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2020 MJBizCon Session

Moving into the future of cultivation with LED

2020 MJBizCon Session

As the industry matures and scrutiny on keeping energy costs down while increasing yield grows with it, choosing the right lighting for your facility is more important than ever.

Join us as we discuss the groundbreaking innovations in LED lighting that are available from leaders like Hawthorne and Gavita and how they can help growers of all sizes.

In this session, you will learn:

  1. How the evolution of lighting technologies has helped the industry grow to where it is today
  2. Why the time to switch from HPS to LED has come, and is here to stay
  3. How innovations like the industry’s first 1:1 HPS replacement eliminates the need to reconfigure your facility for a faster, easier transition

This conversation is introduced by Chris Hagedorn, Executive Vice President and Division President of Hawthorne Gardening Company.


0:00 – Promotional Spot

0:17 – Introduction by Chris Hagedorn

1:59 – Lighting Team Introductions

2:45 – The History of Lighting

5:26 – Is Now the Right Time to Switch to LED?

7:01 – Gavita CT 1930e Presented by Dr. Dengke Cai

11:41 – CT 1930e – 1:1 HPS Replacement

12:23 – CT 1930e – Temperature

15:59 – CT 1930e – Power Savings

16:50 – CT 1930e – Safety

17:35 – Lumen Depreciation Over Time: HPS vs LED

19:28 – Maintenance HPS vs LED

20:14 – CT 1930e – Optical Distribution

22:09 – CT 1930e – Plant Benefits

23:01 – CT 1930e – Durability

24:26 – Gavita Products – Controllability

25:25 – CT 1930e – Impact on Operations

26:54 – CT 1930e – What Comes in the Box

27:58 – Final Thoughts

Webinar transcript

An edited version of this webinar’s full transcript has been provided below for your convenience.

Chris Hagedorn — How’s it going MJBiz? My name’s Chris Hagedorn. I’m the general manager of the Hawthorne Gardening Company. As we sit here in December, I just wanted to take a quick moment to reflect in the kind of year that we’ve had. Now, obviously it was a year that confronted the whole world with the kind of challenges that we haven’t faced in our lifetimes. But despite the challenges, the issues and the tragedies that are going to define this year, moving forward, there have been some real positives to our industry. For Hawthorne, we’ve seen growth across every product category, significant growth, and more importantly, we haven’t just kept our associates employed, but we’re able to pay bonuses to everybody in our entire business. Beyond that we’ve launched some pretty exciting innovation. Now, my team’s going to tell you more about that after this video and go into more detail than I can, but rest assured it’s a lot of exciting stuff and that’s important to who we at Hawthorne want to be in the industry.

It’s our goal to be innovators, to bring new products and techniques, to cultivators, to help our retail partners in any way we can, and to continue playing that role in driving the industry forward. Now, I don’t want to go on too much longer because you guys I’m sure having long days, but I do want to say a big thank you to three specific groups. First, I want to thank the growers, everyone out there who continues to trust us and our products in your facilities that’s an honor and a privilege that we really take seriously. Second, thank you to the retail partners who continue to support us. You guys are essential to the industry and we depend on you every single day. Finally, and most importantly, I want to thank every single Hawthorne associate out there. You all fight so hard to represent our brands the right way and to make sure that we remain at the leading edge of this industry. With that, I’ll hand it over to my team, so they can talk to you more about LEDs and our vision for the future of cultivation. Thanks everybody.

Tara Stevenson — Thanks Chris. Good afternoon MJBizCon attendees, excited to be here with you today. I’m Tara Stevenson, category manager for the lighting division at Hawthorne Gardening Company. With me are my colleagues, Ken Garver and Mike Anderson. And today we’re excited to talk to you about innovation in LED and introduce our new Gavita CT 1930e LED.

Ken Garver — Hi, my name’s Ken Garver. I’m a sales director here at Hawthorne and I was part of the development team for our LED products. A little bit different format this year. I’m going to miss not seeing a lot of you in person, but we’re happy to present virtually.

Mike Anderson — My name is Mike Anderson. I’m in the technical services group. My specialty is lighting and I’ve been doing lighting in the indoor gardening space for over 25 years.

T.S. — Let’s start the conversation by talking about the history of lighting and how far we’ve come.

