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50 Innovative Companies to Watch 2019

An Interview with Jeff Bisberg, Illumitex Corp CEO: ‘Our Mission is to Bring the Benefits of Digital Transformation to Horticulture

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“We provide the granular image data that will benefit many systems as our AI will provide early detection for cross-deed to other systems.”

The rising population, climate changes, land use competition for food, feed, fuel and fibre production as well as the increasing demand for valuable natural compounds all reinforce the need for controlled artificial growing systems such as greenhouses, soilless systems and vertical gardening, even in space-crafts and space stations. Most of these growing systems require the application of additional, at least supplementary, light sources to ensure and accelerate plant growth. Because traditional light sources sources generate significant amounts of heat, require lots of maintenance, and are hazardous they are at odds with the demand for sustainability in industrial processes. In terms of both economics and sustainability, new lighting technologies such as Light-Emitting Diodes (LEDs) provide a path back to sustainability. To work in these horticultural applications, LEDs must be compatible with the photosynthesis and light-signalling requirements of plants, which are tightly linked with the two main characteristics of light: wavelength and fluence.

In light of the foregoing, we’re thrilled to present Illumitex Corp.

Illumitex develops and manufactures digitally enabled LED lighting systems. The company makes a range of LED fixtures including the Harvest Edge and NeoPAR lighting systems designed to meet the requirements for a wide range of growing configurations from traditional greenhouses to innovative vertical farms.

Illumitex was incorporated in 2005 and is headquartered in Austin, Texas.

Jeff Bisberg, Illumitex Corp CEO spoke exclusively to The Silicon Review. Below is an excerpt.

Why was the company set up? And how did you expand your company and its offerings over the years?

Since its inception, Illumitex has led the horticulture lighting industry with a perfect balance of horticulture scientific know-how and innovative design. Just like the careful balance each of our growers take in developing the perfect growth recipe, Illumitex scientists and engineers work closely together to find the right solution for a variety of growing environments. We have a passion for horticulture lighting and will continue to lead the development of products that will influence plant benefits including yield, taste, color and smell. Lighting, very often, is the single most expensive and critical part of a successful Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA). It is our goal to understand this symbiotic relationship between light, air, water, and soil with each customer we serve. Our specialized team will work with growers to assist in creating that optimal result and to make sure we provide top-tier service.

Illumitex’s innovation goes way beyond delivering high quality light. By integrated digital technologies into the lighting system we close the digital loop connecting real-time input and output data to deliver the missing data set that enables true digital transformation and all the benefits that come with it; increased yield, shorter cycle times, reduced costs, improved profitability, higher quality produce, and greater agility and innovation. Our focus moving forward is on delivering digital tools (with great LED lights), based on our unique data-set, that help the farmer make better decisions faster.

What kind of responses have you received from your consumers over the years?

On the digital front, we’ve seen responses as wide as why has it taken so long for this technology to become available to head-scratchers that took some explaining and models. These conversations have led us to develop the entry-level product that most strongly resonated with our customer base: A Google earth like the visualization of the farm at scale. This visualization product has almost universal appeal and provides the digital steppingstone to deeper, higher value analytics.

“Earning trust and respect of consumers all around the world is through consistent focus on delivering high quality in all of our actions.” How do you interpret this statement?

As systems rapidly get more complicated very few people know all the details that make a solution work. Trust is perhaps the most important factor to move beyond analysis paralysis to deployment. This statement grabs an essential part of building a relationship but misses the need for education and peer acceptance as important trust building factors. We look to build them all to create a virtuous cycle of trust and success.

How do you stay relevant to the consumer interests and needs in this highly volatile market?

Staying relevant is more difficult than ever in a world where digital technologies and business models change at an accelerating rate. We stay relevant fourfold; one, stay focused on our customers biggest problems, two, educate ourselves on the newest technologies and solutions, three, understand our core competencies and how new technologies impact our core and where we can expand, and four, quickly bring these together to iterate where a new high-value solution that aligns with our business can be created and delivered.

How often do you innovate?

Change is difficult for many people; however, Digital Transformation is now part of all lives. Making this transformation easier to embrace is crucial. Our approach is to demonstrate the benefits through modeling new applications, and supporting in-place trials of our AgTech: LED Lighting and FarmVIsionAI™.

What are the factors that make your brand stand out from the competition?

Our mission is to bring the benefits of digital transformation to horticulture. Our objective is to enhance the manner and methods of a farmer and differentiate with image-driven AI, embedded in our systems and deployed at scale. Our LED lighting will result in a more sustainable operation with 10+ year life and 40 percent less energy. LED will also allow vertical farms to operate year-round with predictable crop results.

How does your company contribute to the competitive global IT platform at large?

FarmVisionAI™ collects images that will provide correlation and ground truth visualization with other companies’ sensor data collected on a farm. Our system compliments the farm automation systems used and collected input data currently available and developing in the channel. We provide the granular image data that will benefit many systems as our AI will provide early detection microservices to other systems.

Do you have any new products ready to be launched?

Yes! We are officially launching FarmVisionAI Tier I and Tier II, and NeoPar7 XO in July. Although we already have a backlog of FarmvisionAI™ jobs, it has only been presented to select customers. The FarmVisionAI platform has 3 applications; FarmWatch, DigitalScout, and HarvestBoost. FarmWatch is the visualization platform, DigitalScout scan you farm at high resolution at scale for anomalies, and HarvestBoost is a combination of algorithms that look at plants and make recommendations.

Where do you see your company a couple of years from now?

Our company will continue to have a state-of-the-art LED lighting. However, we will have most of our engagement from the FarmVisonAI™ system deployment and recurring subscriptions from deployed systems.

Illumitex’s FarmVisionAI analyzes images of every plant at every moment to deliver actionable analytics to positively impact the grower’s success.

Leadership | Illumitex Corp

Jeff Bisberg: Jeff Bisberg is the CEO of Illumitex, the Digital Horticulture Company. He came to Illumitex from GE where he was Chief Strategy Officer for GE Lighting’s IoT platform. Prior to GE, Mr. Bisberg was founder-CEO of Albeo, an award-winning Industrial SSL company, ranked as a Top 10 fastest growing manufacturing company by INC magazine and acquired by GE in 2012.He has been named E&Y ‘Entrepreneur of The Year Finalist’ twice and won numerous awards including 23 patents. Mr. Bisberg graduated from Northwestern University with a Masters in Materials Science and Engineering and was a founding member and Chairman of the Colorado CleanTech Industries Association.

Brian Stansbury: As CFO at Illumitex, Brian Stansbury is responsible for the overall financial strategy of the company. His 20 years of experience spans international and domestic exposure in the areas of corporate finance, financial planning, and manufacturing finance. Mr. Stansbury has held progressively increasing roles of responsibility with companies such as Freescale Semiconductor, Wayne Fueling Systems, Applied Materials, and most recently as Global FP&A Director at Sensitech, a subsidiary of United Technologies Corporation. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Finance from the University of North Texas.

We will continue to break the boundaries of the traditional lighting paradigm to capture visual information on every plant at every moment to provide actionable data that makes a positive impact on your farm.”