Welcome, indoor plant enthusiasts, to our houseplant interview series, celebrating the world of indoor plants! We're absolutely thrilled to have you join us on this green adventure as we embark on a journey filled with fascinating insights from houseplant professionals. These experts possess a treasure trove of wisdom and experience when it comes to nurturing and cultivating our beloved houseplants.
If you're looking to add a touch of nature and beauty to your home, you've come to the right place! Prepare to be captivated, enlightened, and invigorated as we delve into the secrets and know-how of these passionate individuals who have truly mastered the art of houseplant care.
Picture lush greenery, vibrant blooms, and the sheer joy of a thriving indoor garden. That's the magic that Soltech's wonderful light brings to our lives! And speaking of magic, remember that RHS Chelsea Gold Medal we won in 2022? Well, it wouldn't have been possible without the invaluable support and advice of Soltech team and their incredible lighting solutions.
So, grab a cup of coffee, get comfy, and let's explore the enchanting world of houseplants together. Get ready to be inspired, informed, and thoroughly charmed by our extraordinary guests and their green-thumb expertise! Let's make our homes greener, our hearts happier, and our lives more connected to nature!
In the latest update, we talked to Chris at Soltech, who shared an insight into the development of their grow lights to adapt to the rising popularity of houseplants, as well as how they're making their product more sustainable.
Could you tell us more about the journey of Soltech from its founding by Michael Planer, Paul Hodges, and you, Chris, to becoming a leading company promoting sustainable indoor farming and creating aesthetically pleasing grow lights?
My co-founders, Michael Planer, Paul Hodges, and I embarked on this journey driven by a shared passion for plants, sustainability, and design. We saw a gap in the market for aesthetically pleasing, high-quality grow lights. Starting with our first product, the Aspect, we set out to create grow lights that not only supported plant health but also enhanced the decor of indoor spaces. It was a challenging journey, from ideation to our successful Kickstarter campaign and eventually, setting up shop in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, through a startup incubator, The Partnership for Innovation (Pi).
We stayed true to our vision, focusing on functionality, design, and sustainability. As our company grew, we expanded our product line to include the Highland, designed for larger plant installations, and the Vita, a more affordable, versatile solution. We brought onboard key team members throughout the years which helped us drive growth and innovation.
Today, Soltech Solutions is an 18-member strong team, recognized as the Small Business Administration's Eastern Pennsylvania's Entrepreneurial Success of the Year for 2022. Our journey has been rewarding, and every day brings new opportunities. We remain committed to our vision of transforming indoor growing with beautiful, sustainable grow lights, and look forward to shaping the future of this industry.
What key factors led Soltech to realize the increasing popularity of growing houseplants and identify the opportunity to engineer an aesthetically pleasing grow light?
The increasing popularity of indoor plants, especially among millennials and Gen Z, was certainly noticeable. A combination of environmental consciousness, a trend towards urban living, and the benefits of having greenery indoors were contributing to a houseplant boom. We recognized this shift and identified a key pain point – the lack of suitable lighting conditions for indoor plants, especially in urban environments with limited natural light.
The market had grow lights, but most of them were purple in colour, designed more for utility rather than to blend into a home's aesthetic. People wanted to have their plants as part of their living space, not as an appendage to an unattractive lighting system.
We recognized this gap in the market - a demand for grow lights that were both functional and aesthetically pleasing. This realization was what led us to engineer an innovative solution that combined the science of plant growth with the art of interior design. And thus, Soltech Solutions and its first product, the Aspect, were born. We aimed to provide a light that would support plant health and growth while being a beautiful fixture in a home or office setting.
Happy Houseplants uses the Aspect lights to maintain their stock at the plant barn. How was it developed, and what were the major challenges faced during its creation?
The development of the Aspect light was a journey of engineering, innovation, and a deep understanding of plant biology. Michael, the co-founder and lead engineer at Soltech, spent countless hours researching the precise wavelengths of light that plants need to photosynthesize and grow.
Once he had a solid understanding of the light spectrum required for photosynthesis, he started to design the actual light. The major challenge here was finding a way to balance the need for specific wavelengths of light, with the aesthetic desire for a warm white light that would complement rather than detract from a room's decor. After numerous trials and modifications, we created a custom LED chip that emits the right spectrum of light for photosynthesis but appears as warm white to the human eye.
Another significant challenge was heat management. LEDs can generate a significant amount of heat, which could potentially damage both the light itself and the plants it is intended to help. We resolved this by incorporating large passive heatsinks into the design. This allows the lights to be used for extended periods without overheating, even if left on 24/7.
Overall, developing the Aspect light was a challenging process that required a great deal of innovation, problem-solving, and perseverance. However, seeing our product being used by businesses like Happy Houseplants to maintain their stock at the plant barn makes all the hard work worthwhile.
Could you share some insights into Soltech's ongoing innovation efforts? What are some recent advancements or developments in the field of indoor farming and grow lights that the company is working on?
We’re always exploring new materials and manufacturing processes to reduce our environmental footprint and improve the durability and efficiency of our products. We strongly believe that the future of plants and grow lights lies in sustainable, efficient, and aesthetically pleasing products, and we're committed to leading the way in this area. We are committed to integrating the latest technologies and trends into our products to ensure that they always stay ahead of the curve.
Beyond exploring new materials, we're also focusing on digital innovations to provide our customers with the best possible experience. We are investing in virtual reality technology to provide full 3D renderings of the environments for our commercial clients, which help determine the number of lights required and their optimal placement.
