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Enhanced Light Solution for Sustainable Cropping

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ENLIGHT (Enhanced Light Solution for Sustainable Cropping)

Reporting period: 2020-11-01 to 2021-10-31

The need for food continuously increases as the world population is growing (estimated to reach nearly 10 billion by 2050 (>30% higher than today). To meet their food needs, 56% more crop calories will be needed in 2050. European farm income per worker is low and represent only around 40% of average European wages. Farmers are in dire need for innovative sustainable technologies to boost crop yields without increasing production costs and energy use. There is no silver bullet to achieve food security, hence adopting sustainable solutions and integrating technologies that sustainably enable climate resilient crop production has become a current priority.
CASCADE, a French SME, has developed a game-changing disruptive solution in the form of masterbatches using its LIGHT CASCADE® technology to shift a portion of the sunlight spectrum, little used by plants, into wavelengths most efficiently used for photosynthesis and plant development. This LIGHT CASCADE® technology can be incorporated into greenhouse film covering protected crops and ultimately benefiting growers. In addition to boosting yields, LIGHT CASCADE® technology makes growing food sustainable by significantly reducing water, fertilizer and pesticide use.
As its patented technology can benefit any plant around the world, CASCADE has an ambitious world development plan. However, CASCADE has a per crop business approach targeting berries and tomatoes first and addresses in a first phase South European countries such as Spain or Italy, two largest greenhouse European markets.
With the EIC Accelerator funding, the company is now able to develop and validate its multi-season LIGHT CASCADE® technology in operational conditions for enabling commercialization.
As a sustainable technology, market development of LIGHT CASCADE® technology will result in significant additional horticultural produce (fruits and vegetables), reduction of pesticide and chemical-fertilizer consumption and reduction of CO2-equivalent G emission
The project work is in line with the plan in terms of performances (agronomy performances and improved technology durability) and technical milestones can be maintained. Expenses are also in accordance with the budget and we remain confident we will achieve our ambitious objectives.

Upscaling & Formulation expansion
Our innovative multi-year technology was further developed. However, the work is still ongoing and will be finished in 2022. At the start of the project our work was done in collaboration with a university partner. At the start, of the project we installed a small chemistry reactor in the lab in Nantes, and a new experienced chemist was hired to install this reactor, internalize and further optimize reaction parameters on a small scale. New dye mixtures are also continuously investigated with a new formulation specifically adapted to a tomato crop and another one that showed very good preliminary agronomic results in cut flowers. Upscaling our innovative synthesis has been investigated. A larger reactor has been designed in collaboration with the reactor vendor. Due to the international trade crisis delivery times (and prices) increased a lot. Therefore this work was delayed by approximately 6 months. However, we managed to reorganize our R&D planning to use a small reactor for the first agro trials in order not to delay the overall project plan. Further work was devoted to the masterbatch development and the preparation of a first lab-scale multi-season film planned to be tested in phytotron in the first half of 2022. Despite the COVID sanitary situation and the late arrival of the large reactor, the multi-season film trial will not be delayed and all remains on track.

Validation Agronomic trails
• Trials in the first project year have been focused on 2 priority crops: tomatoes (plus other vegetables) and berries. Targeted countries are Spain, then Italy, Morocco, and France. CASCADE has run 17 agronomic trials (7 Spain, 3 Italy, 6 France, 1 Morocco) all with local experimental farms on small greenhouses (500 m²) or high tunnel trials (6 meters wide, 50 to 100 meters long for berries).
• Overall, agronomic results obtained confirmed agronomic benefits and opened new perspectives in terms of geography (Italy & Morocco) or application (rose cut flower market). Measures on various pests and diseases during agronomic trials also showed interesting results with much better resistance of tomatoes and berries grown under CASCADE films.

Market development & production
CASCADE’s business development was updated by including a stronger pull marketing approach. To execute our pull actions, we are now focusing our strategy on 5 main key Mediterranean countries and 2 key crops (berries and tomatoes) using the below marketing tools :
• GROW CASCADE BRAND: Create a branded product using developing our trademarks, baseline, and promoting our vision.
• PUSH STRATEGY: Actions toward film producers, CASCADE direct customers, consisting in close sales relationship and partnership co-marketing actions already in development with AGRIPOLYANE: support on the website, joint webinars.
• PULL STRATEGY: CASCADE developed many pragmatic communications actions targeting KEY MARKETS: Spain, Morocco and to come in Italy and France: such as testimonials, videos, Media appearance (TV, Press, Radio, Internet), social media, Webinars, billboards, posters, and conferences)
CASCADE’s LIGHT CASCADES® technology goes beyond state-of-the-art by acting in complementarity with existing technologies by providing an affordable, nature-based solution that boosts yield while significantly reducing input use (water, fertilizer), and crop protection chemicals) making protected agriculture more sustainable and profitable. All current state-of-the-art technologies contribute to yield-gain through means other than a natural light enhancement for more efficient plant development. Furthermore, most of these interventions are unsustainable having negative environmental impacts. CASCADE’s revolutionary first-in-class technology transforms natural sunlight into enhanced blue and red light providing a yield gain of at least 10%. In addition, there is a reduction in input use including water, fertilizer, and crop-protection chemicals making greenhouse cultivation more sustainable and profitable to the farmer. CASCADE’s technology together with earlier described technologies described under the state-of-the-art section can be categorized into two groups based on their sustainability factors (Fig 7). A good number of technologies described fall into either the unsustainable category or the sustainable low-yield category (organic farming and biological control). There is a need for sustainable technologies that can reduce the pressure on existing inputs and contribute to increased yields through the exploitation of natural resources – CASCADE’s LIGHT CASCADES® technologies perfectly qualifies as a sustainable technology contributing to high yields and quality produce.
Cascade strategic crops