Heliospectra AB recently announced that it has hired Caroline Nordahl Wells as Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Heliospectra’s North American operations.
As a co-founder and former executive of LumiGrow, Nordahl Wells was responsible for recruiting and leading a successful sales organization. She is widely credited with advancing the LED grow light category and accelerating market adoption of LED lighting for commercial horticultural applications.
Nordahl Wells will be responsible for continuing Heliospectra’s sales growth in the medicinal cannabis market, where the company made significant inroads with large commercial installations in 2015. She will also expand Heliospectra’s market share within the traditional commercial greenhouse grower market and emerging urban agriculture and vertical farming market segments. Heliospectra doubled its U.S. sales headcount in 2015 and will add more sales professionals in 2016 to fuel this growth with Nordahl Wells’ proven strong leadership.
Christopher Steele, COO of Heliospectra, says, “Having Caroline join us speaks volumes about Heliospectra’s growth potential and technology advantages over our competition. Her experience and abilities strengthen our position to become the outright industry leader in intelligent LED grow lighting.”
Greenhouse Grower recently caught up with Nordahl Wells and asked her about how her prior experience will be useful in her new role, as well as the most critical issues facing growers today.
Greenhouse Grower (GG): How did your previous experience prepare you for this new role?
Caroline Nordahl Wells: My first professional position was that of marketing manager with a highly disciplined Fortune 500 company in the professional services industry. My manager, who became a mentor, drilled me on the importance of listening to what customers need now and anticipating what they’ll need next. These are the keys to selling with integrity: addressing customers’ problems with real solutions and becoming a partner rather than a vendor.
Before I joined Heliospectra, I led the marketing and sales effort for a company I co-founded (LumiGrow), which pioneered LED grow lights. I could clearly see the potential of LED technology and was eager to see it fully realized by a company with the financial and technical resources to continually deliver on this promise to growers. My search led me to Heliospectra, a Sweden-based company that is quickly expanding into North America. The team and the technology are best in class and impress me daily, which is so motivating. Experience taught me to trust my gut, but to verify my gut with data. In reviewing the data, Heliospectra emerges as the company most likely to become the global leader in horticultural LED lighting solutions.
GG: What are some of the biggest issues or concerns you’ve heard from the growers you work with, and how do you plan to help them deal with these issues?
Nordahl Wells: Heliospectra is ushering in a new way of thinking about light, which is about as fundamental as it gets for plants. I’m recalling a meeting I had with a grower this past week. He is a multi-generational grower with decades of experience in his own right. Out of necessity, he has figured out how to use his HPS lights to their best advantage. On a lot of days, he’d like to turn on his lights to supplement less-than-perfect light conditions, but doesn’t do it because of the steep electrical bill he knows he’ll receive. It’s an almost daily dilemma, especially during shoulder (peak and off-peak) seasons.
I’m excited to talk with growers like him about adjusting light intensity and color output as greenhouse light levels and seasons change. In other words, just use the light you need, when you need it. It’s a tremendous breakthrough for growers who’ve had to deal with lights that are either on or off, period. They’re blown away when they see how they can improve productivity, without incurring high electrical bills, even during high-light months. Features like our far-red wavelength really excite growers because they see the bottom-line benefit of increasing annual cycles. It all comes back to listening to growers. When we hear what growers want to achieve with lighting — unbound by the constraints of HPS lights — we can help them achieve big profitability gains.
GG: What are the biggest challenges this industry is currently facing? Conversely, what are some of the biggest opportunities on the horizon?
Nordahl Wells: Greenhouse growers will take their deserved place among our economy’s heroes in the years to come. This is because they represent the most efficient form of agriculture, making the most of our planet’s straining resources as the world’s population swells.
It’s becoming more widely recognized that greenhouses can yield crops with less energy and water use than is possible with field-based agriculture. But considerably more efficiencies will be required of growers to profitably manage mounting production requirements.
Therefore, we are going to see adoption of energy- and water-efficient technologies take off. But growers are pragmatic. The products that will stick are those that don’t require compromise. To draw an analogy, no one wants a “green” dishwasher detergent that doesn’t get the dishes clean. Growers want win-win products that deliver both energy cost savings and equal-or-better yields. That’s the standard any company hoping to sell technology to growers will need to meet.
GG: Looking ahead, what role can you play in moving this industry forward?
Nordahl Wells: One of the chief roles I can play is that of myth buster. For example, there’s a historical perception that LED lights are expensive when compared to HPS lights. If you looked only at upfront cost versus total cost of ownership, that would seem to be the case. But when we look more closely at HPS lights’ true cost, we find a trail of red ink in operating expenses. Then contrast this with LED lights, which deliver yield gains that eclipse the significantly lower costs of operating them. In working with growers, I make sure I have a solid understanding of all the metrics, then we look at how much money each light fixture can return to their wallets every month.
One of the best parts of my job is talking candidly with growers about what they want to achieve with lighting. If we can accomplish something meaningful — like accelerating cycles or improving vigor — while we demonstrate a clear payback, then both the grower and I get very excited. It’s exceedingly rewarding.
GG: If you weren’t in this profession, what would you be doing?
Nordahl Wells: That’s tough to answer because I’ve found the right fit. I’m grateful every day for the opportunity I’ve been given.