M.A. — Tthe artificial grow lighting indoor started in France in about the 1860s. By the time 1930s came around, you saw innovations in lighting that included the incandescent lamp and then some of the arc discharge lamps about the same time, but a lot happened in terms of plant growth in 1960, because in the 1960s, high pressure sodium was invented along with metal halide and believe it or not about the same time LED was commercialized. And it’s not the LED that we see today. It was really little small indicator lights that you’d use on control panels and that sort of thing. It would take a long time before you would see LEDs get into our gardens. But high pressure sodium was an innovation that certainly gave us a way into the indoor gardening space, years and years ago. So it’s been the workhorse for over 25 years, but by the time 2000s and about the year 2000, LEDs became more popular in the indoor growth space because the power levels came up and there was multiple colors available, so they could create spectrums to hopefully grow plants.

If you remember those early LED days, it was a blue light and a red light, so it looked kind of funky in your garden. Tthey did that because they thought that if they just increased blue light and red light, it would help mimic the McCree curve. That’s what plants use for photosynthetic response. The problem with that is that the plants use all light to grow from 400 to 700 nanometers. So all colors of the spectrum are used for plants to grow and when you saw white light sources, in terms of LED, start to become powerful you started to see more and more adoption into the indoor garden space.

K.G. — Absolutely Mike, high pressure sodium really has been a staple for our industry. I remember when the single ended 1000 watt high pressure sodium was the most commonly used lamp and how disruptive the new double-ended 1000 watt high pressure sodium was in terms of a better performing product. I see LED being the next evolution here, as far as taking us to a higher level of efficiency and efficacy overall, that’s really what we’re here to talk about today.

T.S. — That’s great information you guys, it’s amazing how far the lighting technology has come for indoor gardening. Is now the right time for consumers to switch to LED? What do you guys think the holdbacks are or benefits?

M.A. — Now is a perfect time to consider switching to LED, let’s face it. In the past several years, there’s really been no innovation in HID technology and double ended HPS has been around for many, many years. So there’s not a lot going on there in terms of LED, the performance of the LEDs are improving from that perspective. There’s really no reason why you wouldn’t want to consider moving to LED, whether it’s a retrofit of your existing garden, consider reducing power consumption in your high pressure sodium rooms, or if you’re building a new facility, it would be really disservice to take a look at only HPS at this point in time and not consider LED. If I was building a new facility myself, I would be putting LED in it.

K.G. — We have a lot of areas to talk about LED, energy incentive rebates, environmental impacts with the lack of mercury involved with LED versus high intensity discharge lighting, lower heat output involved with LED versus high pressure sodium, longer life with LED and less service required as far as relamping and what is required to maintain a high lumen output of your horticulture fixture. When we look at LED, it truly is better in every way, except for one; and that’s been cost. However, we definitely have some ways to bring that down.

T.S. — While LED technology has truly come a long way, Hawthorne has taken it even further with the Gavita CT 1930e LED. I’m going to hand it over to Dr. Dengke Cai, head of our R&D department at Hawthorne to talk more about the product details.

Dr. Dengke Cai — I’m Dr. Dengke Cai, I’m director of lighting product development in Hawthorne Gardening Company. Today, I will introduce our first in the industry HID to LED retrofit product. The Gavita CT 1930e. We are talking about 1:1  retrofit. The retrofit means you don’t change anything. Change out your HID light. Put the light on. So, that’s where our name comes from. 

We deliver 1930 μmol (micromole) per second. That’s energy coming out of the fixture and going to the plant. For these LED fixtures, it’s a broad white spectrum, which is to mimic HPS spectrum. But we also add some components which we believe, spectrum wise, is better than HPS fixtures. 

So all these 640 LEDs are high-powered ceramic LEDs. These high-powered, ceramic LEDs can deliver five to ten times more power than individual, small, plastic-based LEDs. LED is a little bit afraid of the heat because of the properties of the semiconductor materials. For us to deal with LED products in this compact size and still deliver 1930 μmo is due to heat management. We use a material which can dissipate heat three times faster versus the diecast aluminum that most of our competitors use. 

For optical distribution, we are doing even better than HPS fixtures. In the market, we have very successful Gavita HID fixtures. It’s not only about how many μmol comes out from HPS fixtures, it’s the light distribution that makes plants grow happy. Our HPS fixtures provide a very uniform light. For the Gavita CT 1930e fixture we have made improvements. We have made our CT 1930e deliver the light more uniformly than our HID electronic fixtures. The magic there is the 98-99% optic lens (what you can see here). So what does that mean? If you put this lens on top of this high-powered ceramic LED, it has only 1-2 % loss in efficiency. HID fixtures have a glass lamp that can handle all the chemical attacks. We don’t use glass because the material selections in this fixture can already handle that.

