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Improving cannabis cultivation through facility steering

Efficiency is the very top priority for any CEA grower. This is even more true when it comes to growing a highly valuable crop such as cannabis. “The challenge with cannabis is that it’s not like a tomato variety that has been bred for over 20 years and has very homogenous characteristics,” says Joel Fuzat, Senior Vice President at ALPS. “Cannabis is a very complex plant, and we don’t understand the original genetic background as of yet. Therefore, growers see wild or unexpected behavior under changing conditions.”

Joel Fuzat, Senior Vice President at ALPS

The challenge of consistency
The biggest challenge is indeed to grow cannabis of consistent quality throughout different cycles. This can be particularly hard, if not impossible, to achieve if the infrastructure does not really accommodate that. “There are many facilities that are not designed optimally for this crop. The thing is, however, that, until we become mature and we understand the crop, the facility, the budget, and the possible outcome, the role of crop consultants is absolutely critical.”

Facility steering
That is why ALPS has developed APIS, which is grounded on the concept of facility steering. “APIS gives you data to steer your business,” Joel explains. “We have come to a deeper understanding of what APIS can do during these months of development.” APIS is a tool allowing growers to control what is happening throughout the cultivation facility on a very granular level. “Instead of treating each area in the facility as separated, APIS treats it as a single being,” he continues.

EU GMP Compliant Greenhouse design by ALPS 

Just like for growers, the top priority of APIS is to increase the efficiency of the whole operation. “For instance, we want people to understand how much work is done in the trimming room, how much of that time was unproductive, and the quality of the material both when it comes in and out. APIS tells the entire story of the product, starting from cultivation, controlling that the right quantity and quality is produced.” APIS also tells the grower where the inefficiencies are so that manpower can be allocated where it is needed the most. “A grower might see that all that labor is not needed for trimming, and thus it’s useless to put more money into that part of the operation. So, you can take the workforce from there and put it somewhere else, for instance. Instead of using that additional money for trimming, they could use it for crop consulting.”

Cutting off inefficiencies and better allocating resources are essential in a market that is heading towards commodification. “That trend towards commodity pricing is going to happen,” Joel points out, “which means that growers need to understand the cost per gram today and work around that to beat the competition and gain market share. Today, there’s no metric that can be used accurately to assess that, yet having such data is absolutely critical to better tackle the cannabis market. The ambition with APIS is also to provide growers with a true cost per gram, plus cost per service, to help business successfully compete in a regional or global scenario.”               

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