Since the cannabis industry is still in a very early stage, many growers are looking around for answers when it comes to cultivation, and consequently to the design of the facility. This issue is made even more pressing by the aura of secrecy surrounding a number of growers, who do not share their knowledge and what they have learned from their mistakes.
Old Planters of Cape Ann are a vertically integrated medical cannabis cultivator – processing and dispensing. They also operate two CBD retail stores, Cape Ann Botanicals, that boasts an educated staff and registered nurse. It’s a wellness platform dedicated to providing professional knowledge and information to the consumer relative to all products that contain cannabis derivatives.
“I think that most mistakes happen in the initial engineering and planning stages of any size grow operation,” says Andrew Langlois, Facilities Manager at Old Planters of Cape Ann. “There is a lot of knowledge that needs to be shared with growers that have licenses to grow cannabis, with regards to how plants grow, their physiology and their response to environmental conditions. The facility needs to be planned around how you want the plants to be grown.“
Gap of knowledge
According to Andrew, there is a big gap in knowledge for medicinal cannabis growers, that the traditional horticultural sector can help to fill. “The traditional horticultural sector has a lot of expertise around plant systems, which is something that I feel is lacking in our field. It is important that we learn from what exists in horticulture today and build a platform for the cannabis industry that represents the cohesive knowledge from everybody’s participation in growing quality food and quality flowers, etc.”
Especially in the medicinal cannabis field, plant health is an incredibly important issue: “In our field, consistency at the prescribed medical level for the horticulturally produced products is paramount,” Andrew points out. “We still have a way to go until uniformity is agreed upon regarding the proper sustainable cultivation methods. Which is an opportunity for the wisdom that exists within traditional horticulture: to get out, have fun, meet new people, cultivate new relationships. Horticulture represents a true market where knowledge sharing is encouraged at all levels.”
“Growing medical cannabis is a commitment to personal wellness to all the patients we faithfully serve,” says Andrew. “We need to be unwavering in providing biologically active, horti-hygienic standards at all stages of cultivations, regardless of media type. Prevention before prescription is most often not just better for the crop but also better for the consumer, therefore we’re continuing to build trust within a robust medical cannabis industry.”
A constant commitment
One of the most important things, according to Andrew, is to remain flexible and willing to adapt. “Growing medical cannabis requires commitment to the end product. When looking to start a project in medical cannabis, logistically it is always better to construct a custom project suited for the climatic conditions experienced on site. As long as the facilities are meeting the sustainability initiatives of the local governing agencies, either a greenhouse or an indoor facility can be suitable. It is difficult to transition existing structures into sustainably operating entities because the inability to fully customize to the needs of the crop and the associated operations.”
Andrew continues: “When the facility is properly designed and executed, the end product should not differ in quality given that the starting genetics are stable. The big differences will be in the build out cost, the cost of ownership, and scalability. With an ever-changing industry, we think it’s best to start with a greenfield project. It’s all custom, that’s what you have to keep reminding yourself of.”
Still, it is important to keep in mind that there are certain standards that need to be met when growing a medicinal crop. “Quality is what works for you, but it also has to work for everyone in this industry,” says Andrew. “It is important that we establish those standards that are relative to sustainability and producing an effective, reproducible crop. You can’t have variations; this is a lifelong commitment to these patients.”
Not leaving the door open to pests
Andrew has a few of his own ideas when it comes to keeping the plants healthy and of the highest possible quality. “Plant manipulation is unnecessary and I believe that – at least in our philosophy – it is important to grow the plant as fast as it wants to, without stressing it out. When holding onto plants for too long, you open the door for insects and disease. Besides this, growers need to make sure to control the water to food ratio. Make sure you have pH balanced water, and develop your nutrient profile based on your water analysis. Grow your plant in an environment that is conducive to what their optimum photosynthetic rates can be relative to your PAR values. There are so many things to learn, and unfortunately, you can only do that by making mistakes. But it’s ok to make mistakes.”
The cannabis industry of the future
The Old Planters of Cape Ann also have their eyes focused on the future: “In five years I believe that the industry will be one of the stimulating agents for the global movement towards holistic preventative resiliency focused wellness,” says Andrew. “We hope to participate by sharing our experiences and knowledge with the individuals who will find relief from the products produced from and containing components of this amazing plant. We will support all of the members of our community in the industry with honesty, integrity, and compassion in the pursuit of creating a healthier and happier planet.”