We are designing and selecting materials to make the CT 1930e fixture reliable. The CT 1930e has a 55 degree celsius rating based on the UL8800 standard, which is the safety standard to determine if the fixture is safe in specific temperatures for operations in North America.

For HID lighting, we know our Gavita e-series slim line HID fixture can control up to 500 fixtures and via one controller. But now we are in different times, LED times. LED can claim to control 2000 fixtures, by one controller, with every fixture delivering consistent radiation power to the plant. How are we reaching this level? We have our own controller embedded into the CT 1930e. You cannot see it from the outside, but with this controller we can guarantee 2000 fixtures with super good, repeatability output. 

This is coaxial, copper-based, internet cable. It’s also why we can claim 2000 fixtures with unwavering repeatability. You can see on our fixture is RJ45, totally waterproof. Our fixtures are IP66 rated. Beyond controllability, that we improved 500 to 2000 on the CT 1930e I want to highlight another important electrical characteristic. We have improved surge protection. On a regular HID fixture the search protection only goes up to 1000 volts, but on an LED fixture, the CT 1930e, we are claiming 6000 volt minimum.

T.S. — Thanks for that great content, Dengke. Let’s unpack a little bit more of what that means for a grower. Dengke talked about the benefits of the CT 1930e, which are fantastic. Let’s dive in specifically to the 1:1 HPS replacement.

K.G. — Really what we’re talking about is a 1:1 replacement. Take down a 1000 watt high pressure sodium and hang a 700 watt LED. That will give you improved output, longer life, lower maintenance.

T.S. — That’s going to be incredibly time and cost saving for growers. Getting an entire room reconfigured is extremely expensive. That’s a wonderful benefit for them. Next, let’s talk about temperature. What are your guys’ opinions on that?

M.A. — Well, it’s a fact. When you take a 1000 watts out and you put 750 watts into a room in terms of the lighting, the temperature is going to go down and that’s what’ll happen with the retrofit from high pressure sodium to LED. When you take a look at temperature to load or heat load in a room, it goes 1:1 with wattage in the room. So if you take all the wattage that you put into your room from dehumidification, fans, lighting, anything else that has a motor on it, all of that, eventually it turns into heat. With high pressure sodium, you get 1000 watts. You’re going to have a thousand watts of heat. When it comes to HVAC design, you have to design around that to take 1000 watts per fixture out of the room. With LED you’re going to have significantly less wattage, so you’re going to have less heat.

K.G. — One of the biggest things we see with heat generation on high pressure sodium is the forward throw due to infrared spectrum and putting a higher heat load down upon the plant itself. When we look at LED, which is thermally cooled with a giant heat sink on the back, and is really dissipating the heat through the top of the fixture away from the plant.

T.S. — Ken, what’s the standard operating temperature for a high pressure sodium fixture?

K.G. — With high pressure sodium, the lamp itself wants to run very hot. Again, it creates light by heat and pressure, whereas LED likes to operate in a much cooler temperature. When you look at this with regards to your garden itself, typical crops in your garden do not want to see these massively high temperatures. It works against producing your crop. Really everything about where we’re putting the LED fixture in this application lends itself to better efficiencies.

M.A. — Ken’s right. The lower temperature that the LED likes to operate in is much closer to what the garden temperatures are run at and therefore the LED makes perfect sense to be in the indoor garden at this point in time.

K.G. — One of the points we want to talk about with the CT 1930 is its ability to operate in a higher ambient temperature. We just talked about your growing environment being in a lower ambient temperature, but when we see some of these greenhouse lights and they’re operational during the day, sunlight can create very, very high temperatures up at the ceiling where these fixtures are mounted. The CT 1930 is the first fixture that we have offered that carries a 55 degree celsius ambient rating.

M.A. — That’s a huge advantage when it comes to the greenhouse. I’ve been into many greenhouses across North America and in Europe, and at the ceiling height, the temperatures are incredible. You wouldn’t think so. Even in colder climates in the Midwest, the United States in a cooler day where it’s maybe 40 degrees outside, but it’s a sunny day, at the ceiling heights the temperatures are 120, 130 degrees. If you’re operating fixtures at those temperatures, it can degrade the electronic components in the fixtures. So with the CT 1930, having a 55 degrees centigrade, ambient temperature rating, it’s the highest temperature rating of any fixture I’ve ever come across. Therefore, if you have a greenhouse situation that runs high temperatures near the ceilings, CT 1930 is a really good choice.

K.G. — One of the big ones is power savings. With LED, we’re really seeing a 25% to 30% overall wattage reduction in a 1:1 replacement.

