Timo Bongartz, General Manager at Fluence EMEA, explains how the company is helping to transform medical cannabis cultivation across Europe with its innovative LED lighting solutions.
In recent years, cannabis has been legalised for medical purposes across most of Europe. However, the European market is still in its infancy and it is therefore essential for players in this sector to be highly reliable with the thorough knowledge, cultivation experience, and scientific guidance needed to produce the highest possible standard of product.
The current and future direction of European cannabis markets
Currently, most growers of cannabis in Europe are fairly new adopters of LED lighting and so may have limited awareness of strategies to optimise yield and quality in their operations. However, this newcomer status within the European market comes with its advantages—such as, the existing proven expertise available to draw upon from other horticultural areas. As the European medical cannabis market gathers pace, it is expected that experts in other crops will diversify into growing cannabis also. To provide an example, chrysanthemums are short-day plants similar to cannabis, so ornamental growers with a proven track record could use their experience and knowledge to make a successful move over to cannabis production. At Fluence, our experts can be available on the ground to facilitate this transition further, offering sound guidance backed by thorough research. Drawing on a combination of their own horticultural knowledge and the long-established cannabis cultivation techniques seen in North America, European growers have all the potential for the success.
At Fluence, we are currently focusing on controlled environments in countries like Switzerland, Portugal, Israel, Netherlands and Denmark that are becoming hotbeds for medical cannabis production. As the markets here are still relatively new, demand for expert insight and best practice is high and this is where we come in. We have a vast install base of over 325,000 square meters of cannabis canopy under our LED lights, which provides us with a wealth of knowledge and experience for cultivators to draw from.
Our skilled horticulture services team across Europe but also in the US and Canada is positioned to provide guidance in cannabis production, speak the growers’ languages, understand the nuances of the local markets and support growers every day in their facilities. No two facilities are the same, so it is essential to provide a bespoke service to suit each customer’s individual operational needs. This is why we emphasise in-person partnerships with growers to adapt the right lighting strategy for each environment, whether that’s a warm-climate greenhouse with a high daily light integral or a cold-climate warehouse that uses 100% supplemental light. We value growers who want data and analytics to understand highly tactical and operationally specific needs like photo acclimation, seasonal production, and compressed cultivation cycles.
In order to achieve the highest possible standards, cultivators must take the time to understand their own business models and products. Do they want to compete in the high-end flower market, or will they focus on extracts and edibles? Do they want to enter the growing CBD market or produce well-rounded cannabis products that fit the needs of physicians and their patients? Pinpointing the needs of the customer upfront will allow growers to deliver a tailored service to satisfy customer demand.
It is also crucial for growers to use trusted research to inform their business decisions and strategy. As an example, we conducted a study with Wageningen University and Research which demonstrated that cultivators who focus on high-end flower production should apply high PPFD levels to enhance plant growth. As facility space is limited and expensive in Europe, maximising capacity is even more crucial. Growing under high PPFD and broad-spectrum lighting can help growers produce consistent, high-quality crops with balanced cannabinoid and terpene profiles.
Fluence’s extensive cannabis research programme in North America is continuing to fuel the market, with new findings that benefit collective understanding of how light impacts cannabis plant production. These findings are shared with the global network of cannabis growers and can be found at https://fluence-led.com/case-studies/.
Customers and patients
Another key point to focus on is consistency. As the profile of medical cannabis continually rises, it is important for cultivators to maintain consistently high standards at all times, regardless of seasonal variations. Greenhouse growers, in particular, should ensure they maintain the same environmental conditions during the winter and summer. If they do not do so, they will achieve different results and the end product will be inconsistent and unreliable for customers.
About Timo Bongartz
Timo Bongartz has spent more than a decade helping businesses transform legacy processes into interconnected digital strategies. His passion for accelerating business transformation—combined with a childhood affinity for cultivation—ultimately led him to the horticulture industry. Today, Bongartz serves as the general manager for Fluence by OSRAM’s EMEA region, empowering food, ornamental and pharmaceutical crop growers across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa to achieve their cultivation goals through advanced horticultural lighting technologies.