With 7 Years of commercial cannabis growing under my belt, I have had a lot of experiences that have taught me a the do’s and don’ts about commercial cannabis growing. So save yourself some money and frustration by reading through this commercial growing guide, and start increasing your yields and revenue right away.  

Know Your Strains

Increase Cannabis Yields | Know Your Strains | GrowHigher

There are so many strains out there that are available for you to grow in your grow rooms. How many times have you heard “yo, man, have you heard of electric dog shit, this strain hits so hard!”  This inevitably starts a 30-minute, back-and-forth conversation about Sativa and Indica, and plants I have never heard of.  I would go so far as to say that of the thousands of strains I have seen, I have seen most of them only once and never again.  

So what’s next? What strains do you decide to grow? Everybody already has girl scout cookies, gelato, purple punch, sour diesel, etc, should I stick with that or try to grow something more unique? 

Even more important are the questions about how each strain grows. Which strains will help me to have the largest yields?  How long is the flowering time, and how quick does it veg?  In the end you will never get your yield to grow higher unless you know all of these answers.  

Many seed sites have the flowering time, but few mention other important details like how fast the seed roots, or how long it takes the plant to propagate. These can be important details for the management of your grow. For instance, if you make the mistake of putting in a 52-day strain along with a 63-day strain, you could be making a lot of extra work for yourself at best, and hampering your yield and productivity at the worst.  Unfortunately, I’ve had to learn this the hard way, wasting countless years with 15 different strains trying to figure this out, planting seeds and waiting months to get a good plant. 

In the end, you’ve built up mother plants and finally when you get into production you find out that this plant sucks, and won’t produce what you’re looking for.  

A simple suggestion is to do your research before you start. Buy clones of the strain you are interested in and then find out if it works for you.  After that, feel free to experiment. Unfortunately, experimenting costs time and money and will take a long time before you see any results. In the meantime, you still have to pay the bills and please your investors, so it’s best to start with things that you know will work, and experiment when you can afford to. As I like to say, “work on technique before boutique”.  

Keep a Cannabis Growing Log

After only a small amount of trial and error, you have found the one or two strains that you are going to perfect. Congratulations! But now that you are a commercial grower, it’s not as simple as just growing a bunch of plants all at once. You have so many other things to worry about and often the last thing you’re thinking of doing is writing a journal of your process.  Let’s face it, when it comes to deciding what to do with your time, is it more important to fix your pump, water your plants, or to journal? Luckily, in a commercial grow facility you have help, so delegate some of the work to keep the plants alive, and make it a priority to keep a growing journal.  

Why is this so important? Without a growing journal there is no accurate way to determine how this strain can be fine-tuned like a mean green growing machine. You need to be able to look at your mistakes and successes. 15 minutes a day is all it takes, but over time this can be the difference between stagnation and huge growth. 

Check how long it takes for roots to first show in clones, how fast they veg, take pictures, record environments, watch your nutrient intake. The more you write, the better your next harvest’s yield will be.

Check Your Water

Just like with humans, the quality of the water you have is extremely important to the health of your plants, and can change the way your grow operation functions. Is your primary water source well water, city water, or rain water?  Why does it matter, water is water right?  The type of water that you have at your facility can vary widely from well to well, and city to city.  

For example, well water can carry bacteria, lead, arsenic radon, and, depending how close you are to other agricultural enterprises, even pesticides that have leached into the groundwater.  Meanwhile, city water can be very hard, but varies from city to city.  Additives of chlorine, or heavy amounts of magnesium and calcium can send you wrong signals when using it to water your plants. It’s hard enough to perfect your art without the one thing all the plants need messing it up for you. 

My advice is to actually hire a specialist in order to get your water sampled before you use it. This sample will help inform some important decisions for your grow operation, most important of which is which filters you should use.  Should you use reverse osmosis?  Once you get your filters make sure the filtered water is balanced correctly so that the alkalinity and PH are right. You need to have that water exactly where you need it before mixing with your nutrients so that they can do their job.  Study your water long before you even start to grow, it could save you millions.  