Lastly, we’re currently developing an under-cabinet light set to be released in August of 2023. This innovative product is designed to provide a versatile solution for small indoor gardening setups and offers a discreet, yet powerful light source that can be installed under cabinets or shelves.
Sustainability is an essential aspect of Soltech's mission. Could you elaborate on the sustainable practices that Soltech follows in its operations and product manufacturing?
Absolutely, sustainability is indeed a cornerstone of our work at Soltech. Our commitment to sustainable practices permeates every aspect of our business, from product design to manufacturing, and even in our office operations.
In our product design and manufacturing, we focus on creating products that not only serve their function well, but are also long-lasting, reducing the need for frequent replacements and therefore minimising waste. We use high-quality components in all of our products, ensuring that they have a long lifespan. Our LED grow lights are designed to run for many years, reducing the need for replacements and, consequently, the waste that comes with it.
Moreover, in our packaging, we're committed to reducing waste. In 2022 we redesigned and reengineered all of our retail packaging, reducing size, eliminating foam, and introducing all recyclable material into the design.
We are continuously researching and looking for opportunities to further integrate sustainable practices into our operations. Whether it's exploring the use of more environmentally friendly materials or finding ways to offset our carbon emissions, we're always looking for ways to reduce our impact on the environment.
What are some common mistakes or misconceptions people have when using houseplant lights? How can these be avoided for better plant care?
As people increasingly turn to indoor gardening, there are some common misconceptions and mistakes they often make when using houseplant lights. Here are a few, along with tips on how to avoid them:
Incorrect Light Intensity: Some people believe that more light is always better, but this is not always the case. Too much light can cause plants to become scorched or stressed, leading to leaf discoloration and other issues. On the other hand, too little light can cause slow growth or leggy, stretched-out plants. It's important to adjust the light intensity based on the specific needs of the plant species you're growing.
Wrong Light Spectrum: Another common misconception is that any light can be used for growing plants. In reality, plants need a certain light spectrum to photosynthesize effectively. While many plants can survive under general room lighting, they thrive under light that mimics the sun's spectrum.
Ignoring the Duration of Light: Just like humans, plants need periods of rest. Some plant owners leave their grow lights on 24/7, thinking that it will promote more growth. However, this can lead to stress and poor plant health. Most plants require a period of darkness to process the energy they've collected during the day. Aim for about 14-16 hours of light and 8-10 hours of darkness each day.
By understanding these common misconceptions and mistakes, you can more effectively use grow lights for better plant care and ultimately more successful indoor gardening.
What sets Soltech apart from other indoor farming and grow light companies? How does the company strive to stay ahead of the competition and maintain its position as a leader in the market?
Several factors set Soltech Solutions apart from other indoor farming and grow light companies. One of the most significant differences is our aesthetically pleasing design. Our Aspect grow lights are not only functional but also seamlessly fit into modern home decor, unlike many other grow lights on the market. This allows our customers to blend their plant lighting with their home aesthetics easily.
Sustainability is also at the heart of our operation. Our lights are made with high-quality materials to ensure durability and longevity, reducing the need for replacement and waste. We have an intentional focus on energy efficiency, designing our lights to consume as little power as possible.
Finally, our excellent customer support and experience set us apart. From the moment someone visits our website, through the unboxing of our products, and beyond, we strive to create a fantastic customer experience. We offer expert plant and light consultation to ensure that our customers are empowered to get the most out of their indoor gardening experiences.
What's been the most surprising thing you've learned personally or professionally from your time with Soltech?
One of the most surprising things I've learned from starting Soltech is the incredible impact that nature can have on our daily lives, especially when it's brought indoors. The process of developing our grow lights has taught me so much about the intricacies of plant life and the benefits of indoor plants on human well-being, from improving air quality to reducing stress levels. It's been fascinating to see how our products have not just made indoor gardening more accessible, but how they've transformed spaces into lush, green sanctuaries and improved the quality of life for our customers.
And what are your biggest dreams for the year ahead? Or the next five years? (personal or business)
Business-wise, we are gearing up to launch a new product called the Grove in August. The Grove is an under-the-shelf grow light designed to provide a versatile solution for small indoor gardening setups and offers a discreet, yet powerful light source that can be installed under cabinets or shelves. I’m dreaming for a successful product launch.
What is the greatest life hack for running a business while juggling a life? (I can relate to this one)
Make sure you take time for yourself to relax and disconnect from your business. It is truly important.
DIY task you ace?
Home improvement projects! I support YouTube University.
What's your favourite botanical garden in the USA?
Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA…absolutely stunning.
What would you save first in a house fire (after family & pets)?
Probably my hard drive containing all of the pictures I’ve ever taken since 2010.
Do you have a favourite cocktail?
Gin & Tonic but I’ve been on a Paper Plane kick recently.
What luxury would you take to a desert island?
Might not be considered a luxury, but definitely a magnesium fire starter.
Top houseplant tip?
Use a Soltech light.
Bird of Paradise plants require A LOT of light to thrive — even with a window nearby, you might need a grow light to achieve those characteristic large leaves. We LOVE how @jentlyrooted styled this BOP
In our houseplant blog, we share our passion for indoor plants and everything you need to know about keeping your house plants healthy and beautiful. Make sure to read some of our most popular posts, such as this houseplant care guide, and browse our collections of trending, easy care and best selling houseplants!