The medical cannabis industry in Australia has been growing rapidly in the last few years since it was legalized in October 2016. The team with Powerplants has expanded its activities into this new industry and shares their insights on how to produce a pharmaceutical grade product consistently throughout the year. "In order to do so, control over the process is required throughout. This all starts in the cultivation stage where control of the growing climate and the nutrients provided to the plants, enable to grower to produce consistent quality and volume all year round."
Background in horticulture
Located near Melbourne, Victoria, Powerplants have been servicing the Australian horticulture industry for 25 years in nursery, propagation, and vegetable production. Thanks to this background, they have a large range of connections, capabilities and offerings. "We can provide everything from single products, right through to full turn-key solutions including design and consulting services, supply, installation and commissioning, project management, servicing and maintenance", Adam Beardall, Design and Estimation Manager with Powerplants explains.
Over the last three years Powerplants has expanded their expertise into the Medical Cannabis industry. With this industry of course only evolving recently, Powerplants became a pioneer in building, supplying and installing greenhouse systems and technologies for the medicinal cannabis research facilities around Australia and New Zealand and share their insights on this industry’s needs.
"To produce specific cannabis plant properties in every cannabis harvest, commercial-scale medicinal cannabis growers require a supreme level of environmental control", Adam explains. "This empowers them to develop, refine and repeat these exact growth conditions." To provide this level of climate control, Powerplants partnered with Priva and have service technicians on call 24/7 Australia wide.
However, specific growers have specific demands. For example improving quality, yield, or optimising labour or energy use requires specific needs. "To be able to provide a full offering of products and services, we manufacture products locally and partner with specialist companies. With this combination we can source equipment and design a complete system for every stage of pharmaceutical cannabis production."
Then there's the need for a precise automated fertigation system. "This results not only in maximum yield, quality and consistency but also eliminates the inaccuracies of manual watering in cannabis plants. We design and provide both ‘Flood and drain’ systems (ebb and flood system) or drip irrigation systems, whatever suits a grower’s processes and plant requirements best", Adam Beardall, Design and Estimation Manager with Powerplants, explains.
As well as with their climate systems, Powerplants works with Priva and offers their full suite of fertilisation units. In addition, there's their own Australian designed and manufactured units to match the specific needs of the cultivation facility. "All systems can be combined with the Priva climate control systems to fully integrate the controls and enable a cannabis grower to simply dial in a precision feeding program for every crop."
So we've had fertigation, water and climate - what else does your crop need? How about light. An important aspect of cannabis cultivation is provision of suitable lighting. "Artificial lighting means that the grower can produce up to five crops a year instead of one", says Adam. "Grow lights are now being used more widely by pharmaceutical companies including medicinal cannabis growers all around the world for improved cannabis bud-set, increased growth, artificial growing environments and to guarantee production out of season."
In order to provide the grower with ideal lighting conditions regardless of location or time of year for cannabis plants, flowers, and buds, Powerplants partnered with Philips. "The use of LED lighting can reduce the considerable energy consumption by 40%, while providing the same light levels. Specific lighting requirements are dependent on the location, cannabis strain and grower’s requirements for light spectrum. We can draw on Philips’ worldwide expertise, and also have in-house expertise, to formulate a specific lighting plan for specific facilities."
And the rest...
With these important elements, you're covering the basics of your facility. "There are always specific wishes and demands for growers - whether it's environmental control, fertigation or automation, every grower has specific needs and wishes." In order to cater for all the possible needs, Powerplants partners with local and international companies such as Apex Greenhouses, Bosman van Zaal, Svensson, Javo and Flier. "Our partners are selected based on their knowledge, possibilities and quality. This way we can design, supply and install a facility that will produce successful cannabis plants every time, every harvest at the highest possible efficiency."