Nanotech and Manipulating Light: Fort Worth’s SolGro develops material to foster plant growth
SolGro, a Fort Worth startup, has developed a greenhouse material using nanotech that converts sunlight from all colors of the spectrum into red and blue light, which just so happens to be the best colors to grow plants under. “What we’re able to do is convert those unused color bands into red and blue,” said Tyler Sickels, the CEO and founder of SolGro. Traditionally, other colors of light are wasted and can even be harmful to plant growth because it aids the growth of bacteria and fungi.
The SolGro technology has proven to be so effective, it has increased some crop yields from 20 to 300 percent. “We can increase food production by at least 50 percent,” said Wei Chen, a member of the four-person team, and a physics professor who specializes in nanotechnology and material sciences at the University of Texas at Arlington.
To have astounding growth numbers like the ones mentioned, the greenhouse material was developed with emphasis on nanotechnology. SolGro couldn’t give many details away, but the nanotechnology doesn’t require batteries or a power source. “It’s just the additive that we put in the plastic that’s doing all the work. It’s a great technology that doesn’t require any energy,” Sickels said.
The company is currently focusing on smaller projects, specifically grow-ops in states where marijuana is legal. This is great news for producers of marijuana products since growing marijuana indoors requires more energy consuming features, such as lights and electricity. The technology allows for more effective outdoor growth and with less infrastructure, thus reducing production costs. An innovation like this could completely revolutionize how food is grown and how much of it can be produced–particularly important since the world population is expected to hit 8 billion by 2025. “It’s more expensive than traditional greenhouse plastics, but your payback is very quick so it’s an easy sell,” Sickels said. Sickels also wants to sell smaller applications in hardware stores. It will be a material that can be used by everyday people who have access to a rooftop garden or to a space that can accommodate a greenhouse.
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