Casa Flora: Fern Cultivation Leader Gains 15% Productivity
Casa Flora was founded in 1966 by Naud Burnett II, a Dallas, Texas landscape architect who started growing his own ferns as a side project to differentiate himself from other landscapers. Soon, other landscaping architects began to ask if they could buy his ferns for their own projects. This backyard side project has grown into one of the largest fern producers in North America with greenhouses and state-of-the-art tissue culture labs in Texas, Florida and China. Casa Flora is well-known in the industry for their high-quality fern plugs and reliable shipping times. They currently grow over 150 varieties of fern, including rare varieties from near the Arctic Circle and the tropics, and are the longest standing young fern producer in the United States.
Picky Fern Challenges
Casa Flora was having trouble cultivating 15-20% of their fern varieties during the winter, even under high-pressure sodium (HPS) lights. Dan Gorrell, their Head Grower, suspected that their ferns were not receiving adequate lighting during the winter. He also found that the HPS lights were wasting money- while ferns can be picky light feeders, they do not require heavy light inputs. After learning of LumiGrow, Dan reached out to explore what smart lighting technology could do for Casa Flora’s ferns. Dan needed a lighting solution that was dynamic enough to achieve even growth across all of Casa Flora’s fern varieties, including the picky ones.
“During our first growing season, a few of our veteran fern growers actually didn’t recognize the plants,” said Dan, “They thought it was a completely new variety, or some sort of bizarre thing going on. It was just the way the plants were metabolizing sugars under the new lighting… Our customers kept saying that ‘This is the best product we’ve ever seen’.” – Dan Gorrell, Head Grower at Casa Flora
“Not long after the lights were installed, my boss came up to me and asked: “What did you do? How did you lower the electrical bill so much?” Dan laughed as he recalled his manager’s reaction to the 70% reduction in their flagship greenhouse’s energy requirements.
The lights have had a dramatic effect on their fern plugs as well. The plants are rooting more quickly, which allows them to reach market size in 15% less time. This means that Casa Flora can fit in more turns and provide a fully rooted, ready-to-go product sooner than their competitors. The ferns’ morphology is also responding well to the LEDs. Dan has noticed that the ferns have thicker stems and broader leaves. Even the color of the leaves is deeper and richer- one variety’s stem has gone from a pale pink to a bright cherry red.
“During our first growing season, a few of our veteran fern growers actually didn’t recognize the plants,” said Dan, “They thought it was a completely new variety, or some sort of bizarre thing going on. It was just the way the plants were metabolizing sugars under the new lighting… Our customers kept saying: ‘This is the best product we’ve ever seen’.”
Best of all, the LumiGrow lights made it possible to grow the picky varieties that had been giving Dan so much grief. Based on suggestions from LumiGrow’s Research team, Dan implemented a custom lighting strategy that successfully counteracted the sunlight’s far-red spectrum during the winter months. Unlike the HPS lights that Dan had been using, the LumiGrow fixtures provided the correct spectrum to meet their picky ferns’ lighting requirements. Casa Flora is now able to provide those varieties in early spring, while their HPS-using competitors must wait until summer.
“We’ve noticed thicker stems, deeper color, and up to 30% broader leaflets. The health of the roots is incredibly higher. There’s a huge, huge difference in how efficiently the ferns are able to capture the LED light and turn it into roots and shoots.” – Dan Gorrell, Head Grower at Casa Flora
Long-Term Benefits and Future Plans
Additionally, the LumiGrow lights have freed up the wattage that Casa Flora needed to update their Dallas location’s labs without increasing the facility’s wattage cap. Dan is also excited to play with different spectral mixes in the future. Since ferns are sensitive to even the most minute changes in light quality, he sees the potential for even slight changes in spectrum to have a big impact on growth.
“At this point, we really are satisfied,” said Dan, “I come into work, I see that purple glow and it warms my heart.”
- Problem. Unnecessarily high electricity bill for low light crop, and certain varieties unable to be cultivated during winter using HPS
- Solution. Replaced HPS with LEDs to reduce greenhouse’s energy needs, and implemented a custom lighting program to improve quality and crop production
- Result. 15% reduction in grow time, all varieties can be grown year-round, reduced power bill allows savings to be invested in facility upgrades, allowing for more stable revenue streams and more sustainable revenue growth
About LumiGrow, Inc.
LumiGrow, Inc., the leader in smart horticultural lighting, empowers growers and scientists with the ability to improve plant growth, boost crop yields, and achieve cost-saving operational efficiencies. LumiGrow offers a range of proven grow light solutions for use in greenhouses, controlled environment agriculture and research chambers. LumiGrow solutions are eligible for energy-efficiency subsidies from utilities across North America.
LumiGrow has the largest horticultural LED install-base in the United States, with installations in over 30 countries. Our customers range from top global agribusinesses, many of the world’s top 100 produce and flower growers, enterprise cannabis cultivators, leading universities, and the USDA. Headquartered in Emeryville, California, LumiGrow is privately owned and operated. For more information, call (800) 514-0487 or visit www.lumigrow.com.
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