Seizing the Opportunity
Six years ago Tony Heil added a hydroponic greenhouse to his family’s Norborne, Missouri farm, an 80-acre operation, 60 miles east of Kansas City, primarily devoted to corn and soybeans. His motivation for moving produce plants indoors was increasing consistency. Produce crops are always vulnerable to the region’s unpredictable weather.
But even with the new climate-controlled environment, Heil Fruit and Produce was missing an opportunity that cost the farm more than four months’ worth of revenue each year.
Heil’s buyer, Door to Door Organics, a fruits and vegetables delivery service, serves a growing number of subscribers with a yearlong appetite for lettuce. However, Heil could not dependably grow the crop from November to mid-March due to low light levels.
Fifth-generation grower Tony Heil knew there had to be a solution to extend his growing season.
Searching for a Solution
Tony first tried fluorescent lighting; but he found the results unsatisfactory. The harvest lacked color and was thin and stretched. The fluorescent fixtures themselves were so large they blocked sunlight from reaching the plant canopy.
Tony considered HPS lights, but concluded they would run too hot. Offsetting their heat with a cooling system would raise the steep operating costs of HPS lights even higher. As Tony had recently endured an electrical rate hike, he was not eager to dramatically increase his energy use.
Combining Power and Efficiency
Tony’s search for a powerful, yet energy-efficient lighting solution led him to LumiGrow. After analyzing the technical data and cost-saving projections provided by the LumiGrow team, Tony selected LumiGrow Pro 325 LED light fixtures. LumiGrow lights deliver all the red and blue PAR of a 1,000-Watt HPS light while they consume 70 percent less energy and emit far less heat.
Tony installed his LumiGrow lights in January of 2013 and shortly afterward received Certified Organic status for his hydroponic lettuce operation – the first of its kind in the U.S.
Tony is on track to recover his LED lighting investment within 10 months.
Growing the Bottom Line
Tony happily reports that the plants have higher density than before, and thanks to LumiGrow lighting and the Kelp4less fertilizer plan, Heil Fruit and Produce is now able to supply a steady year-round supply of consistently healthy lettuce.
The extra light translates into annual revenue gains of approximately 38 percent as Heil can now sell lettuce all year long.
Preparing for a Bright Future
Growing demand for fresh organic, locally grown produce has Door to Door Organics’ membership growing at a rapid clip. In response, Tony plans to add more crops to his hydroponic operation.
Tony states, “Customers don’t like a lot of miles on their food before it’s delivered to them.”
Tony, his wife Beth, and his parents Joe and Ann, want to thank LumiGrow, Kelp4less, and Door to Door Organics for the help they have given Heil Fruit and Produce in keeping their community’s salad bowls full every day.