Automation

Test Your Water | Growing Cannabis | GrowHigher

Long gone are the days when we would have 20 plants to take care of on a medical license. Every plant would get plenty of love and attention, getting spoken to every day, with music playing on a portable speaker, and the smell of the dirt and the water making you proud that you can take care of your babies and create a quality product.  

Now let’s talk about commercial growing. You just dropped 2 million dollars of your hard-earned money or you have investors that are depending on you to get the job done. The bottom line is dollars. Now we need 20 people to do a job that used to be more than handled by just you and a friend. Before, if you forget about your plants while you went out for the weekend it was a bummer, but now try having a half million dollars on the line. You can’t just shrug your shoulders and say “OOOOPS.“

In commercial growing, all the boxes have to be marked off, all the time. Try explaining to investors that Jim didn’t know it was his day to come in and verify that the plants were watered.  Or that Cindy accidentally turned off the wrong breaker and killed the AC before leaving for the day. Of course, we know it would never happen to you! Well, actually it has happened to me, and it sucks. The panic, the rationalizing, and the wondering why you decided not to check on their work is a painful experience. And the truth is It can happen to anybody, including you.  

Automation is the key for commercial growing success. With automation, you can get temperature and humidity alerts, you can control watering, and verify if the soil has gotten too dry. You can verify the current PH and PPM and adjust it as needed. Now, automation definitely still takes vigilance and oversight. On occasion, you might have to run to the grow on the weekend to fix a problem, but it is certainly much better than “OOOOPS.“ 

Image: Mark Seliger

With so many companies these days that offer automation, make sure to do your research. It’s a great idea to ask other growers for their experiences, and potentially even have them walk through how it all works. Automation will save you a ton of time and resources, so don’t cheap out on the automation and expect great results. 

 People are born to make mistakes and they will. I guarantee.  If you only have to rely on one person, it is you the grower.  Take it from me, I have already failed this and was lucky to survive.  Ultimately every mistake made is your fault, get the funding, take a loan don’t go without. This major mistake could make your company another cannabis statistic but hey do you. Lots of people out there waiting to buy your license off you.  But who wants to break even.  GET RICH!

Grow Room Layout: Plan Around Your Tables

One of the most overlooked aspects of designing an area to grow in is planning the room around your growing racks or tables. I have been in so many inadequate rooms where you can barely move to take care of your plants. You cannot fit a ladder in to maintain either dehumidifiers or air conditioners. While I agree you must use all indoor space as much as possible, many often tend to forget that if you have a lot of growing space shoved into a room, but cannot get people or equipment in the room, then it clearly wasn’t a wise design for your grow room.  

Make sure you have adequate space in the front of your room, 5 to 6 feet at minimum.  If you have rolling racks make sure that you leave enough room between rows so that you can work both sides of the table at the same time.  Try to lollipop a room when you can’t move. Make sure you have a way to get up to the second level. Make sure that you can access all your equipment.

Before designing your room, contact a supplier of grow racks, and they’ll be able to help you make the best decision for your layout. If you are going single-level or double-level, check with the supplier and find out how much they cost.  Finally, pick a product and have the grow table company give you dimensions and help draw out the room.  Many companies provide this service to help you get on your way to grow a new business, and you are not expected to already know how your layout should be. But if you design your grow room two feet short, you can miss out on valuable canopy space. Most grow rack companies only have things in certain sizes and customizing can be VERY EXPENSIVE, so you’ll want to get things right the first time.  

Take it from me, I have already messed up all this stuff for you, so don’t same the same mistakes I did! 

Try Vertical Farming

Vertical Farming | Increase Cannabis Yields | GrowHigher
Source: ssir.org

So you have done your research, practiced growing in your home, talked to everyone you can think about. You have convinced your investors that you can turn a profit and it will make them all rich. You’ve looked at every picture of a grow room that you could find on google and Instagram, and you have a building picked out. Now it’s time to start the hard work! 

