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LED advances helping boost indoor garden equipment maker

[caption id="attachment_23313" align="alignright" width="310" caption="Hydrofarm has leased 28,000 square feet in this warehouse at 3925 Cypress Drive."][/caption]

PETALUMA -- Hydrofarm, which manufactures and distributes indoor gardening equipment, is again in expansion mode, growing its Petaluma space by 25 percent.

The company has leased 28,000 square feet in a warehouse at 3925 Cypress Drive.

Hydrofarm got its start in Marin County during the disastrous drought of 1977-'78. Lawns and shrubs died, and a water-conserving hydroponics system developed by Marin resident Stuart Dvorin caught on among gardeners.

Soon, energy efficient grow lights were added and germination kits. Today Hydrofarm manufactures and distributes indoor gardening equipment for both professional growers and hobbyists.

The company moved its headquarters to a 67,691-square-foot space at the corner of Lakeville Highway and Pine View Way in 1994 with 65 employees. Since then it has gradually expanded into 150,000 square feet with a staff of more than 150 employees.

Hydrofarm supplies large commercial greenhouses in the southwest, Midwest and Eastern Seaboard. The company maintains six warehouses across the country.

"Recently we've been supplying Fortune 500 companies like Dow and Monsanto with lighting for their research greenhouses," said Executive Vice President Peter Wardenburg.

LED lighting is being closely studied by food growing giants as well as the U.S. government, he said, for its ability to deliver light over large distances and also provide more control over the spectrum.

Plants respond to certain segments of the spectrum, notably red, which can cause a plant to blossom or to go into dormancy or otherwise change its behavior.

"What we're finding is that red spectra applied intermittently at night can fool a plant into thinking that it's still in a growth rather than a flowering phase, for example," he said.

Chrysanthemums won't blossom without nine hours of darkness beforehand. A commercial grower who wants to deliver blooming plants at a certain hour can control that period using red light.

"Our large research customers are mostly studying the effects of LED lights on corn and other food crops. They're hoping that in some cases light could replace chemicals in commercial food production," said Mr. Wardenburg.

Hydrofarm doesn't disclose revenues, but enjoyed more than 50 percent growth last year, he said.

The company does not take a position on the effect of medical marijuana growing on its markets, or the possible effect of legalization of the herb in California, which might lead to widespread indoor gardening.

"Will it have an effect? Yes. In addition to specialty indoor garden shops, our equipment is available at retail outlets like Friedman's (Home Improvement) and Orchard Supply and anyone can purchase it. But we are a wholesale only manufacturer and distributor so we don't inquire into the motivations of those retail customers. Due to the legal uncertainties surrounding this issue, we don't factor marijuana gardening into our growth projections," said Mr. Wardenburg.

Hydrofarm, he pointed out, has grown to be one of two of the largest indoor gardening equipment suppliers in the U.S. over a period of 33 years by serving wide and expanding markets.

"We expect further growth and we will continue to grow in Petaluma," he said.

Nick Egide of Meridian Commercial arranged the lease for the new space.

For more information visit www.hydrofarm.com.