5 Lighting Trends to Watch
Photo courtesy of Proper Cannabis

5 Lighting Trends to Watch

2021 research shines light on changing trends in cannabis cultivation

January 6, 2022

As the cannabis industry enters a new year, there are lessons to be drawn from yesteryear and trends to monitor in 2022. As detailed in Cannabis Business Times’ 2021 State of the Cannabis Lighting Market report, one key trend is the industry’s adaptation to new lighting technologies and practices in efforts to maximize yield and minimize costs. More research findings and cannabis lighting trends to keep an eye on include:

1. LED lighting most popular across all cultivation stages

The cannabis industry’s adoption of light-emitting diode (LED) lights continued in 2021. The majority of research participants (69%) reported using LED lighting in propagation—up 48 percentage points from 2016’s report. Meanwhile, 62% of participants reported using LED lights in vegetation (up 45 percentage points from 2016) and flowering (up 47 percentage points from 2016). These massive shifts illustrate a more holistic view of the industry’s technological adoption over the years.

However, high-pressure sodium (HPS) and fluorescent lights still hold their place in the market. HPS lights are most common in flowering (37%), while 22% of research participants indicated using HPS in propagation, and 18% in vegetation.

Fluorescent lights were the second-most popular lighting fixtures in propagation (33%) and vegetation (26%). Only 8% of participants use fluorescent lighting in flowering.

2. Cost of LEDs remains a barrier to entry

While a number of cultivators have implemented LED lighting, the cost of the technology often isn’t a fit for every operation.

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When asked, “What is preventing your operation from introducing LED lights in the flower cycle within the next 12 months?”, the most common answer was “challenges in securing funding/capital for LED lighting,” as cited by 33% of respondents. Other top challenges follow the same theme, with 27% of respondents saying “payback/ROI is too long” and 20% saying “LED lights cost too much to install.”

With that said, 63% of growers who do not currently use LEDs in flowering are currently planning to or considering doing so in the next 12 months.

3. Price, efficiency among top lighting considerations

Of all the factors to consider when purchasing new lighting fixtures, price was the only factor cited by a majority of research participants (51%). Other top factors cultivators consider when it comes to lighting products include light spectrum (45%), energy efficiency (44%), and light intensity (40%).

Interestingly, more than one-third of growers (35%) indicated that any lighting fixture they would considering purchasing must be LED—perhaps another sign of LEDs becoming the industry standard.

Dimmable light intensity is another key factor growers consider, as cited by 29% of growers. Furthermore, 60% of growers rated lighting fixture dimming capabilities as “important” or “very important” to their cultivation operation.

4. Lighting challenges continue to persist

In 2021’s State of the Cannabis Lighting Market report, “managing energy costs” is the greatest challenge cultivators face when it comes to lighting (cited by 15% of respondents), followed by “ensuring consistent/even lighting across the crops” (14%) and “lighting’s impact on terpene/cannabinoid development” (13%). “Managing heat load,” “automation,” and “lighting’s impact on plant growth’ were each cited by 10% of participants.

5. Vertical farming on the rise

The portion of survey participants who indicated using vertical farming in their operations increased in 2021, compared to 2017’s report.

In the 2021 report, 37% of participants indicated using vertical rack systems in vegetation, up from 31% in 2017. Similarly, 21% of respondents reported using vertical rack systems in flowering, up from 13% in 2017.

However, the majority of vertical rack systems in both vegetation and flowering are just two tiers. Respondents using two tiers account for 22% of the 37% who reported using multiple tiers in vegetation; respondents using two tiers account for 16% of the 21% who reported using multiple tiers in flowering. In contrast, just 6% of research participants reported using 4+ tiers in vegetation, and 3% use 4+ tiers in flowering.