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LEDs for growers: Illumitex links up with global crop company Syngenta

LEDs for growers: Illumitex links up with global crop company Syngenta

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Illumitex, the startup that makes an innovative square bulb, is teaming up with agrochemical giant Syngenta in hopes that LEDs will become the go-to lighting source for the horticulture industry.

Illumitex, the startup lighting company that makes an innovative square bulb, has joined with global crop company Syngenta in a research and business development agreement that could lead to the widespread adoption of LEDs in the horticulture industry.  At least that's what Illumitex is aiming for.

The horticulture industry has long been a target market for Illumitex. But this joint agreement with Syngenta gives Illumitex the boost it needs if it hope to compete with companies like Phillips, which also have developed LEDs for the horticultural industry.

The Austin, Texas-based company developed LEDs designed for a range of horticulture applications including vertical farming, greenhouses, growth chambers and tissue culture laboratories. Its big selling point is custom light spectrum and wavelength combinations that can be used to change the photosynthesis or photo-morphogenesis response of the plant. In other words, Illumitex's tech can be tailor-made to suit the specific needs of the grower.

Illumitex's square bulb

Most bulbs emit direct light in a circular pattern, which means the brightness fades as it extends out. But a square bulb, which is what Illumitex has developed, directs more light from the bulb onto your desk, piece of art or whatever you're trying to illuminate. Illumitex claims its square packaging not only improves the quality and quantity of light, but is cheaper than its LED rivals because there are fewer components.

Syngenta is particularly interested in Illumitex because the company has solved two previous obstacles that have prevented the successful use of LED lighting in horticulture: color uniformity on the plants and cost per delivered photon, Jon Campbell, Syngenta’s head of partnerships and scouting for the lawn and garden business, said in a release this week. Efficient lighting that keeps costs low is a no-brainer. But for growers who produce ornamentals -- think of the hordes of poinsettias that fill every store around the holidays -- color uniformity is just as important.

Illumitex has raised at least $31 million since its founding in 2005, according to government filings and the company's own releases. Investment partners include New Enterprise Associates, DFJ Mercury, Aweida Ventures Management, Applied Ventures, Apex Venture Partners and Mousse Partners. And interest in the company doesn't appear to be waning. Syngenta Ventures, the venture capital arm of the massive agrochemical company, made an investment for an undisclosed amount as part of Illumitex's most recent round of private funding.

Photo: Illumitex

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Kirsten Korosec

Contributing Editor

Kirsten Korosec has written for Technology Review, Marketing News, The Hill, BNET and Bloomberg News. She holds a degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. She is based in Tucson, Arizona. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure