When talking about growing healthy, awesome plants, there’s something we definitely can’t leave out of the conversation: light. What most of us know already is that plants have a process called photosynthesis which enables them to extract needed resources, or food, from the light around them. However, the impact on light when it comes to how a plant develops goes much deeper than that.
Light is an important part of something called biomimetics – the idea that there’s a brilliant sense of engineering and purpose behind everything in nature. Understanding plants and what they need from their environment can help us find ways of getting these plants to express the genetic traits we’re looking for. Everything in our facility was built with biomimetics in mind and the main reason we’re also using organic living soil.
With help from Jolyon, the person who designed our facility, we were able to develop really neat LED lighting that works in tandem with the tiered growing system we have. We talked about it a bit in our Space Weed post already, but Jolyon had a lot more to share about light, how it impacts our plants, and how we’re using it.
Basic Light Science
Everyone has the same sheet of music, but the way the musician interprets and plays that music changes what we hear. Light operates in a similar way where different spectrums can influence the way a plant grows by encouraging the expression of specific genetic traits. For example, using a certain spectrum of light to make the plant’s aroma more pungent.
This is in part due to something called epigenetics, which is the idea that certain genetic features can be turned on, off, or expressed to different levels depending on outside factors. Ultimately, when it comes to plants, this means that by using light correctly, you’re able to bring out different features, make secondary characteristics more prominent, or change the degree to which different characteristics are expressed by the plant.
To further elaborate about how important light is, Jolyon tells the story of a Spanish town that was growing really great tomatoes. With all their tomato-related success, the town was growing and looking to move tomato production to a new location. The farmers were concerned that a change in location would mean different light and this would impact the quality of tomato they were able to produce. The solution was to develop an LED lighting system that was able to reproduce the same lighting conditions from the previous location. While this may have been a radical concept at the time, the idea of creating unique environmental conditions is exactly what Woody Nelson’s habitats were designed to do.
Another interesting thing about light is how it impacts the way plants are classified and is one way Sativa and Indica differ from each other. Indica plants, largely coming from areas where the light cycles change throughout the year, begin flowering when the amount of darkness in each day begins to lengthen. In contrast, Sativa plants, largely coming from areas that have a consistent day/night pattern, aren’t triggered by the change in light pattern. Instead, they’re looking for other environmental clues, like a change in water levels or weather patterns.
If you’re into learning more about plant cycles and classification, check out our other post on cannabis genetics.
What Woody Nelson Does
We’re using a dual-spectrum LED system – one light imitates the bluer spectrums of light while the other channel has more red in it; similar to metal-halides and high-pressure sodium lights respectively. Each one has a different impact on how the plant will grow and what qualities will develop. A general rule of thumb is that the metal-halides (bluer spectrum lights) contribute more to the plant’s quality, while the high-pressure sodium (redder spectrum lights) has more to do with increasing yields.
We’re also using are 960 watt, LED fixtures, which are incredibly powerful because of the way the light is being produced. Thankfully, they don’t create the same amount of heat as your average HID lighting system. This is especially important with the tiered system we have because the plants will grow right up to the lights themselves, and we don’t want to burn them. With LEDs, you also get more photons per watt. 960 watts is a whole heck of a lot, but it gives us flexibility in what we can do in terms of light manipulation.
On the topic of flexibility, each of the tiered rows we have set up are split into sections that all have lights that can be adjusted individually. This gives us the ability to really tune the lights to what the plants need. Besides lighting, we're also able to directly control humidity, irrigation, C02 levels, and plenty more. The goal was to not only to create a system that can minimize variables and grow consistently great plants, but to replicate nature as much as possible. Even more, this system allows us to grow three varieties of cannabis all in the same room while still being able to meet each of their unique needs.
The tiered system we have is also pretty cool because it’s a rare thing to do in any growing industry. Pair this with our organic living soil approach instead of hydroponics, and we’ve created a unique and innovative, tech-forward growing space.
There’s a lot of science that goes into growing, and the type of lighting is one of the most important factors to consider. By implementing such a powerful dual spectrum lighting system, we’re able to really manipulate the growth of our cannabis plants in a way that gets them to express their most awesome and complex traits (like flavour and aroma). We’re really excited about what we’ve been able to develop and the facility space we have and can’t wait to share more.