The recent changes to the medical cannabis laws around the world have created a great deal of interest in the business opportunities for growers and experts in controlled-environment cultivation. That said, developing more effective cannabis-based medicinal products and improving patient access to these products also imply some considerable challenges. Mr. José, head grower in a legal facility in Czechia and writer of the How to Grow Cannabis Indoors 2.0 grow book, highlights five key areas prospective market entrants should look out for in order to establish a successful long-term business.
Put process standardization at the heart of your production
“As much as it is difficult, time consuming and expensive, process standardization is key for legal facilities and large-scale cannabis producers,” Mr. José explains. There are three main considerations when designing the ideal process standards:
• Setting up a truly high efficient reliable HVAC system (heating, ventilation, air conditioning)
• Meeting governmental and/or pharmaceutical GMP standards
• Ensuring stable genetic material whether you grow from seeds or cuttings.
“Remember that technology and circumstances are not always 100% reliable or stable. From time to time, you may need to change/adapt standards to retain full control of your production process.”
Ensure an optimal climate control system
If you want to grow cannabis commercially then controlling your grow environment at all stages of production is absolutely paramount. Regardless of the type of genetics, lighting or nutrient feeding program you use, the first step to success is maintaining absolute control over the grow environment.
Temperature and humidity control
“Understanding and controlling the effects of temperature and humidity at various stages of your grow will allow you to produce superior crops with high potency and premium value,” he continues. “Having an experienced, hands-on, Head Grower is a great asset. Failing that, ensure your seed company deliver good support and advice. Mismanage temperature and humidity and your crop quality is at risk!”
“High energy consumption is an unavoidable cost for indoor commercial growers. Quality lighting systems consume large amounts of energy, so does HVAC. These are inescapable cultivation costs but will play a key role in ensuring a premium quality harvest that should command top-shelf prices.”
“All pro-growers pay particular attention to efficient odour control, it’s essential when dealing with large plant numbers.”
Consider working with cannabis seeds
“My first experience with Afghani-based genetics was when I was given six sub-standard clones of Northern Lights,” he recounts. “One of them died while the other ones only reached about 5cm. In frustration I planted a Northern Lights seed and it turned out to be the best, most vigorous plant in the grow room. She grew faster, bigger and with superb aroma smell. It was a useful lesson.”
Many growers work with clones and mother plants, but this approach doesn't suit everyone. “Sometimes the quality can seem to decrease over a period of time,” he remarks. “Refreshing the grow operation with a crop of vigorous seed grown plants and new high quality cannabis genetics can offer improvements to those clone growers who feel that quality has taken a back-seat over convenience.” If you are considering using cannabis seeds in a commercial, this quick guide for a cost-effective germination at scale may be useful reading.
Aim for quality before quantity
“My first pro-tip for any aspiring commercial grower is to place the quality of your harvest at the absolute top of your priority list. Strive so that the rest of your team also understand and share this ethos. Try to weave quality into all your production processes.”
“Start with the finest cannabis genetics you can get. Many commercial growers would never grow without LED lighting - cannabinoid and terpene profiles are better with LED than HPS. This helps maximise potency and flavour, two key parameters for quality conscious consumers.
Personally, I love easy growing. I am not a guy who will spend hours bending branches or applying specialist grow techniques for what I believe to be limited benefits.”
“I prefer to follow the needs of the plant. Most of the time, she gives it back to me with spectacular harvests! My second tip is to focus on a clean end-product. So even if I use a hydroponic system with mineral fertilisers, I would always flush before harvest.”
Always run laboratory testing
It’s always a surprise, and a disappointment, to see commercial growers invest in the best cannabis seeds, premium quality LED lighting/HVAC etc only to see the team fail to run analytical lab testing on the harvest. It’s a basic and fundamental quality check which all commercial growers should invest in.
“A full terpene analysis and cannabinoid profile costs just a couple of hundred dollars or less. It’s a small cost, yet it shows you precisely how effective and professional your efforts have been. If you take clones from a medium-THC mother plant you shouldn't be expecting high-THC results. If, on the other hand, your crops are routinely coming back with 25% THC levels then you know you have implemented some well controlled systems that are delivering the expected results,” he concludes.