The future of cannabis cultivation is bright. The long-awaited legalization of cultivating this contentious genus represents a new era of commercial Cannabis cultivation, marking the advent of one of the most significant social shifts of our generation. The gravity of specialized teams being able to legally grow Cannabis in quality-controlled environments; while extracting data, honing operations, and analyzing new cultivation strategies at the forefront of agricultural science, has not yet set in for the average Cannabis user. This plant, and it’s place in society, are on a path of radical change over the next 10 years.
Cannabis production has traditionally been undertaken largely indoors in North America. As much as 3% of the State of California’s energy usage, for instance, is attributed to indoor Cannabis production. Understandably, it is far easier to keep black market production covert in a bunker than in a glass box. The problem with indoor cultivation at a commercial scale, however, lies in two core deficiencies:
- The conditions of indoor operations are less than ideal for cultivating plants.
- The cost of indoor production is not environmentally nor economically sustainable.
At Tantalus Labs, we fight for the idea that modern Greenhouse technology is the future. We believe that Greenhouses will push commercial indoor Cannabis cultivation into obsolescence; ultimately forcing indoor and black market production into technology-driven, legitimate, Sungrown systems.
What Do Plants Need to Grow?
Plants need light, water, and nutrients. Evolving the way nature delivers these three inputs is what 10,000 years of agriculture boil down to. The ability to manipulate an environment to achieve higher productivities or more robust plant health is both a science and an art. The process of designing, testing, revising, and analyzing systems tailored to particular plants has spawned countless branches of science and engineering.
Modern greenhouse technology enables systems that hone the cultivation environment in an optimal way. For critical factors such as light penetration, humidity minimization, and environmental monitoring, there is simply no better system than a high-tech Greenhouse. We grow and evolve as a species by adapting our environment to meet the needs of our agriculture, and the plants that we nurture grow and evolve as well within the systems that we innovate.
Cannabis, for the first time in modern history, is on the cusp of a dramatic agricultural shift. We have a new opportunity to study it with the added benefit of formalized scientific research and understanding. While this is just a piece of the puzzle in terms of its normalization in our society, the most dramatic evolution will manifest in the plant itself.
What are the Advantages of a Greenhouse?
The core advantage of Greenhouse cultivation is that there is simply no better lighting environment in which to grow plants than Sunlight. Cannabis is a plant with a highly efficient photosynthetic process. It will consume as much light as is available, and convert that light into growth at 60X the speed of a Douglas Fir.
* Based on an estimate of optimal spacing of HID lamps in an environment with no natural light (i.e. warehouse etc.) Light Integral data from Fisher, P and Runkle E (eds) 2004
Humidity is the primary enemy of the Cannabis grower looking to avoid mould and disease. Mould is a common adulterant in black market and commercial Cannabis alike, and the more humid the environment, the greater the mould risk. The way that we at Tantalus Labs accomplish humidity minimization is largely through facility design. A central galley way divides the greenhouse facility in two. The galley way functions as a space for work and logistics, but it also serves as a substantial air intake for supplying each bay of the greenhouses on either side.
Air cooled by specialized pads is pulled through the length of the greenhouse via (6) 18in HAF fans. These fans move an ocean of air, beginning above the plant canopy and eventually through it on the back end toward the rear of the greenhouse. Here is located another set of electronic dampers and two 48in exhaust fans mounted just above crop height. Each are rated at ~27,000 Cubic Feet per Minute (CFM) for a total of ~54,000 CFM per bay. This exhaust air is then dumped into an odor filtration bay, scrubbed, and exhausted into the atmosphere.
Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) only systems function differently, and CFM is much lower. In a top of the line HVAC environment, the range of 15-1800 CFM would be likely. Compare this to Tantalus’ 54,000 CFM. HVAC necessitates a system of supply and return air ducts to feed Air Conditioning units and fans, moving the cooled air around.
Modern Greenhouses enable the tightest degree of environmental control in agriculture. Systems monitor and record data on a range of granular environmental parameters, from temperature and humidity all the way to soil pH and CO2 levels. These sensors signal mechanical changes when parameters fall outside of optimal ranges. For instance, if the Greenhouse gets too hot, the system will automatically vent through cooling pads, keeping the cultivation environment at the ideal temperature to allow plants to thrive.
The same sensors that trigger environmental adjustments in Greenhouse record data. This data helps growers better understand the relationships between the environment and trends in productivity, plant health, and potency. Tantalus Labs uses this data in predictive models, helping us refine our practices and learn more about what our plants need to thrive.
What is the cost of indoor cannabis production?
The carbon costs are...
Greenhouses provide a more ideal environment than indoor growops. We believe the result is Cannabis that has been more effectively nurtured than in an alternative style of cultivation system. The latent effect of the Greenhouse is an energy footprint substantially lower than indoor production. It is time to bring the production of this critical plant out of the shadows and into the light.
Thanks to okcannabis.org for providing many of the statistics in this article.