The story of NextLight spans nearly two decades, and sheds new light on an industry trapped in a purple haze.
The germ of an idea
In 1997, Nick Brumm, the founder of NextLight was living in San Rafael, CA and happily working for Diamond Lights in sales and product development. One day, Nick visited a commercial tomato greenhouse in Sonoma, CA and everything changed. He saw his future in the commercial greenhouse industry and resolved to get an engineering degree to make it happen.
In 1999 Nick began his Mechanical Engineering degree at UC College of Engineering. Throughout this time he took on several co-op rotations at GE Aviation doing: Advanced Controls, Secondary Flows (turbine cooling airflow simulations), Product Support Engineering with M&I Aeroderivatives, and Controls Fuel Systems. He graduated in 2005 with 3.5 GPA and went to work for architectural and engineering firm doing HVAC design and controls for commercial food production facilities. He also began taking all of his combined knowledge and using it to develop a business plan for a commercial greenhouse of his own. Nick quickly found investors and started work on the design.
By the end of 2006, however, it was clear the economy was taking a turn and the greenhouse plan was shelved. Nick knew first hand that the costs to run a greenhouse were too risky in this climate. However, every few weeks or so, his mind would drift back to his dream and he would challenge himself to find ways to reduce cost.
Product launch training
While the economy recovered, Nick went to work at Belcan as a contractor for GE Aviation. He held positions in Mechanical Systems, Controls Systems and finally Systems Engineering. The Systems Engineering position led to a direct hire at GE Aviation in Engine Systems as the Model Owner of the LEAP-1B Externals Integration. The LEAP-1B program is part of the GE Aviation New Product Integration group which is the heart of future growth and revenue. Basically, it is the ideal group to work in when seeking to gain knowledge around: integration, production schedules, manufacturing & testing of new engines and design development.
The Light bulb goes on
In 2010 amidst this rapid career growth, Nick had a lightbulb moment. While looking at a Reef Tank forum, he noticed a few members building custom LED systems to light their coral reefs. They sought to reduce power consumption as well as heat, that were both issues with the metal halides that were typically run on large reef systems. Excited, Nick started doing research and ordered some LEDs to begin his own experiment. Nick discovered that he could in fact cut the cost of electricity. In fact, the power it would take to run the lights in his greenhouse could be cut in half. Labor and the cost of running lights were the two biggest expenses in the plan. With LEDs he could effectively reduce the overall cost of each plant by 25%.
Finding the right LED
Nick began looking for an LED grow light that could do exactly what he needed, but all he found were purple lights. It was then that he backtracked the development of the purple lights and found they were all making the same assumption about plant growth. They assume that you can target certain colors to power the photosynthetic response curve. Nick saw this as a poor assumption — the entire commercial greenhouse industry and every hobby grower alike have been using Metal Halide and High Pressure Sodium lights for 30+ years with fantastic results. These same white lights do not match the “ideal” curve claims of the purple LED makers. Having worked in the grow light industry a decade ago, Nick had already seen the quest for the “perfect spectrum” and found it to be a gimmick rather than a scientific pursuit. With all of this in mind, Nick went in a completely different direction, seeking to make his lights as close to HPS as possible.
NextLight turns on
Nick started the NextLight in 2011 and has compiled years of development — all the while being trained to launch a complex high tech new product by one of the largest corporations in America.
The light that Nick has created took design and development to the next level. And it was accomplished from a clean sheet of paper.
- Uses the best LEDs money can buy.
- Went through extensive thermal design — determining the most efficient way to run the LEDs at very high current.
- Can also maintain a 70,000 hour life rating at 100 degree F ambient conditions while driving the LEDs at a current that would melt any competitor’s LED.