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Lighting and HVACD Part 2: Key Lighting and HVACD Decisions for Facility Retrofits

Retrofit lighting decisions

Lighting and HVACD Part 2: Key Lighting and HVACD Decisions for Facility Retrofits

In a recent webinar co-produced by Fluence and climate-control company InSpire Transpiration Solutions, one overriding message resounded: Do Your Research. This means you should collect all the data, know your goals and facility, and be prepared.

The webinar, titled “Key Lighting and HVACD Decisions for Facility Retrofits,” sought to help cultivators and facility planners understand the crucial HVACD adjustments that are necessary when switching from legacy lighting such as HPS to LEDs. A panel of experts from Fluence and InSpire emphasized again and again the importance of R&D, data collection, and the importance of evaluating the facility as a whole. A thorough assessment of pitfalls and limitations is also crucial when planning a retrofit.

There are a number of reasons an organization might choose to retrofit. Sometimes, it’s related to environmental control and the IPM challenges that are inherent. Retrofitting is often undertaken to improve the capacity and production of an existing facility. Of course, it all boils down to increasing profit.

When considering a retrofit, panel members said, companies often must decide between whether they want a PPF match or a wattage match.

In the first scenario, the PPF room flux is maintained, replaced with a Fluence 1:1 replacement for double-ended 1000w HPS. This yields an instant 40% energy savings, which is terrific but not the best path to increasing revenue gains.

A wattage match, on the other hand, because it enables a higher light intensity and drives more photosynthesis, often results in more yield and, therefore, more significant revenue gains. Making this change, of course, involves much study and preparation. More photosynthetic activity brings with it a set of technological challenges that requires well-thought-out preparation and planning.

The panel cited a case study involving Clarity Gardens, a commercial cultivation facility in Denver, Colorado. Clarity used a single-tier, HIV-conventional platform. Their facility suffered from low-light conditions, lack of appropriate airflow, and an undersized dehumidification system. This led to IPM issues and an inability to control vapour-pressure deficit, or VPD, resulting in a compromised yield and the inability to get the most out of their genetics.

After evaluating their cultivation and business goals, reviewing the potential payback, and weighing the likely improved performance results, Clarity Gardens ended up choosing an LED multi-tier retrofit. As a result, the company saw an increase from 40 grams per square foot to 45 to 60 grams per square foot. When combined with operating cost savings, the company saw a 201% revenue increase year over year. This is an astounding achievement for any facility.

Following the presentation, webinar guests were invited to ask questions of the panelists, a few of which are here:

Q: How do you measure transpiration rates across the grow room?

A: There are commercially available transpiration sensors that can help you with this task. You can also rely on data and measurement. We know plants will take up X amount of moisture every day, and we know they will transpire 95% to 95% of that moisture that they consume over a 24-hour period. We know that a significant amount of that transpiration occurs when the lights are on — 70% to 75% in a flower room, maybe a little bit more in a veg room. And that’s one way we can break down how much moisture is going to be going into the air.

Q: How do you see the market in 3-5 years? How do you plan?

A: It’s hard to predict. But the truth is that really good cannabis is always going to sell. Really good cannabis is always going to extract well and make you more money. More and more people are learning to grow really good cannabis. Are they doing it consistently? What’s their cost? You really have to fine-tune those variables to stay competitive.

Q: When looking at the costs associated with an expansion or retrofit, have you seen any examples of reduced labor associated with retrofits?

A: There’s probably some reduction in IPM management. Other technologies such as mobile palette benching can also significantly reduce labor needs.