Growing medical cannabis has posed many different challenges to even seasoned cannabis growers as they found themselves managing large-scale cultivation facilities, which are definitely different from any basement or attic in which cannabis used to be grown over the last decades. However, searching for a solution does not take a long time, and the answer can be found quite easily. “Horticulture”, says John Dol, owner of CannabiDol Consulting & Design, a company that offers consulting services regarding every aspect of large-scale cannabis cultivation. “We carry out facility design for the cannabis space, but also crop consulting and so on. Basically, we can support companies throughout the designing and the growing processes.”
A large-scale mentality
John boasts many years of experience in the produce industry, specifically in horticulture as well as managing large scale cannabis facilities. “I know what large-scale cultivation can achieve,” he points out. “There is so much knowledge that the cannabis industry can exploit, when it comes to managing operations of that size. Yet, there can be resistance to finally embrace the wisdom coming from a such a closely related sector. The reasons are many.” John has been working on countless cannabis projects, and he has seen a substantial number of growers struggling with kicking off their operations. “This attitude is a direct consequence of prohibitionism, and consequentially of the illegal status that growing such a plant had,” he observes. “The majority of cannabis growers have been working in very precarious conditions: in basements, attics, in any space that was far from people’s eyes. Therefore, these growers used to manage a rather small number of plants with very limited technology – they did not have the luxury of being exposed to all the most recent equipment that was available to their horticultural colleagues.” Then, John further recounts, cannabis was regulated, and veteran cannabis growers jumped into the newly formed industry, hoping that just multiplying x times what they used to do in the basement would be enough to manage a large, commercial growing facility. Needless to say that it needs way more than that.” This attitude has been changing in the last three years as the industry is maturing with more and more operators looking for high tech approaches, better efficiencies and smarter grows. However, the multitude of offerings to growers has also exponentially grown and it may at times be overwhelming to make the right choices.
Only one chance to get it right
The first step to set up a commercial medical cannabis operation is the planning and the designing of the facility in which cannabis will be grown in. “The main problem that I have noticed is that many people do not design for the end goal, and that’s why they can potentially find themselves going through tough times,” John explains. “Additionally, I have seen that still use wood for construction materials – that is clearly not the right choice.
John says that when he discusses filtration, he specifically means air quality, and odor of course. “For odor and air quality there are several units on the market that will work for that. Some use ozone – even though one has to be very careful with it for the impact it has on employees. Otherwise, there is another solution that has been used in the landfill sector for outdoor and/or greenhouses: the perimeter of the facility will be sprayed with a neutralizer on a regular basis. For greenhouses this neutralizer is usually put in correspondence with the exhaust fan through circular nozzles that do the spraying.”
Thus, John explains that there is only one chance to build the facility in the right way. “That chance is exactly the first time you design and build it. You need to build it smart and efficient, in order not to get back to the designing process and redo a bunch of stuff on the go,” he says. “It is of the utmost importance to think the whole thing through.”
A rapidly-changing industry
As cannabis pushes towards a commodity market, growers are asked to acknowledge all the knowledge coming from horticulture and use that to grow cannabis in large-scale operations. “The hype has been so high that people have been allowed to make mistakes as the money was covering them anyway,” John points out. “Now, the industry is changing very rapidly. If one does not control the input cost, the bottom line is going to be hugely affected. Labor efficiency, facility efficiency, and so forth all come into play when you go through the design process.”
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