Medical cannabis is now legal in 33 states, with Oklahoma and Utah amongst the latest to pass ballot measures legalizing medical use. Some medical programs like California’s and Oregon’s go all the way back to the 1990s. The recreational market is growing leaps and bounds faster than medical did in the beginning, with Michigan being the latest state to legalize recreational cannabis. We’ve only been at this since 2012 and in total 10 states, as well as Washington D.C. have legalized cannabis for recreational use, creating an entire new industry.
Many people and companies coming into the cannabis industry have unique stories. We are truly a melting pot – some of us come from herbalism and naturopathic backgrounds, some from biology and botany, some from the engineering and technology fields. Sunscape LED is one of those unique stories.
Our work in LED design was born out of a discovery by a group of biologists, engineers, and industrial designers. While visiting a cannabis farm in Northern California’s Trinity forest our team had the opportunity to measure the exact Photosynthetically Active Radiation (PAR) of the sun at the peak of day. Our engineers took their findings and began designing a full spectrum LED lighting system built to emulate lighting conditions ideal for cannabis growth. To our surprise, our predecessors in LED horticulture lighting didn’t fully appreciate the importance of the sun’s intensity and robust spectrum. Unlike other early LED lights, our first lighting designs replicated the perfect balance between the spectrum that plants need, and the intensity that they desire. Our discovery moment came with our first lighting trial with an Arcata, California indoor cultivator. We exceeded our expectations, and from there on out let our studies of the natural world, and evidentiary data drive our decisions in design. We knew we had to include cultivation sciences as part of our innovation and design practice.
After the initial success in Northern California, we took our first LED system to a struggling medical cannabis facility in downtown Los Angeles. They needed to increase their dry flower output within a challenging infrastructure environment – a modified shipping container. High rental costs demanded changes and the facility needed a way to boost output within their existing space.
Limited by 320 square feet, only 10 HPS lamps could fit in a container; the facility was failing to meet its operating costs. Faced with the challenge of growing under 8ft ceilings, the HPS lights generated high radiant heat, requiring more HVAC to maintain suitable leaf surface temperature for optimal plant metabolism. This limited the facility to cramming the space with a single tier of large plants to meet their output needs. The crowded space did not leave enough room for proper air circulation, creating pest and disease issues associated with poor ventilation. Even experienced cultivators were only able to average 13 lbs per harvest.
After our first generation LED lights were installed in a double stacked configuration for vertical cultivation, we were able to increase the amount of lights from 10 to 21. Even with limited air ventilation along with additional logistical and infrastructure challenges, production was more than doubled (from 13 lbs HPS to 28 lbs LED per harvest). These positive early results prompted our team to persevere and move the testing ground to the upcoming recreational markets of the Pacific Northwest – specifically, Oregon.
Even with the initial success, we still didn’t feel we were ready to deliver an industry standard product. In the past, LED systems couldn’t provide for even coverage without sacrificing light intensity. During Oregon’s transition to the recreational market our team took the opportunity to set up our Innovation Center in Salem, Oregon. There the Sunscape team has worked side-by-side with cultivators, developing the farm and our LED lighting systems together. Systematically, we improved the efficacy our LED’s, refined the usability of the product by firsthand experience, and ensured that we had consistent empirical data to show our initial findings can be repeated.
Our 2019 SOLO Pro Series system meets these challenges and provides growers the ability to harness the full power of semiconductor technology, and realize the true potential of this powerful plant.