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Ask-a-Grower Podcast #19-Light Rail-Gualala Robotics


Introducing Gualala Robotics

Welcome back to Ask-A-Grower, folks. We are here with Gualala Robotics and we’re here talking to James Hamilton, the owner and inventor. James can you tell us something about the history of Gualala?

Gualala Robotics was started in 1986, actually started by my uncle with what was then called the Light Rail One. Our first store was Berkeley Indoor, 844 University Avenue in Berkeley. He was sort of disillusioned with the hydroponic industry and I was looking for something to do, so he sold it to me. Then I came up with what was then called Light Rail Two. We started with a few accounts; went to 12 accounts and so forth.

Can you tell us a little bit about Light Rails? What Light rails do? Why they help?

The science of it is really simple. You have a stationary light and the light pretty much gets only to the top of the plants. If you can start moving that light back and forth, you’ll eliminate a lot of shadow patterns. As we like to say “bring light to the shadows”. This way a lot of the plant canopy can take part of photosynthesis. So that is the simple science behind it. It’s been proven to work; otherwise it wouldn’t be around for 25 years.

Is it something that requires power? How do they work?

It’s a motorized trolley that runs on an exclusive aluminum extruded track, then you hang the light from that motorized trolley; it runs back and forth. If you think about a light moving back and forth on a six foot track, it will spend more time in the middle of the track than anywhere else. We’ve built a time delay that you can set so a pause at the ends of the track equals it out so you don’t get more light at the middle of the garden than you do on the ends.

Does this create more of that sea of green without rotating the plants?

Absolutely, that’s what it’s all about.

The light moving back and forth is basically mimicking the sun. Does it create stem hardening?

I don’t know a lot about the science of the plants. I just know that they like it when the sun moves. It’s the Earth rotating that is causing the sun to move. But in this case we are moving the grow light back and forth.

How many different types of light rails do you have?

We make the Light Rail 3.5 Intelli drive, it comes in two models: 6 rpm and 10 rpm. That translates into 2 feet a minute and 4 feet a minute with 0 to 69 second adjustable time delay on the ends of the track. Recently we’ve just came out with a new model called the Light Rail 4 – Adjust a Drive. In addition to having the adjustable time delay on each track it also has adjustable speed. So you can adjust it as slow as 2 feet / minute all the way up to 4 feet / minute; it covers everything. Light rail 4 is compatible with all tracks and accessories that Light Rail 3.5 have. There are a lot of people that probably have 3.5’s, they could easily buy a 4.0 drive motor and then use all their existing hardware. The last model that we built is the Light Rail 5 – commercial duty, its big thing is that you can run two lights side by side. And then you can do ten and cross bars before and after, behind or in front of it and run up to nine lines on that system.

So how much weight will Light Rails hold?

For LR 3.5, LR 4 we advertise a rating of 35 pounds per mover. But it’s about the speed limit. A lot of people put 40 or 50 pounds on them and they do just fine. Light Rail 5 will handle up to 100 pounds per cross bar, so you can have 2 or 3 lights on the cross bar and the drive motor, and then on their additional cross bars that are on the slave trolleys, you can also put 100 pounds on each one of those too.

Will somebody be able to use water cooled lights with light rails?

I would assume, yes. I am not sure about how much water cooled lights weigh, but within that range of weight you can do it.

On a scale of one to five, is it easy to assemble?

It’s extremely easy. One of the newest products we have is a clip, we call it a tent hanger, that slides on the Light Rail 3 rail so you can hang it in a grow tent. I can’t think of all the brand names, but there’s Grow Lab, etc. They put it together with their little half inch steel, two wheeler frame work and these hangers are made to slide on the rail. Then you can hang them right onto the structure of those tents. Works real nice, it makes it super easy, you don’t have to stress on figuring out how to do that now.

Are the motors on the light rails battery operated?

That’s a good question.
Light rail 3.5, Light Rail 5 both run on a 120V – 5W. In fact here at the show we have a total of 9 light motors running, 4 LR5’s and then various other ones and 3 of the 9 are LR 4’s, running a total of 57 W. So it’s less than a 60 watt light bulb for nine light motors, 3 of those are 9 watts. The light rail 4 draws in more current.

That makes me believe it’s extremely cost effective.

Not only that, but if you think about it, you have a given space in which you may have 2 centered light bulbs in and you could hang, one 1000 on a light motor and get the same coverage and the same yield. You are saving 200W right there. So depending on where you are that’s like big bucks.

Do you have any new products coming up?

The tent hangers are the best thing that we came up with recently. Anything else that we have is still in our RD and I can’t really talk about it right now.

Understood. The motors are obviously more expensive than the rails and rail accessories. Can you run multiple lights out of one motor?

That is a good question. For as long as I can remember, we’ve had a product called Add a Lamp Kit. And that comes with a second rail, a push pole rod and an auxiliary or slave trolley so you can tow it with your original drive motor and move two lights in a 12 foot linear pattern.

Two is pretty much the max?

Yes. It is for LR 3.5 and LR 4. I know a lot of people that go to hardware store and buy a bunch of pole rods, or push pole rods and copper nuts. They’ve added some stories about how many lights they can move with one mover. It could be done and we have a good warranty program. But we know they’ve been overworking them.

That is a good point. What is the warranty?

It’s a two year warranty on LR 3.5 and LR 4. LR 5 has a limited lifetime warranty so consumables are not warrantied but the basic unit and everything in it is warrantied for life. In addition to our warranty and our warranty department we also have a refurbish service. We have a lot of people that have owned a LR 3.5 that they may have bought in 2002. And it’s just worn out. They send it in and for an honorable fee we fix it up and get it back to them, good as new and with a new one year warranty.

Do they go through you directly for that or should they go to the hydroponics store?

Anywhere they like. We encourage the hydroponics store to get involved because these guys are in their stores all the time. And if they don’t have time, they can go to – click on products – click on services and you’ll find the refurbished stuff.

Thank you so much. We really appreciate it. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Not that I can think of.

This is James from Gualala Robotics. They make all your Light Rails for you guys. If you have any more questions for him, feel free to visit

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