Martin Helmich with Hoogendoorn Growth Management thinks that Plant Empowerment will also be a leading factor in the development of the medical cannabis industry. It is a part of Growing by Plant Empowerment (GPE). That is a new way of growing and is introduced in the Dutch greenhouse industry by the Dutch Cooperative Grower Association. Hoogendoorn has been involved in the research since 2006. Although NGG is mostly associated with energy savings, the primary aim is to optimize plant growth by improving the greenhouse climate conditions. So the main focus is on plant growth and development. Although substantial energy savings are achievable as well this is regarded as a bonus rather than a goal.
Software for medical cannabis
According to Martin the horticultural industry has been focusing more and more on data gathering as an element of growing. “The future is in data,” he says. “This is what we mean with plant empowerment, we need to start looking more and more at the plant and the information it gives us. In order to help with this we, at Hoogendoorn, make easy to use software for medical cannabis, that allows growers more insight into the plant’s data. We made this software on the basis of plant empowerment.”
Let’s share knowledge
One of the big reasons that there is a lack of knowledge in the industry, is the lack of knowledge sharing. “It’s quite difficult to talk specifics because there are a lot of NDA’s,” says Martin. “There isn’t a lot of openness regarding growing. Sometimes you want to say more, but you aren’t allowed to. Cannabis is a rather closed off community. Tomato growers talk amongst themselves about best practices and how to grow to the fullest potential. This does not happen in cannabis.” But this knowledge sharing is actually incredibly important for a growing industry, and this is why Hoogendoorn are looking to help build grower’s knowledge through the concept of plant empowerment.
Kaleb Mudrik, Pieter Kwakernaak, Gina Gonzalez, Martin Jensen, and Luis Trujill with Hoogendoorn Growth Managment Canada
Understand your crop
Another reason that there is a relative lack of knowledge within the medical cannabis sector is the fact that it is quite young. Martin believes that Plant Empowerment is the way to supplement this knowledge, and to allow growers to gain understanding of their crops more quickly than would otherwise be possible. “Though the industry is young, there is an incredible amount of measurements being done in these facilities,” he says. “Through the concept of Plant Empowerment we want to give growers the tools to better understand their crops. So we are offering an online training to support this learning process. For cannabis growers in particular we tend to prefer one-on-one webinars over large group based ones, because the knowledge that needs to be shared is so specific to the grower’s situation, that a broad scope will not work well. Tailored advice is the way to go, since there is no widely accepted standard that most growers follow.”
A large part of the cannabis growing industry is indoor growing operations, which differ a lot from greenhouses according to Martin. “At Hoogendoorn we do both indoor and greenhouse climate control, and there are a lot of differences between the two,” he says. “The main thing to me is that indoor facilities seem to be a lot more industrial than greenhouses. There are often more sensors, gauges, etc. in indoor growing operation, those operations often focus more on precision. We have industrial automation departments that help a lot with those kinds of facilities. Of course, there are also large greenhouses that require these types of precision instruments, but you will see it more often in indoor.”
Model helps growers anticipate and prevent Botrytis
Hoogendoorn are also working on models that deal with more specific issues, such as the prevention of particular diseases in plants. “We have developed a new botrytis model for cannabis,” says Martin. “These types of models make it possible to anticipate what is going to happen in the future. The botrytis model helps growers anticipate and prevent the forming of grey mold on their plants.” Hoogendoorn will keep developing their software to incorporate more of these types of models, which allows growers to more easily anticipate potential issues in the cultivation process through the use of plant empowerment.
These exciting times will only continue into the next couple of years as the industry develops. “We have learned a lot as an industry over the past five years, so the next few years will hopefully be as productive,” says Martin. “In the end this will mean that we can make better products and allow growers to produce better products. In the upcoming years the goal is to try through Plant Empowerment to give the customers the tools to move forward, to take a lot of the work out of their hands. Plant Empowerment is the key.”