The Rise in Horticultural LEDs is a Bump for Business

Image credit: Famgro Farms



LED grow light technology has been around for well over a decade, however, it has only recently hit the consumer market. In the few years that LEDs have been available to growers, the LED grow light industry has seen a dramatic shift --- from immaturity to a praised game-changer. NASA was one of the first users of LED grow lights --- experimenting with high-efficiency plant growth to potentially support future human colonies in space, on the Moon, and on Mars. The promise of horticultural LED’s exposed by NASA, set the stage for businesses to start manufacturing LED lights for growing indoor plants such as greenhouse crops and marijuana. Word of this new plant growing technology spread like wildfire and growers quickly became interested.

Can LEDs grow plants?

Yes, they can. But initially LEDs didn't grow plants well.

NASA knew that most land plants could grow to fruition with only 2 bands of light. Feeding off of this research, commercial manufacturers made the first LED grow lights powered by only these two bands. Consequently, they were not well made. First generation LED grow lights only targeted the 460nm (blue) and 630nm (red) peaks. The first models had a low conversion of energy to light, uneven color mixing, and only focused on two out of the four chlorophyll receptors (chlorophyll A only). On top of this, manufacturers made false claims of actual LED wattages, stating a 90 watt LED grow light could replace a 400 watt HPS.

The knowledge that plants had four color receptors allowed second generation manufacturers to add additional wavelengths --- 430nm (royal blue) and 660nm (deep red) --- that concentrated on chlorophyll B. More wavelengths were added in the UV and far-red wavelengths by third and fourth generation LED manufacturers. Finally, white LEDs were added to fill in the missing spectrums.

It is important to note that LEDs did not have a golden market entrance. Like all new technology introductions, it took a few years to work out the kinks in LED grow lights. With something so novel and potentially revolutionary to the growing industry, an acknowledged hiccup is a gain in the end as manufacturers learn how to design a better product that meets the demands of growers.

Commercial LED Grow Lights

As of this writing, horticultural LEDs are gaining momentum. LED grow lights by top manufacturers, such as Illumitex, are illuminating greenhouses, urban agritectural centers, and vertical farms. LEDs offer the potential to grow crops faster, more nutritiously, and with less energy. As LEDs light up these huge indoor gardens, they are a major player in feeding an ever growing world population through a healthy, local, organic, and energy-efficient way.

Business are replacing their traditional HPS systems with commercial LED setups. Whether these companies are growing with soil, hydroponics, aeroponics, aquaponics or growing herbs, vegetables, fruits, flowers, or ornamentals --- the benefits of LEDs vs HPS are many.

The initial investment in LED lights can be a turn off for many indoor agriculturalists, with lights ranging from a few hundred to a couple thousand dollars. However, growers see a return on investment (ROI) in as little as one year, and usually not more than five years. Growers will save on their energy bill too, because a quality 500 watt horticultural LED light will often replace a 1000 watt or higher HPS system.

Switching to LEDs will save businesses over 50% in energy costs alone. Factor in the reduced growing space offered by LEDs, the reduction in parts replacement, and increased plant yield and quality, and the savings goes up significantly!

LED Grow Lights for Marijuana

LEDs are finding their way into the basements, grow tents, and warehouses of marijuana growers. Everyone in this community has an opinion on LEDs. Some marijuana growers only use LEDs, others combine them with HID lighting, and a fraction of growers despise them.

Why have some growers turned away from LEDs? Either they had a bad experience with early generation, two band LEDs, grew with a poor quality unit (from eBay or Alibaba?), didn't know how to properly use the unit (wrong distance from plants, too few units for grow, etc), or were deceived by early manufacturer’s claims (i.e. growers thought a 90 watt LED could replace a 400 watt HPS). We can't ignore these mistakes and manufacturers and growers must learn from them.

Read this guide on how to choose your LED grow light.

Fortunately, many quality LEDs made today have addressed these concerns and are revamped for growing marijuana (and all plants) from seedling to flower. The advantages of LEDs for cannabis growth are several fold:

  • LEDs put out less heat and can be moved closer to your plants for a more efficient grow
  • LED lights allow tighter internodal spacing, leading to the growth of additional flowers
  • LEDs produce denser and more resinous buds

LEDs are here to stay

LED grow lights had a rocky start, but they now provide many benefits for the commercial and personal grower. The future of horticultural LEDs looks bright as indoor agriculturalists and small operation growers both benefit from this efficient technology. LED lights will increase in popularity as additional urban indoor farms pop-up across the world to feed the world’s population in a sustainable, healthy, and inexpensive manner. Moreover, marijuana growers can grow a higher quality product and save money. As marijuana becomes increasingly legalized, more growers will convert to LED technology. LEDs are here to stay.

Ready to purchase an LED light? You can become part of the movement by browsing our collection of LED grow lights for sale.