In this article series, we are going to dive deep into the different types of cannabis greenhouses and the most important things to take into consideration to kick off a cannabis business with the right foot. In this first part, we are going to explore the first and crucial elements to keep in mind when planning to set up a greenhouse. In part two, after some considerations on climate, we will discuss different types of greenhouses and the role of automation.
Planning around your budget
Correctly budgeting for a cannabis greenhouse project is critical; the last thing you want is to run out of money mid-grow or mid-build. A lot of consideration should go into not only the greenhouse and equipment costs, but also your pad prep and install costs, power and water requirements, growing method and medium, nutrients and plant maintenance, harvesting & curing, etc. There’s a lot that goes into a successful cannabis grow. If you’re on a tight budget, it’s better to do the manageable minimum and expand as you can. Even covering a row of plants with PVC and poly is going to yield you decent mids and better results than letting your plants stay exposed to heavy rains and drastic temperature swings potentially costing you half your harvest weight to mold or disease. If your budget is a little more flexible, an automated light dep greenhouse with proper equipment and automation controls can yield 3-5 harvests per year and deliver indoor quality flower that every dispensary and buyer is going to want.
What’s the Master Plan?
“Every successful grower should have a plan in place before buying a greenhouse,” Erick Recors with Fullbloom Greenhouse explains. “Are you going all out on a huge buildout, throwing caution to the wind because you have the dough to ride you through until harvest and sale? Do you have the team to handle thousands of pounds of flower and a place to dry it? Or would you prefer to scale up slowly, grow a high end product that you’re managing yourself or with a small crew? Do you have to maximize your use of a small piece of land? All these things should dictate not only what style and size of greenhouse you go with but also what type of equipment and automation you choose.” Therefore, it is crucial to know what kind of product the greenhouse is going to produce as that would influence the scope and size of the operation.
Growing for Oil Processing
If you’re growing cannabis for eventual oil production, you have a huge property, and the legal permit to go big, then covering a massive field with super high end greenhouses may not be necessary depending on your climate- (avoid areas with naturally high heat and humidity during the growing season). “Plants turned into oil do need protection from chemical crop protection and you can certainly profit a lot more from getting 2-3 turns a year with a budget light dep setup rather than one outdoor pull a year,” Erick points out. “Plus, if you're doing budget light dep coverings you can get a harvest in early summer, during the time of year when quality product fetches the highest price point. However, this can’t be done everywhere, and we’ll dig into it below under climate and permitting options.”
Growing Mid Grade Flower - The Practical Choice
“Countless clients of ours at Fullbloom Greenhouse have massively successful businesses selling mids as pre rolls, or doing business with dispensaries where buyers are on a budget. Using even a basic greenhouse with proper ventilation will give you a product that is night and day over the flower grown outside. Simply protecting the flower from rain, pesticides, and wind does the trick. Depending on your climate and budget, you can grow mid-grade flower on a massive scale either once in a traditional greenhouse or multiple times per year in a light dep greenhouse.”
Growing Premium Indoor Quality Flower
If the clientele are cannabis enthusiasts then they are going to want that high end flower too and most are willing to pay for it. “The beauty of a properly setup greenhouse is you can grow as good (or better) quality flower as indoor growers,” Erick remarks. “Having the right strain, the right automation, the right climate controls, the right nutrition program, the right grower, etc., is critical. Growing high end flower is neither easy nor cheap, but the market is always there and even people with small properties can produce high-quality products.”
City & County Building Permits
Many dreams are dashed for budget grows when the county comes knocking. “That’s why is of the utmost importance to find out what your county/city allows for greenhouses before you buy,” Erick further explains. “Most places in the country allow for some agricultural exemption, and if you’re lucky, you own a property in one of these places. With agricultural exemption permits you can generally put up whatever greenhouse style and frame you want, although that may not be advised if your climate is extreme (looking at you Oklahoma and Michigan). California, Colorado, and North Easterner growers often run into building code requirements. That means the installed greenhouse will need to be engineered to pass local code requirements based on property specifications. In the latter case you’re going to need a high end structure: at Fullbloom we have both engineered and non-engineered options.”
Types of Frames
Cold frames, Hoop Houses, Semi-Gables, Quonset style, Gothic Arch, Gutter Connected, the list goes on and on. What’s right for you is going to be primarily based on climate and budget. “Generally, hoop houses & quonset frames are meant for zero snow, very mild wind area’s and are used for covering large square footage for cheap (they don’t have pointed roofs, so heavy snow and wind will punish them),” he says. “Semi-Gables, Gothic Arch, Gutter Connected houses, all usually share a high angle roof and are better able to sheet snow and stand up to wind pressure. That does not mean all are created equal, you can have a high angle and high arch slope but if you use thin, poorly made steel it will still cave in under the weight of a good wind or snow storm.”
Stay tuned for part two of this series on choosing the right greenhouse for your cannabis operation!