4 Hacks For Successful Commercial Greenhouse Grows

Thinking about upscaling to commercial greenhouse grows? Here are four things you need to know before investing to get the best results.

Dec 5, 2016

California cannabis hopefuls are rushing to buy up old greenhouses in California’s Salinas Valley for their burgeoning herbal empires. Much of the US cannabis production has been limited to discrete indoor grows or secluded outdoor setups. Now, the industry is repurposing the standard greenhouse. Here are four key considerations before converting to commercial greenhouse grows.

1. Maximize efficiency

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A panel discussion at a recent Marijuana Business Conference in Florida took on the topic of commercial greenhouse grows.

Shelly Peterson, the Vice President of light and product solutions at Urban-Gro, shared that in the cannabis cultivation world, longevity means efficiency. She states,

As the cost of this product comes down, the efficient growers will be the ones in it for the long haul.

How do you maximize efficiency? Be smart with what you have, waste nothing, and only do what is most effective with minimal inputs.

Converting to a greenhouse has many benefits. It is less costly than indoor grows that rely on lights in place of the sun. Yet, greenhouses also protect against uncertainties in climate and weather which can devastate outdoor crops.

As Peterson shares,

In a warehouse, electricity costs can run up to 50 percent of the total cost of goods sold, which is a tremendous amount that can be decreased by switching to a greenhouse. In a greenhouse, you can add supplemental lighting to augment what the plant is receiving from the sun.

Switching to a greenhouse efficiently utilizes the best free power source there is, the sun. At the same time, they also drastically reduce the risk of loss by maintaining cannabis in a controlled environment.

2. Weighing cost

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Sure, building or buying a greenhouse sounds great. But, how do you manage those steep costs? Greenhouse grows are far more upkeep than an outdoor lot, and they require producers to cough up a pretty penny upfront, either due to building costs or purchasing.

Peterson had some words of wisdom about this issue as well, explaining,

The cost of retrofitting a warehouse and building a greenhouse are similar, but where you will save is in the operational costs. Lighting can be up to one-third of your total cost in indoor facilities when you switch to a greenhouse that cost can be reduced by 50 to 70 percent.

Taking operational versus up-front costs into account is vital when beginning a commercial grow. Building a warehouse is spendy as well, but the producer will then also need to take on the hefty energy bill that comes with bringing cannabis into a completely artificial environment.

3. Do your lighting research

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As mentioned previously, greenhouse grows allow producers to make the most of a free source of light. Everyone knows that plants love the sun, and greenhouses give them plenty of this vital energy.

However, when growing in the off season or when plants need to be switched to a very particular light cycle, supplemental lights are always an option.

Peterson tells the audience that all grow lights are designed for a specific purpose. In a greenhouse, it is extra important to really do the research on what the plants will need in terms of access to light in your particular climate.

The key is to measure how much light is actually delivered by the sun on a daily basis, which changes throughout the year; at Urban-Gro, we supplement the facility with light fixtures that will not create shadowing during hours of sunlight and adjust to reach the optimal collective light levels.

Before you invest large sums into expensive lighting systems, make sure to find products that actually meet the needs of the plant.

4. Greenhouse grows have less environmental impact

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Greenhouses not only come with a reduced operations price tag but they also substantially reduce the environmental footprint of cannabis cultivation.

For the most part, it all comes down to energy. Greenhouses simply require less energy to operate and produce high-quality crops.

Making sure things are operating as efficiently as possible is another way to cut back on the unnecessary use of resources and reduce impact. Peterson brings home the gold again by advising the audience,

Look at the most efficient way to lower your cost of goods sold. Lighting is a very big component to that. Make sure you evaluate the efficiency of the fixture and ask the questions: Why are we targeting this light level? Is the color spectrum correct? Are you measuring in micromoles per watt?

These are all different questions, however figure out how much light is coming out of the fixture and verify it for yourself, and you will be successful.

It may sound a little tricky at first, but Peterson is right. Once you figure out the right system and spend time investing in the best  quality, most efficient equipment for your region, managing  your greenhouse grows will become a breeze.

Dec 5, 2016