Stan Gordon discovered the ultimate houseplant in 1986 when a friend gifted him a single orchid commemorating the birth of his daughter. Fast-forward 33 years, and Gordon finds himself surrounded by over 70,000 orchid plants in a 10,000-square-foot greenhouse in Louisville, Colorado. Business is always “blooming” at Fantasy Orchids with an ever-changing assortment of colorful, fragrant flowers, thanks in part to new LED lighting from Current, powered by GE, that makes growing season a year-round proposition.
“Back then, I was amazed at how long the flowers lasted and that got me intrigued with orchids,” recalls Gordon. “Over time, I traveled to Hawaii to meet other growers, built a greenhouse in my backyard and started selling wholesale. That’s until 1995 when we ran out of room and purchased a property outside Denver where we still operate today, only with thousands more plants to care for.”
Choosing a top lighting solution
Just two years ago, while thumbing through National Geographic magazine, Gordon read about the effects of LED lighting on plant growth and was eager to learn more. He quickly phoned Hort Americas, to speak with their representative John Frey about illuminating options for orchids.
“We get a lot of sunshine so we had always grown without a lighting system, but as the business got bigger, we started to look at what lights could do for our harvest cycles,” says Gordon. “Orchids generally grow in very bright conditions in tropical regions where the daylength does not change as much as it does here, so I always assumed we could speed up the process by giving our plants extra light, and that is exactly what happened.”
Eager to help Gordon prove his hypothesis, Frey and the team at Hort Americas clued in the orchid expert about a new product from Current. At that time, the Arize Element top lighting LED growing system had yet to hit the market, making Fantasy Orchids the first commercial operator to trial Current’s advanced technology for greenhouses and indoor farms. Delivering high light output with less heat than standard high-pressure sodium and metal halide lamps, Hort Americas estimated the Arize Element system would provide Fantasy Orchids the perfect spectrum to grow efficiently throughout the year.
“Stan and I exchanged many calls, many pieces of information. I checked into things he learned and vice versa,” says Frey. “It became this process of going to the next step, then the next step, and trying to do that logically without any directly correlated information about orchids. Like most growers, Stan needed to build lighting around the structure he already had. As we were designing different layouts, the answer kept coming back to Arize, so he made the decision to install 70 fixtures in the greenhouse.”