M.A. — So in high pressure sodium, it’s a 1000 watt unit. In the past, LED fixtures that try to duplicate high pressure sodium were pushing 1000 watts if you wanted to replace HPS. Today, that’s no longer the case because the efficiency of LED has increased dramatically. So when you take a 1000 watt HPS system out, you’re putting in a 750 watt LED unit that will replace it directly 1:1. That’s exactly what this system does. You don’t have any decrease in light output. You’re not going to see reduction in plant growth by considering the CT 1930.

T.S. — That’s huge. What about safety?

K.G. — Safety is a good one to go into, LED obviously operates at a much lower temperature than high pressure sodium and we can draw a safety correlation there. There’s also a lack of heavy metals. There’s no mercury in LED like there is in high intensity discharge lighting.

M.A. — The other part of it is there’s no glass to break and that’s certainly another thing that can contaminate your garden. So one of the other major advantages in moving to LED is that you don’t have any glass that will break and contaminate your garden, and you don’t have any mercury to contend with as well. That’s a much, much safer product.

T.S. — I think as we continue to see laws come up like Health Canada, it’ll be really important to continue to put a focus on safety. The next topic I wanted to discuss was lumen depreciation and LED versus HPS and which one’s more beneficial for growers.

K.G. — Lumen depreciation is a big one. Let’s actually go a little bit farther back. 1000 watt high pressure sodium that was originally powered by old magnetic systems. The ignition sequence was damaging to the lamp and caused lumen depreciation to be increased, your light levels dropped off rapidly. With the advent of electronic ballast, we did see a slight improvement here where we maintained light levels for a longer period of time, but there’s still the damaging effects of ignition and a high heat load on the lamp itself. Compared to LED, where there isn’t a high ignition pulse or something like that damages the lamp, you have instant on —  instant off light. You don’t have a warm up period. It’s a much more efficient and evolved technology.

M.A. — Yeah, lumen maintenance is important. That basically means that if you start off with a brand new lamp and you start off with a 100% of your light levels and you wait a year, a year from now say that the light levels are only 97% or 96% of what they were a year ago. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but at the end of the day, the growers are looking for every advantage that they can get. If you reduce your light output by 1%, you typically see a reduction in plant growth by 1%. With LED you see a very flat lumen depreciation curve and the systems that are being built today. Actually, take the power up on the LEDs as they age so that you really don’t see any lumen depreciation over a period of time, certainly within the warranty period of the product. From that perspective lumen depreciation is negligible, when it comes to LED.

T.S. — One of the other things I’d like to discuss with you is; what about maintenance?

M.A. — With LED you put the fixture up, you keep it clean, and there really is no maintenance whatsoever with it. From a maintenance perspective, it’s zero with LED. With HPS, it’s an annual relamping and a very difficult way to clean the fixture or replace the reflector, if that’s what you wanted to do as well.

K.G. — Good points on relamping Mike. The previously mentioned mercury content is also contained within the lamp, and we’ve seen some recycling costs and some additional legislation around disposal of this product and we do anticipate that to continue.

M.A. — Effectively, the CT 1930 requires no maintenance.

T.S. — Another benefit of the CT 1930e is its optical distribution. Can you talk to me about the differences between it and a standard LED diode.

K.G. — A standard LED is 120 degree output. We’re using an external optic to better mimic the 1000 watt high pressure sodium light fixture. This is why we’re calling this fixture a 1:1 replacement. We want to be able to take a 1000 watt high pressure sodium down at the standard mounting heights that they’re used at and hang this LED in its place, achieve the power savings, achieve the light output and achieve a quality of light to produce the best possible garden.

M.A. — As Ken said, the typical LED is 120 degree output. That means the direction of the light outside coming out of the LED is at 120 degrees. Unfortunately, 120 degrees is not going to give you a 1:1 replacement for high pressure sodium. So we had to create an optic that would change the throw of the light to 138 degrees. By doing that, we basically built the CT 1930.

It is a direct to 1:1 replacement for high pressure sodium. The other thing that we had to do was create the optic that would do that, and that would survive the environment in the indoor garden space. We made it as a fixture that could be washed down and not destroy the optics. So the optics are protected and when you take the high pressure sodium fixture down and you put the LED unit up, you’re going to see actually improved uniformity. So the light is actually better distributed across a canopy than it was with high pressure sodium. The intensity levels across the room will go up, so you’re saving energy. You’re increasing the distribution of the light in the uniformity, the light in the room, and you’re saving power.

T.S. — Thanks for talking to me about optical distribution. Now, let’s talk about how that benefits a plant.

M.A. — The grower wants to walk into the garden and see that the plants are all at the same heights. They don’t want to see some plants taller than other plants. Uniformity in the distribution of light is really important, because if the light has hot spots then those plants get more light than the plants around them and the plants will get taller. It’s not an insignificant thing to make sure that the light is spread uniformly around the grower area and with the CT 1930, the optics are so good they’re actually better than high pressure sodium in creating uniform distributions of light. Therefore the canopy will be very consistent throughout the room.

T.S. — This has been a great conversation and what I’m taking away from it, and hopefully the consumer is, is that this fixture is really built for the long haul.

K.G. — Absolutely. What we have is a five year warranty, an IP66 rating, UL8800, and a DLC certification. We cover all aspects.

M.A. — So it really doesn’t matter from the component selection to the casting designs, to the heat sinks, to the power core, any way you look at it. This thing is really built like a tank, and we will have no problem whatsoever reaching a five year warranty period. If the growing environment is  harsh, from an electrical perspective, many growers have power issues where they have surges in power, or they have brownouts, or they have whatever’s happening that disrupts their power. If they’re running a generator, they typically don’t size a generator big enough to really have stable power. You see a lot of damage done to high pressure sodium systems, because they were never really meant to see those power interruptions. The CT 1930 has built in surge suppression for six KV, and will take a lot of those issues out of the garden. Frankly speaking, these things just won’t break.

T.S. — Let’s dive a little bit into the controllability of this LED.

K.G. — Our initial effort here was to integrate our LED products with our Gavita 1000 watt high pressure sodium. We’ve made our units so they can communicate using the same EL controllers that our customers are possibly using today. This is great because it allows customers to use the existing controls that they already have.

M.A. — So if you don’t use a Gavita controller and you have a building management system, the CT 1930 will accept a 0 to 10 volt signal for dimming on your own building management system.

K.G. — That’s a good point to bring up Mike. The drivers that we’re using are a commercially available driver that does use a standard communication protocol that’s commercially available for most LEDs, for all LEDs. This will allow somebody to use their existing platform or greenhouse controls to communicate with our fixtures.

T.S. — With all the benefits of the CT 1930e, what are some potential impacts that people might see in their growing operations?

M.A. — One of the major impacts that the grower will see is that when they walk in the room, the plants will look like they should look. Many times you walk into a grow and the room is so yellow it’s hard to tell what the plants really look like. The plants look very natural underneath the LED light. This is a white light LED source so the room looks perfectly like you were walking outside. From that perspective, any disease or pest inspection of the plants makes the plants look like they would’ve if they were outside so it’s very easy to do. 

The other thing is that, in terms of plant growth, what do you see? It’s a very minimal difference from hyper sodium to this CT 1930 in terms of overall size of the plants. They might be slightly smaller plants, or bushier plants, but not dramatically. I don’t think that the typical grower would really notice the difference switching from high pressure sodium to this LED source.

K.G. — If anything, we do hear reports of a positive benefit, shorter nodal lengths, more flowering sites, and, in the end, more product.

T.S. — To wrap up, this content was great. What’s in the box for the grower? So what should they expect when they buy a CT 1930?

K.G. — The CT 1930 includes a wire mount setup in order to hang the unit from the existing rope ratchets, or an adjustable hanger if you were to raise the fixture up and down. It also includes a rigid unistrip mount if you were to hang it from your greenhouse structure or industrial structure. Included in the box, you get both mounts. You will need to designate your power cord. Again, as Mike mentioned earlier, in several instances you’ll be able to reuse your Gavita power cord, if that’s what you’re retrofitting. But that is one thing that you’ll want to keep in mind because these units can be powered at multiple voltages. You do have to designate the power cord at the time of order.

T.S. — And we’ve got these 120 to 277 volts. So any voltage that the grower’s needs will be covered.

M.A. — And the unistrip is for 1 5⁄8 inch unistrip, which is the most common unistrip used in North America.

T.S. — Thanks for joining us today, Ken, Mike, I really enjoyed this discussion. I think it’s a really exciting time in lighting and I hope people get really excited about the CT 1930e like we are.

K.G. — Absolutely, it’s an exciting time to be in lighting. It’s an exciting time for LED. There are lots of energy rebate incentives available and a lot of reasons to make the switch. Now look into it. The CT 1930 really is a next evolution in LED lighting.

M.A. — And the rest of us from Hawthorne  really miss going to MJBiz this year. It’s usually the highlight of our year and with a launch of a product as significant as the CT 1930, we really wish we could be there. So everybody stay safe and we hope to see you again next year.

Learn more about converting from HPS to LED here ⟶

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