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17 July 2018

How MOT-proof is your grow lighting installation?

End of grow lighting season, the perfect time to do maintenance. With grow lighting season coming to an end; it’s time to take a close look at your installation and execute the necessary maintenance work. Measuring the light sources and reflectors, will provide you with insight into the performance of your installation. Based on this information, you as a grower, can decide to clean or replace as necessary. HortiSense, the digital platform from Hortilux, helps entrepreneurs to get more information about the return of the grow lighting installation.

It is summer which means the greenhouse gets enough natural light, so supplemental grow lighting is barely necessary. This time when your fixtures are switched off, is the perfect opportunity for a check-up of your grow lighting installation. “Many factors influence the performance of the installation over time”, emphasizes Kurt Zwemstra of Hortilux. “A light source loses efficiency every season, by aging, pollution, cycling and by the circumstances in the greenhouse. Also, the power quality of the network can influence the performance and the light level in the greenhouse. Entrepreneurs do not always realize this. Besides this, they wait too long with the maintenance of their installation, potentially resulting in reduced performance in the new season, and production targets are not being met. In this way growers can lose a lot of money. Not to forget a grow lighting installation is a huge investment and energy costs are high. A rose grower pays on average 250 to 350 euro per fixture per year on energy, a chrysanthemum grower or a vegetable grower pay on average 100 to 150 euro. With this amount of money it is more than logical to make sure your installation performs optimally and is MOT-proof.”

Yearly measurements

Hortilux therefore advises measuring all the components of the grow lighting installation which can decrease in performance at the end of the season. “At the electrical installations which are most common these days, it involves the light source and the reflectors. At older installations the capacitors need to be checked as well.” Hortilux collects the products and carries out the measurements in their lab. “We compare the efficiency of the light source with the nominal value supplied by the manufacturer. Reflectors are compared with a new sample of the same type. They are also cleaned mechanically and measured again. The grower can decide if cleaning will deliver meaningful results.” Whether a grower replaces light sources or reflectors depends on the entrepreneur. According to Zwemstra this depends on the company circumstances, performance of the crop (g/mol) and the lighting strategy. Some entrepreneurs replace their lamps with an efficiency of 100%. “In practice, a lamp performs better than the manufacturer guarantees on paper; this can be up to 6% more. Also, manufacturers have introduced better performing light sources throughout the years. If the return after a couple of years is decreased to 100%, it can be a reason for a grower to replace them. With certain vegetable and flowering crops, a decrease of just a couple of percentage can lead to a large decrease in production.”  

More insight

HortiSense the digital platform supports growers by maintaining the optimal performance of their grow lighting installation. Via ‘services’ growers can request and carry out measurements, see their measuring report and even see the ones from the past. This saves a lot of paperwork. Additionally, ‘asset’ safeguards the network quality. As this is indicative of the quality of the grow lighting installation emphasizes As Zwinkels, operations manager HortiSense by Hortilux. “To increase the lifetime of a fixture you need to make sure it gets a certain amount of voltage. If the voltage is too high or too low it is possible that the process of aging increases and dropout happens more often. In this case, it is necessary to reset the transformers. With ‘asset’ the grower knows exactly when this is.” Besides this, ‘asset’ provides information about the lifetime of lamps. Entrepreneurs know when an investment needs to happen. “The lamp voltage gives insight into the lifetime of a lamp”, explains Zwemstra. “The fixture needs 400V. The PCB in the fixture sends about 220 until 230V to the lamp.  As the lamp becomes older, the voltage will increase. The PCB shuts down the lamp when the voltage is 330V. ‘Asset’ gives insight into this process so the growers knows when to replace the lamps. Entrepreneurs will not get any unpleasant surprises which typically happens now.” ‘Asset’ also monitors the temperature in the transformers and panelboards. “When a deviation is noticed the grower receives a notification.” 

Bigger company reliability

Bart Setz of bQurius (www.bqurius.nl) experiences the added value of HortiSense in practice. bQurius advises and supports seven prominent tomato growers that are connected via the ‘De Kabel’ partnership. “We do this in the area of energy management, this includes the grow lighting installation”, explains Setz. “The lamps and reflectors are measured at every location each year, to see if any replacement is necessary. We clean the reflectors each year!” Grower Groenewegen in de Lier, one of the members of ‘De Kabel’, invested in HortiSense in 2016 already. After experiencing and testing with extensively under the guidance of Hortilux, the other growers decided to install HortiSense in their greenhouses as well. “The growers have started with ‘asset’. We as bQurius constantly follow all the data and developments in HortiSense. This way we have real-time insight into the temperature of the transformers and panels. We know what the power quality is and what the remaining lifetime of the lamp is. If there are any deviations, we will receive an e-mail or text message so we can take action. We preempt any potential problem, think about a fire in a transformator. Thanks to HortiSense the company reliability increases. For us the most important advantage of HortiSense.Bart Setz van bQurius

HortiSense in the spotlight

HortiSense helps the grower to get more out of their grow light installation and crop to optimize the return per m2. With sensors in the greenhouse different grow light processes are safeguarded. The measured data is collected and presented in the digital platform which growers can access via Hortisense.com, on a computer, tablet or smartphone.Bart Setz van bQurius