Great Northern is growing tomato yields by harnessing LED technology.
Photo courtesy of Fluence by OSRAM

Based in Kingsville, Ontario, Canada, Great Northern Hydroponics is a leading greenhouse operation best known for its tomato crops. Led by president Guido van het Hof, the company turned to LEDs for 16.5 acres of its 70-acre facility to reduce operating costs and improve production.

According to Van het Hof, Great Northern previously used high pressure sodium (HPS) lights and was one of the first adopters of supplemental lighting in Ontario. When LEDs became an option, he was curious about how broad-spectrum LEDs might help his operation. As a result, they began plant trials and research studies. The result was clear.

“We’ve spent a lot of time and energy on this work,” Van het Hof explains. “But over time, we’ve discovered that tomato crops perform beautifully under white light LEDs and come with higher yields and fruit weights as well. We’ve recorded 10% increases in fruit production and yield under Fluence’s broad-spectrum LEDs in comparison to previous harvests under other solutions. It’s a much, much better option.”

For Great Northern, there is also the added benefit of cost savings as the result of using LEDs. By retrofitting LEDs into 10-acres of glasshouse space, Van het Hof estimates that his business will save $150,000 Canadian (roughly $123,402 in the U.S.) in annual operating costs as a result of the switch. As part of the transition to LEDs, Great Northern can use fewer engines to fuel its entire facility. Before, it took three engines to power the facility. Now, it only takes two.

“That’s a really, really big deal for us,” he says. “We are always trying to be more efficient in how we work and this was a clear way of getting to where we want to be.” By working with Fluence, Great Northern was also able to qualify for the Independent Electricity System Operator’s (IESO) Save on Energy Retrofit program that Van het Hof says “drastically” reduced the cost of upgrading to LEDs.

As the business continues to grow, Van het Hof says that he plans to explore using LEDs to grow cucumbers, various peppers and strawberries. He also hopes that by using LEDs, Great Northern can produce increased tomato yields and keep yields consistent year-round. If that can happen – and Van het Hof is optimistic it will – then he says he expects profits to rise. The company’s retail partners, he says, are intrigued by the idea of being able to get the same volume of tomatoes year-round, thus keeping supply consistent.

“If we can do that, it would be a big win for us,” he explains. “It’s also something that is not possible without us making the switch to LEDs.”