Innovator Spotlight: Battlefield Farms

Rapidan, Virginia

We are constantly evaluating new ways to be more efficient with our growing practices to enhance crop quality, timing and overall production. With Fluence LED systems, we are able to improve overall efficiency and productivity in our greenhouse operations.Travis Higginbotham
Research and Development Director
LED grow lights, Horticultural lighting, Greenhouse grow lights, Commercial horticulture lighting
LED grow lights, Horticultural lighting, Greenhouse grow lights, Commercial horticulture lighting
LED grow lights, Horticultural lighting, Greenhouse grow lights, Commercial horticulture lighting
LED grow lights, Horticultural lighting, Greenhouse grow lights, Commercial horticulture lighting

Inside Battlefield Farms: Research with Fluence LED Grow Lights to Streamline Propagation

Located in central Virginia, Battlefield Farms Inc. operates 45 acres of commercial greenhouse production and 20 acres of outdoor cultivation to supply annuals, perennials and poinsettias to the largest retail and big-box stores in the mid-Atlantic region. As they strive to be a leader in environmental quality through the Sustainability Certification Program, Battlefield Farms looks to achieve sustainable standards by testing and implementing new technologies, such as horticultural lighting, to increase crop production efficiency. While Battlefield utilizes an environmental control system on their 45-acre greenhouse, environments are subject to extreme conditions they cannot control. This is where Research and Development Director, Travis Higginbotham introduced Fluence LED grow lights to Battlefield Farms by moving their early stage plants from the greenhouse into a controlled indoor vertical farm. Travis and his team ran trials to determine the impact of Fluence RAZRx on their efficiency and overall operation.

Fluence has aided in trial design after understanding Battlefield’s production systems to fit the light to the grower, not the other way around.
Travis Higginbotham
razr-info

Summer Losses Lead to Research

Each year, Battlefield farms prepares for the high demand of pansy orders in early fall. To meet this demand Head Grower, Marco Verdel propagates pansy seedlings in the commercial greenhouse during the summer months, when greenhouse temperatures are consistently above 90°F/32°C. The high temperatures in the greenhouse result in a 16-18% shrink of pansy plugs (see Photo 1) with inconsistent plant quality and poor root development. This causes a dramatic decrease in transplant success and an increase in labor demand to manage inconsistent plugs. Due to these high losses, Marco and Travis decided to run trials to evaluate new cultivation practices of plugs and liners in a controlled environment under Fluence RAZRx LED grow lights.

 

One way to improve plant quality is to apply plant growth regulators (PGRs); however, to maintain the environmental standards they strives for, Battlefield was looking for alternative cultivation techniques to decrease the use of PGRs and associated labor. As pansies grow well under high light and low temperatures, another way to reduce plug loss and improve quality and consistency is to grow under controlled environmental conditions. This is where Battlefield turned to Fluence, and LED horticultural lighting technology.

Photo 1: Plugs in the greenhouse
Photo 2: Plugs under Fluence RAZRx LED

Research with Fluence RAZRx

To determine the feasibility of growing pansies in a controlled environment with LEDs, Battlefield ran a trial of five pansy cultivars with the following treatments:

  • Greenhouse without PGR
  • Greenhouse with PGR
  • Indoor controlled environment under RAZRx without PGR

 

The trial ran from July to August 2017 with air and soil temperature, relative humidity, and PGR inputs being monitored and recorded. To measure the results, shoot height and root fresh weight were recorded. Four particular data points stood out as a result of the trial.

Improved root development

Pansy plugs grown under RAZRx had the highest root fresh weight at transplant. For all five cultivars combined, the average root fresh weight of pansy plugs grown under RAZRx were significantly higher than those grown in the greenhouse with and without PGRs. The stronger root development resulted in a higher success rate during transplant.

42%

Stronger Root Development Under Fluence

More compact plugs

For all five cultivars combined, the average shoot height of pansy plugs grown under RAZRx were significantly shorter than those grown in the greenhouse with and without PGRs. This resulted in more compact plugs.

25%

More Compact Under Fluence

Reduction in shrink

Pansy plugs had 0-2% shrink under the LED RAZRx treatment as compared to 16-18% shrink in the greenhouse treatments, resulting in overall higher yields and allowing for more accurate forecasting as losses were minimized in a controlled environment.

Increased production per square foot

By deploying a five-tiered vertical rack system, production of pansy plugs per square foot increased by 400% under Fluence RAZRx as compared to growing in the greenhouse. Subsequently, by propagating indoors, valuable greenhouse space was re-allocated utilized for flowering pansies.

LED Vertical Farming Transforms Pansy Production

“We are certainly seeing improvements in transplant success and compact growth without the use of a PGR and significant increases in root development through fresh weight comparisons under the Fluence LED systems,” said Higginbotham.

 

Battlefield Farms continues to work with Fluence to overcome the traditional decrease in quality, yield and transplant success of pansy plugs by exploring the power of Fluence LED grow lights and moving cultivation from greenhouse environments to controlled environment vertical farms. The two companies are currently running additional experiments to compare various light treatments and cultivation techniques, combining both indoor and greenhouse growing.

We know that right now, in our industry, horticultural lighting research and understanding is accelerating at an incredible rate and with this comes more efficient growing and understanding of plant physiology. We are thrilled to have a partner in Fluence to help us stay on the leading edge.
Travis Higginbotham
Research and Development Director
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