Hunter – I think the biggest reservations customers have with regard to LED lighting is cost, yield, and intensity. There are of course other confounding factors such as spectrum, product quality, and the lack of industry standards that affect LED adoption, however cost, yield and intensity are the big ones.
First on cost, we generally see that more sophisticated growers are able to quantify cost savings and invest in LED lighting when the payback is multifold – in the form of smaller climate control systems, lower maintenance costs, and of course reduced energy consumption – even if there is a moderate reduction in yield. As costs continue to drop and efficiency in LED lighting improves, I think we will see more holdout growers convert, especially with new DLC requirements which mandate minimum efficiency of 1.8umol/watt.
On intensity: Not many manufacturers are honest about the fact that a brand new Philips DE HPS 1000W in a Gavita Pro delivers 2.2umol/watt. We see a lot of suspicious LED efficiency numbers out there, and are really looking forward to the implementation of programs such as the Horticulture Lighting Label which will require third party testing and labeling to comply.
Finally on yield, the best cultivators out there (in my opinion) can quantify all of their operating costs per batch (labor, lighting energy, climate control energy, fertigation, IPM, etc) against their yields and ensure that they are always operating as cost efficiently as possible. These growers are less focused on yield per square foot or yield per light and are more concerned with facility wide efficiency.
We will always have growers who are insistent on specific yield numbers per plant/light, and we can certainly accommodate them with 1000umol+/m2/s PAR intensity, however this isn’t always the most cost efficient strategy.