This week, Ash Ganley, CEO of GrowRay Technologies, discusses his collaborative manufacturing R&D effort to create patented LED lighting solutions for cannabis cultivation.
Ganley is the former CTO of NOBO, a small, vertically integrated multi-state operator based in Boulder, Colorado. During his time at the cultivator, he observed the fractured, isolated nature of cannabis cultivation product development, particularly in lighting, and figured that he could find a better way of doing business.
Cannabis lighting lacked research and development (R&D) and efficiency, mostly because non-cannabis technology vendors were marketing to a space coming out of a pre-legal growing culture. Essentially, operators didn’t know what they didn’t know, and lighting manufacturers took advantage of the situation. It created a lack of trust and transparency that caused a lot of waste in the industry.
Early generation LEDs didn't work because they were essentially rebranded warehouse and commercial lighting fixtures. Called "shoebox fixtures" they offered a bad form factor and a non-uniform cone of light. Early LEDs generated a flashlight effect -- too much light directly underneath, and not enough on the edge, which led to conical grows. The fixtures were also being cooled by off-the-shelf computer fans, which caused them to fail thermally.
While LED technology was a hard sell two years ago, times have changed and the technology is being embraced by cultivators to increase efficiency, productivity and sustainability. Cultivators are more willing to embrace LED as well as the associated standard operating procedures (SOPs) to get results equal to or better than legacy products, with the added energy savings.
GrowRay recently received a new patent for its Triangular Extrusion Shade Bar. Specifically designed for greenhouse cannabis cultivation, the shade bar delivers a uniform footprint of light. It’s addressed traditional problems with shading profiles by using a highly polished angled aluminum surface to reflect light from the sun. Other manufacturers have attempted to fix the shading problem by shrinking fixtures, but that has only sacrificed light uniformity.
The shade bar has been under development for a couple of years, but came about as a common sense answer to a common problem: a simple sun reflector concept that they proved through R&D at their assembly shop in Colorado.
However, product manufacturing is costly and GrowRay is launching a highly engineered product as cannabis light fixture costs are racing to the bottom with companies flooding the market with poorly designed products. To remain competitive, Ganley had kept the company lean, adding strategic partnerships, and taking a grassroots style of marketing. For example, GrowRay works as a partnership with NOBO.
Ganley has recently set his sights on taking a more holistic, systems approach to cultivation. Soon, GrowRay will not just be a lighting technology, but an end-to-end technology solutions provider. The company recently ran a program to look for ag-tech startups via mentorships and proof of concept tests. The result uncovered a few candidates GrowRay hopes to pull into its portfolio, be it with full or partial ownership or strategic partnerships.
Still, Ganley looks to the future of cultivation, and believes that the next generation of cannabis cultivation technology is actionable data.