Meet the consultants

Stéphane André

Welcome to our ‘Meet the Consultants’ series! As we highlighted in our previous series, at Plant Empowerment, our greatest asset is our dedicated team. Now it’s time to give the floor to our beloved consultants from our partners and members. Every day, they are working on the front lines, educating growers and putting the Plant Empowerment principles into practice worldwide.

Today, we are highlighting Stéphane André, Grow Light Consultant at Hortilux, one of the founding fathers of the Plant Empowerment foundation. With his eager smile and a full head of knowledge he plays an indispensable role in our team of consultants.

Published: June 19, 2024 Share?

As producers of glasshouse-grown crops increasingly switch from high-pressure sodium (HPS) lights to light emitting diodes (LEDs), horticultural lighting is arguably undergoing a revolution. Helping to lead this “revolution” is Plant Empowerment consultant Stéphane André.

Creating a brighter future together 🔆

Those growers who are investing in LEDs are busily using this technology to fine-tune their growing regime, save energy, and extend the season by growing through the winter months in an efficient way. They are learning how to customize their LEDs’ light intensity and spectra colours such as far-red, green, and blue, according to their crops’ needs and the price of energy. 

As Stéphane, Grow Light Consultant for Hortilux – one of the founding partners for Plant Empowerment, asserts: “You can do a lot with light – it has a big influence on the crop and even seemingly tiny adjustments to a crop’s lighting regime can make a difference. Sometimes, for instance, very small doses of far-red light at the beginning of the night can reshape the plants. We’re learning more and more to optimize and invent new applications of grow light. At the same time, the technology evolves so rapidly that each year, new functionalities and jumps in performances are emerging. It’s a very dynamic sector.”

The holistic approach for sustainable growing

Stéphane explains that growing crops using LEDs – or a combination of LEDs and high-pressure sodium (HPS) lights – is a very different experience to growing with traditional HPS lights. LEDs radiate less heat than HPS lights, for example, and so the plants may have a lower leaf temperature. Growers may therefore be advised – among other things – to install a second climate screen in their glasshouse to regulate the greenhouse’ environment.

Stéphane says: “A lot of growers are now transitioning from HPS to LEDs and this change influences all parameters of the greenhouse. And so, a complete transformation of their whole glasshouse production system is required. It’s therefore very important to take a holistic approach to helping growers with this transition.”

“The beauty of the Plant Empowerment implementation team is that there are experts in all aspects of production, including lighting, irrigation, climate control, data, and climate screens. And each of these elements of the glasshouse has to be adjusted so that the LED lighting– and the energy it can save – is performing at its best to maximize the Light Use Efficiency (LUE).”

Clearly, the expertise of Plant Empowerment’s implementation partners is helping growers both adapt to this “lighting revolution” and grow according to the Plant Empowerment principles.

A small biography 

Stéphane, who studied horticulture in France and worked for many years producing ornamental aquatic plants, reveals that plant physiology – the way in which plants perform at a cellular level – has always fascinated him. 

“I really like photobiology and the technology around it – I like the combination of the two.”

Hortilux – market leader in designing and manufacturing grow light solutions – perfectly matched his interests and Stéphane has now been working as a consultant for Hortilux for six years. 

Technology, research and collaboration  

When Stéphane started at Hortilux, LEDs were an emerging technology and so called: new and expensive. But over the last six years the horticulture industry has seen many growers massively invest in LEDs. Happily, the technology has become more accessible, efficient, and its functionalities are broader. The possibility to adjust the spectrum and the intensity dynamically throughout the day now allows growers to save even more energy and create a specific shape of plant. We gladly see that they adopt and integrate these new light recipes in their cultivation. A lot of research has also been carried out over the last six years and so the level of knowledge is still growing.

Hortilux is involved in numerous research, including research that has been carried out in conjunction with the Plant Empowerment partners Koppert and Svensson. Together, they’ve been looking at how to improve pollination in the greenhouse. As a Plant Empowerment consultant, Stéphane is very much enjoying sharing his knowledge to help growers get even better results.

Learning the Plant Empowerment way 🌿

“I enjoy learning, sharing my knowledge, and the challenge of helping a grower find a solution to a problem. For example, a grower could think he may have an issue with his light spectrum – but the issue could come from a change in climate. Often the solution lies in combining multiple improvements in the greenhouse system.”

Given his passion for sharing knowledge, one of the highlights of being part of the Plant Empowerment implementation team is being able to be part of the Plant Empowerment’s Summer School program, which takes place each June during the international GreenTech Amsterdam trade show in the Netherlands. The Summer School sees some of the world’s top growers unite for a week, learn from the Plant Empowerment team and exchange information with their colleagues, before returning to work and applying the Plant Empowerment principles.

“What we see is that Plant Empowerment is helping growers worldwide to become more knowledgeable and better able to make their crop-related decisions based on facts and data rather than on ‘green fingers’. This is a change that will continue into the future with the increasing use of technologies such as LEDs. And with this is an expanding need to have the right knowledge to apply this technology.”


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Jeannette den Boer