By Gregory Daurer | Feb 15, 2021
LED lighting for cannabis cultivation
Ganley calls his company's LED luminaires and sensors "the most scientifically-advanced lighting solutions for cannabis [cultivation]."
By using GrowRay's LED lights -- as opposed to "legacy technology" high-intensity discharge (HID) ones -- in conjunction with his company's SOPs, Ganley says energy use drops by 35 to 45 percent in traditional indoor grows, while overall yields of cannabis jump 5 to 25 percent. In the greenhouse space, he adds, "we save 70 percent more energy than even other LED systems, because of our patented technology."
All cannabis lighting companies have access to the same selection of LED diodes (which are manufactured abroad in various locales) they can incorporate into their products. However, Ganley maintains his competitors aren't using the right combination best-suited for growing cannabis.
"We have a recipe of diodes from two different companies that we call a 'ratio-based spectrum,' meaning that it's a full spectrum . . . all the colors that a plant can use are present in the spectrum," says Ganley. "But what we have learned in R&D is that it's not just the presence of all the colors, it's the ratios between the peaks of specific spectra that make an impact on cannabis. And that's what our recipe is based on."
For instance, he notes how the ratio between regular red and far-red within his company's lights "increases the desired outcome of the horticultural process" and contributes towards increased THC and terpenes in the plant. Furthermore, the overall spectrum "is right for every strain of cannabis."
It's quite a break from the past, when illegal cannabis grows used "high-pressure sodium lamps -- essentially streetlights," instead of state-of-the-art LEDs, says Ganley. Still, "a lot of the lighting companies that [are] marketing to cannabis [cultivators today aren't doing so] with any real scientific background. So, the [LED] technologies themselves are poorly-considered and not scientifically robust." GrowRay has built upon the engineering and photobiology expertise of its principal founders -- Ivan Kruglak and Dr. Erico Mattos -- when designing its lighting fixtures for growing cannabis.
In terms of assembly, Ganley boasts that his company uses "the highest-quality components you could possibly find." The extensive use of aluminum in the frame construction dissipates heat, obviating the need for unreliable, "off-the-shelf computer fans" used by some competitors to cool off their lights. "You don't need [to use fans] if you're using the right amount of aluminum," says Ganley. He says GrowRay has never had a light fail in the field: "We have literally no warranty claims. None. Zero."
Half of GrowRay's output of LED lights gets used within indoor warehouse grows. The other half goes into greenhouse grows, which utilize LED lights in combination with the sun. GrowRay provides an additional feature for its lighting fixtures, which further assists greenhouse operations: its "adaptive sensor," mounted on the lights, can register how much sunlight is penetrating the greenhouse and then signal the lighting system to brighten or dim based upon that input, "so that you're always guaranteeing your plants a consistent amount of light at the theoretical minimum of energy use." And the company's aluminum, triangular extrusion frames reflect sunlight down onto plants in nearby rows, thus reducing the shading on the plants caused by the lights directly overhead.
Unlike other luminaires, GrowRay's lights have been tested in the field. Ganley says, "We're one of the first -- if not the first LED technology company -- to be developed by and owned by an actual multi-state operator," Nobo, which has grows in Colorado and Michigan. He adds, "We've learned how to grow with LED. We've been able to develop these lights in our own facilities. This is something competitors have not been able to do."
GrowRay also shares with clients its SOPs, which are based upon what Ganley calls the company's very own, "hard-won, deep expertise." He says a "whole systems" approach needs to be utilized to achieve success -- it's not simply accomplished by using the company's lights. Those SOP's include details like "how much carbon dioxide to use; what control system you want; what nutrient level and watering frequency," as well as what type of HVAC system to install.
"We did just north of $5 million in gross revenue [in 2020]," says Ganley. "In 2021, we expect to do $15 [million] to $20 million."
He adds, "We do assembly in Colorado, we do R&D, testing. We manage the entire company from Colorado. But components come from all over the world."
GrowRay's two models of lighting units sell for $999 or $1,299 each. But "the lights aren't sold in hydroponic stores," notes Ganley. Instead, they're vended directly to clients. "We are a low-transaction frequency, high-transaction value company," he says. For 2020, Ganley points out, "We only had seven or eight clients above the $350,000 per contract range -- but that's all you need." In addition to its domestic clients, the company will be outfitting projects this year in the EU, Asia, and Africa.
For Ganley -- who's appeared onstage at Red Rocks as a professional musician, in addition to consulting within the lighting industry -- the interplay between people knowledgeable in horticulture and technology is what he likes best about the industry. He observes, "There are a lot of people in the space that care about environmental sustainability, they care about health and medicine, and are brilliant, passionate people."
Challenges: The business is "capital-intensive," says Ganley. "We're dealing with products -- no matter how much efficiency you can bake into your cost of goods sold -- [that cost] a lot to manufacture, weigh a lot, and are expensive to ship."
Opportunities: Ganley says, "It's huge: If you look at what GrowRay's product road map is for the next three years, we are going to become a much more comprehensive end-to-end solutions technology company."
Needs: Ganley says the company needs three things: "access to more clients," more capital, and more stellar employees. Ganley likens recruitment to an NFL draft: "We look for talent first and then we'll figure out how to make use of that [talent]."