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How LED lighting helped a cannabis producer grow

Cannabis plants growing at Vancouver Island's IslandCanna Seeds
Energy-efficient horticultural LED fixtures provide the perfect amount of light for growing craft quality cannabis for IslandCanna Seeds on Vancouver Island.

Staying ahead of the cannabis competition

The cannabis industry in B.C. has grown a lot since the Cannabis Act came into effect in October 2018. By October 2021, there were 192 federal licence holders in B.C., including 55 micro-producers and 13 nurseries.

IslandCanna Seeds is a passionate team of legacy cannabis veterans located in a small farming community on Vancouver Island. They produce monthly batches of craft quality flowers, focusing on strain development and discovery.

As the B.C. cannabis industry evolved, IslandCanna found an unlikely tool to help them evolve with it – LED lighting.

"When we started out, we planned to expand our property into a hybrid greenhouse. But financing became more difficult because suddenly there were so many licenses being granted, and lots of new competition. And with that competition came an increase in quality. So we decided to hold back on expansion and focus on our flower quality and creating a space in the market," explains founder Traviss Graham.

IslandCanna's growing rooms were initially fitted with high pressure sodium (HPS) lights and the team quickly realized that this set up wasn't generating enough light for the product they wanted to grow. So they started exploring LED lighting.

"We needed more light – or PPFD (photosynthetic photon flux density)," says Graham. "And that meant there were two ways to go: One: upgrade the power capability and the HVAC and then put in even more HPS fixtures. Or two: keep the same power capability and HVAC, and just replace the HPS fixtures with high efficiency LEDs. It wasn't hard to see which way would be better for our flowers and for the environment, but the LED upgrade required a much bigger financial investment."

A seamless incentive process

Talking to Ida Keung, their Regional Energy Manager, Graham and his team discovered they were eligible for an incentive. "We got in touch with Ida and using BC Hydro's lighting calculator, we discussed the amount of savings we could expect. We fitted within their parameters and so they offered us an incentive that was a percentage of the total cost."

IslandCanna then started talking to different suppliers and trialing multiple fixtures to figure out which one best suited their space and their cultivation strategy.

"We removed 32 double-ended 1,000 watt HPS fixtures from each of our two flowering rooms and replaced them with 50 630 watt LED fixtures," says Graham.

"The whole process took about four months – and most of that time was spent researching and selecting a supplier so we could get incentive approval. After that, it was a seamless process. When the installation was complete, we submitted all the details and invoices to BC Hydro and they reimbursed us right away."

The difference LEDs can make

That was in August 2021. Six months later, the team are seeing some amazing results. "After the refit, we're getting a 60% increase in yield and also an increase in quality. And then if I were to factor in the lower LED and HVAC running costs – projected to be 131,000 KWh a year – I would say it'll be less than 12 months to recoup the cost."

As well as having a dramatic effect on IslandCanna's product, the LED upgrade is also paving the way for IslandCanna's original expansion plans. "It's definitely made us more profitable and it's opened some more doors to work towards building up the greenhouse. And of course for that, we'll be using LEDs again," asserts Graham.

Could LED lighting help your facility grow?

To find out more about LED lighting for your horticulture facility, contact your Key Account Manager or Regional Energy Manager, or call 604 522 4713 in the Lower Mainland or 1 866 522 4713 elsewhere in B.C.