July 08, 2019

Harnessing the Spectrum - Black Dog LED

An interview with Black Dog LED about the advances in LED lighting for commercial grow operations.



In a debate as old as time, it's 2019 and cultivators continue to argue over whether LED or HID lights work best for yields, potency, and plant health. With the cannabis industry booming, opinions are finally shifting to favor LEDs. Grow light technology has improved, and it's now backed with better research.

With these advances in LED technology, the benefits for the grower and the plant go far beyond the energy savings. Cannabis Tech sat down with a leader in LED grow light technology, Black Dog LED for A Tech Moment. Kevin Frender, CSO and CTO, and Noah Miller, CEO, taught us about how far LED lighting had come since their inception almost ten years ago.

An Old Motto, but a Good One… "Stop Using Street Lights Start Using Grow Lights"

Black Dog LED's old motto still rings true today. They worked hard to convince growers to move away from High-Intensity Discharge (HID) fixtures designed for street and parking lot lighting towards Light Emitting Diodes (LED) units. 

These old lighting systems, long used within the cannabis industry, efficiently convert electricity into light, but still, have little flexibility across the light spectrum. Historically these lights are grower preferred due to their sheer intensity, LEDs couldn't keep up. As plants need light to survive, and HID lights provided an intense light, they could grow pretty much any indoor crop.

Everyone should be familiar with the HID lights today. As only one typical example, the High-Pressure Sodium (HPS) variety has been casting a dull orange glow across parking lots for decades. They are the standard street light seen in every city in America. Today, even budget-strapped cities are moving away from HPS thanks to advances in LED technology. The technology has come so far in only ten short years.

As Frender and Miller explained, HID technology has been stagnant for many years. The technology restricts the light spectrum produced from either HID variety (HPS, or Metal Halide (MH)). To adjust the spectrum, HID  lights require subtle tweaking of the gas contents, but there is little room to modify safely. It stubbornly maintains the dull orange hue. When it comes to indoor growing doesn't push the plants into peak production.

An LED runs electricity through atom sized gaps in silicon wafers. Tweak the wafers, and you quickly adjust across a broad spectrum. LED technology allows for a much more comprehensive range across the visible and invisible spectrum of light. Combine differently colored LEDs, for different environments. As Black Dog LED has proven, using the perfect light recipe for cannabis, a grower can make massive improvements to yield and quality. 

UV Light, The Not So Secret Weapon

While no secret, UV light wasn't a part of many farmers tool kits until advanced LED systems entered into the market. Black Dog LED calls the UV spectrum their "secret weapon" because of its ability to drastically improve quantity and quality of crop with simple the introduction of a new light wave.

Close to a decade of research has gone into the Black Dog System, which now comes in a range of sizes suitable for the home grower or the commercial landscape. They can tailor their lights to the needs of the client, which means using the light spectrum to finesse the potential of the plant. Of course, in cannabis, this means taking advantage of the UV light spectrum.

Naturally, UV light is a bit of an irritant, both for humans and for plants. Humans use sunscreen, and plants build thicker cell walls as a means of protection. When it comes to cannabis, UV light helps develop a deep purple color, like a plant tan line. It also pushes the plant to produce more trichomes, another layer of natural sunscreen.

However, better trichome development is only the start of what UV can do for cannabis. It's a natural form of pesticide and fungicide. Single-celled organisms, like powdery mildew, can't survive in an environment bathing in the UV light spectrum. Insects also tend to avoid exposure to UV lighting.

Breaking Down the Stereotypes of LED through Research

As mentioned, it's taken Black Dog LED many years and much research to convince old-time cultivators about the myriad of benefits of an LED system. Nobody was arguing that an LED system wasn't drastically more energy efficient, but growers continued to believe it would reduce yield because it wasn't intense enough.

A long history of cheap, full-spectrum LED lights damaged the reputation of the technology. These lights were not grow lights, nor were they fine-tuned to the needs of the cannabis plant. Although full spectrum is perfect for human use, full spectrum fails to meet the needs of indoor growers. These failures ended up tarnishing the LED grow light technology for years. 

Black Dog LED has a long tradition of side-by-side comparisons, timelapse videos, and an established R&D department. This hard work has paid off. It shows their product can produce just as much, if not more as a conventional HID system.  Today, a Black Dog LED can produce over three pounds per light, with better cannabinoid and terpene development, massive heat and energy savings, better penetration into the canopy, and deeper bud color. 

As Frender and Miller demonstrate, Black Dog LED has a passion for cannabis. The company has been committed to moving the sector away from outdated grow light technology and into the future since its inspection. Black Dog LEDs are an industry leader because they've developed some of the most powerful and effective LED grow lights for cannabis. Producing healthy plants, and finessing their growth in ways which benefit the consumer.