Brothers Julian and Jesse Howatt bring a forward-thinking approach to traditional agriculture. Driven by their shared passion for farming and professional background as urban planners, they grew Local by Atta from a hydroponic experiment in one of their apartments into a small-scale commercial farm in Moncton, Canada.
In 2016, a massive fire destroyed their 1,500 square-foot farm and $10,000 in product. Ever the entrepreneurs, they transformed this devastating event into an opportunity to grow. The Howatt brothers expanded their operations into a 7,000 square-foot space, producing a variety of lettuces, basil, kale, Swiss chard, bok choy, cilantro and microgreens.
To scale their business, they needed a new lighting strategy that evolved with the demands of their farm. With Current by GE, Local by Atta found a partner that could offer a sustainable solution that strengthened their product and unlocked substantial energy savings.
Although Local by Atta had found success working with fluorescent lighting, their initial approach wasn’t sustainable economically or ecologically. “After the fire, we began looking at rebuilding, and we only considered installing LEDs,” said Julian. “We didn’t even consider fluorescents. It was mostly because of power constraints. The fluorescent lamps were consuming too much power and generating too much heat.”
To maximize energy savings, the Howatts turned to Hort Americas, a partner of Current by GE, to create a tailored solution that adapted to their specific needs. Hort Americas collaborated with the Howatts to identify the light spectrum and intensity that would optimize growth for their crops in a confined space.
“Hort Americas provided really good feedback,” says Julian, “If we shared thoughts about how to move forward, they would give us their expert opinion.” The process led the Howatts to invest in 300 GE Arize Lynk LEDs, all of which the Howatts found easy to install and flexible to adapt to their evolving setup. With efficient LED lighting, the Local by Atta rebuilt with the confidence that their business leveraged the most adaptable technology on the market.
Investing in a Current by GE LED growing system optimized Local by Atta’s energy ecosystem, resulting in lower energy costs, a reduced carbon footprint and higher-quality products. The investment decreased energy consumption by about 35 percent, which had an outsized effect on the profit margins of the business. Not only do the lights run more efficiently, they emit less heat which significantly reduced cooling costs — one of their biggest capital expenses.
The sustainability of the new lighting system has been matched by its longevity: over the course of a year, Local by Atta benefited from a 100% success rate with all 300 lights. “With non-GE lights, we’ve had a higher rate of failure. So, moving forward, we’re only going to be investing in GE LEDs,” says Julian. The reliability of the new equipment means these entrepreneurs can focus completely on expanding their business, knowing that return on investment is guaranteed.
As for the products, the GE Arize Lynk LED growing system nurtured faster growth as well as a firmer, more appealing textures in crops. In their red lettuce, for example, the GE LEDs increased pigmentation, resulting in the products’ beautiful hue. Going green meant Local by Atta reduced the carbon footprint of every product, which is central the values of their customers.
By harnessing the power of smart technology, Local by Atta set a renewed path for growth that will continue to evolve in the years to come.
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