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Inda-Gro Product Claims Analysis
Manufacturer: Illumitex | Austin, Texas | October, 2014
Generally the technology appears to be solid and sound. The integrated LED array of different wavelength emitters assures a good homogenous mix of light. The use of multiple bar strips rather than rectangular panels assures a good evenness of light intensity distribution over a footprint located directly below the fixture.  Light spectrum is consistent with spectral distributions of many other LED grow lights.

Performance Claims

We’ll focus on the NeoSol DS since this is the most referenced item on their website. Generally their claim is that this 520 Watt device is a 1 for 1 replacement of a 1000 Watt HPS, but in addition to the greater than 50% power reduction they make some really impressive claims.

In the NeoSol DS Fact Sheet there is a guarantee of a 15% increase in yield, > 15% faster grow (from 85 to 68 days, is actually 20%), and 15% higher PPFD on the plant canopy. These same 15-15-15 claims are contradicted in two other places on their site.  In the Trial Program they claim only a 10% greater yield, 15% faster growth, and 25% more delivered light and in the White Paper they state 82 day harvests are reduced to 68 days.  What makes these claims all the more extraordinary is that they are achieved from a product that purports to deliver 25% more light from a device of less than ½ the wattage.

Notwithstanding the fact that the 15-15-15 guarantee does not prequalify the crop type, media or environmental conditions when the percentages are fluctuating within their own documents it really makes one question the validity of the numbers to begin with.

    If your decision to purchase a NeoSol DS is based on the 15-15-15 guarantee, let’s take an in depth look at what this guarantee may, or may not be claiming:
  • Is this 15% in fact the same 15% for all 3 items listed?
  • Is the yield greater on a single grow or greater because you are getting more crops per year?
  • Can I really expect a 15% increase in yield and 15% faster growth rate adding up to another crop per year all for 50% less power?
If the answer is yes to all three of these questions, which is what the 15-15-15 gaurantee implies, than we would in effect be achieving 32% (1.15 x 1.15 = 1.32) greater overall performance than the 1000 Watt HPS light.  While that kind of performance and energy savings is incredible enough in and of itself remember we are also cutting the power in half so on a per Watt basis this would actually be 2.64 (1.15 x 1.15 x 2 = 2.64) times the yield and growth rate of a 1000 watt HPS lamp which actually represents a 164% overall improvement from the HPS.

Of course a 164% improvement over HPS would be a pretty fantastic claim to make but if you dig a little deeper you’ll see that there is no way the numbers can work. Here’s why; a 1000 Watt HPS lamp should be able to muster up a PPF of at least 1300 uMol/S at median life. So how does this compare to the energy (PPF) that the NeoSol DS would emit? What is its PPF value? As much as Illumitex talks about their higher PPF values you have to really dig around their site before you’re able to find a mention on what that value is.  We were finally able find a reference to it on their link PPFD - A Grower’s Best Friend at 720 uMol/s which is actually the NeoSol DS’ total power output in PPF not PPFD. To learn more about the important differences between PPF and PPFD click here.

So for a 15% higher PPFD on a canopy of the same area, only 626 uMol/s, less than 50% of the potential 1300 uMol/s available for the 1000 Watt HPS are able to find the canopy. However you want to slice it we do not see any way of losing greater than 50% of the light output through reflector losses and canopy/tray spray over.  Keep in mind that they emphasize delivered PPFD (PPF/Area) as an important factor.

On this same PPFD link they make a point that you “must first know the LED fixture’s PPF” and then use their PPFD Calculator  to calculate the PPFD. Within this statement they are acknowledging that PPF output is indeed an important product specification. The problem they have is that they do not specify the PPF of any of their fixtures. This is a problem when attempting to use the Illumitex PPFD Calculator on their website as the calculator does not offer a fixture PPF input parameter. Without these input values the PPFD calculator is of no real value. 

What the NeoSol DS Specification Sheet does list is the drive current of the LED array and the individual LED array wattage which is pretty useless and meaningless to the end user. The same specification sheet fails to list the fixture’s ratings for power and current draw which would be essential information to the end user, installer, or contractor.

What the Illumitex Brochure provides us is with enough information to prove they do understand plant lighting terminology and how an artificial light should be designed to meet a plants photosynthetic requirements.  They do a very good job of explaining and illustrating that information.  Where they fall woefully short within this document is that they fail to explain to the reader why it is that their F3 lamp spectrums only emit ~5% in the 500-600nm regions and all of the accepted action charts they point to suggest that these are regions that do require spectrums that reach to within 10% of the peak blue spectrums and to within 30% of the peak red spectrums.  This would have been the place to make their case as to how they view these regions as irrelevant and it was ignored.   Of note; there are an increasing number of LED grow light manufacturers who have recognized the importance of broadening their spectrums into the 500-600nm regions and have gone on to develop LED phosphors and controls that allow the end user to dial adjust the red-green blue percentage of light in the field without having to change or add arrays.  Illumitex offers a control that dims their lights but they offer nothing that would allow the end user to adjust spectral distribution unless they change the arrays out.              

Other Observations

When considering that the NeoSol DS has an MSRP of $2,749.95 or $5.27 per watt a payback calculation would be a critical accounting exercise taken at the initial product specification level and not hidden from the end user as the manufacturer considers it a 'lengthy, arduous and proprietary' accounting task.  Why would Illumitex classify their ROI analysis as proprietary?  If it's because the paybacks are based on the returns realized from growing cannabis with their products than why publish an entire cannabis cultivation white paper comparing their products to HID systems complete with pictures of the cannabis that they purport to have grown under their products?  This would have been the perfect time to explain their unique ROI calculations based on cash crop paybacks?  In any event, a true payback or ROI would be transparent and would certainly never be considered proprietary.          

In the White Sheet - Cannabis Cultivation they give no data and do not indicate which fixtures were used, the wattages, the harvest times, or the yields. While it does show a lab analysis for the resulting crop under each lighting type there really is not any other information to make an informed conclusion. They show several pictures of the crop and final result under the LED, but no photos under the HPS.  Once again we are just going to have to trust them.

The Illumitex website and materials spends the majority of their efforts extolling the superior virtues of their products as they compare to other lighting technologies and other LED manufacturers.  The spectrums and intensities they emit are not revolutionary to plant science unless you consider their lack of white light a leading edge technical advancement in artificial grow lights.  Illumitex attempts to support their claims with the use of graphics and engineering terms that might lead one to believe these products perform as advertised based on the language and percentages they use.  On the chart at the right they claim a very precise 25.4% more light will reach the plant canopy when compared to a 1000 watt HPS lamp.  But Illumitex never supports these incredible statements with the data or math to support their claims.  In fact Illumitex does the opposite by contradicting stated values within their own materials.  This kind of fast and loose playing with the numbers makes all of their claims suspect and unreliable.  Anyone considering purchasing Illumitex products would be well advised to heavily vet the products for themselves and not be influenced by their claims of superiority since there is nothing we've seen in the data they present or the plant response they that makes Illumitex so unique and special that it would support paying what they charge for their products.  


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