumption compared to the previous HPS and fluorescent alternatives being considered.

The combination of improved light intensity, spectrum, energy efficiency and overall deployment has resulted in dramatic improvements to DHG business since deploying the Fluence RAY solutions. Initial trials on Regal Geraniums showed significant improvement in flower initiation, as well as flower uniformity and development. Night break trials on Rudbeckia “Black-eyed Susan” were so impactful that DHG was able to move crops out the door in June, six weeks earlier than normal.

“We’re just getting started, yet based on the results we’ve already seen with Fluence, I can’t wait to see what they can do next,” Austin says.

Initial trials showed great results for DLI extension and photoperiod manipulation of long-day plants in winter/spring, and current trials are underway for night break interruption of short-day plants (specifically Mums). But staying true to their mission, DHG has seen enough to know a good thing when they see it and are already outfitting acres of their greenhouse with Fluence lighting as they stay on the cutting-edge of growing.

For more information:
Fluence Bioengineering
4129 Commercial Center Drive
Suite 450
Austin, TX 78744
[email protected]
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