STOP! Let’s not forget one of the largest mistakes that I have seen when people are designing their grow rooms.  Are you going to try to grow vertical, or stay single-level?  Most growers are already confident in their abilities as a bench grower. So what’s the difference? You might think that if you add on another level, then voila, you’ve doubled your production. However, it’s just not that simple.  

After you have figured out your ceiling height, and designed your room around your grow racking system, you can then decide if vertical racking is a good place to start. Ask yourself these questions first: 

  • Is my ceiling tall enough to grow two levels of plants? 
  • Do I have the capability of doubling…
    • My electricity? 
    • The cost of my lights? 
    • My air conditioning?  
    • My staff?  
    • My water
    • My fertilizers and nutrients?
    • My fans?
    • My mop buckets?!?!?! (just kidding on this one)  
  • How are you going to reach those plants? 
  • How many people can work on each side of a table? Consider Ladder Safety, etc. 

Make sure you don’t just see dollar signs when you plan on doubling your production because you have to also double a lot of bills. Work out the details, and then decide if vertical growing is right for you. If done right, it can definitely help to increase yields and profits. 

You may have decided that you want to go vertical, but that you would like to start out with a single-level bench until you make a profit, and then can afford to farm vertically. In this case, it’s important to design everything with expansion in mind. Buy a single-level rack system that can easily be expanded. Most simple bench systems cannot be expanded, so you’ll want to a vertical grow rack system that is designed specifically for that purpose. Plan your room accordingly and when you are ready to expand it will be a simple operation, and you can avoid having to tear down everything and losing three months of production. 

What about the others who have the room, have the resources and want to go balls to the wall?  Why not? Make sure that you have done all your research and have a grow racking system that will fit your needs. For instance, are you going to design your grow room with mobile grow shelves, or keep them stationary? For answers to questions like these for your situation, it might be worth having a chat with a grow room layout consultant, who can help you make all the right decisions. 

To get started, I highly suggest checking out GrowHigher’s mobile grow racking systems. These grow racks are of high-quality, and provide exactly what you need to increase your yields and run a successful grow operation. While the big, fancy electronic or hydraulic systems are really cool, they can definitely cost a pretty penny for just a little more convenience. When you’re getting your grow room started, that money would probably be better spent on growing a profit, and GrowHigher’s grow racks are perfect for the job. 

Local and sustainably grown foods are becoming more popular among general public. As food grown in this way becomes more competitive in pricing, the popularity can only increase. For farmers using hydroponics, this means that analysis of their farm economics and business strategy needs to be evaluated often. Profit margins for hydroponic greenhouse farms are generally expected to be at a minimum of 50%, but with organic methods this margin can increase to 60%. Further analyzes can uncover additional changes that can be implemented to increase the profit even further.

Key Takeaways:

  • There is a huge market for locally-grown food, so farmers need to make sure their prices are competitive.
  • Choosing how to grow is difficult, with many options ranging from traditional to high-tech.
  • One of the best cost-effective methods of growing is a greenhouse, especially combined with organic methods.

“A typical greenhouse farm can expect gross profit margins that range from 50% – 65% for lettuce and tomatoes.”

Read more: https://www.hortidaily.com/article/9225135/farm-economics-soilless-hydroponic-farm-costs/

The indoor agriculture marketplace is seeing accelerated changes during times of Covid-19 and concern for climate change. The need for food security is causing a lot of places to start vertical and hydroponic growing systems indoors. These systems are allowing farms to produce A-grade food without needing soil and as much water resources. The food also gets to be distributed locally. Many hobbyists are also getting into these trends. The need for change is sparking a lot of innovation.

Key Takeaways:

  • A new webinar series will focus on the big trends happening with indoor farming.
  • The webinar series takes the place of a convention that was cancelled because of the pandemic.
  • Trends include things demanded by customers like plant protein, the use of robotics, and more.

“From COVID-19 to climate change to food security concerns, there are a number of factors accelerating megatrends shaping the indoor agriculture marketplace”

Read more: https://www.greenhousegrower.com/production/what-are-the-megatrends-shaping-indoor-farming/

The COVID-19 disruption has exposed supply chains to volatility rarely seen before. Indoor vertical farming promises to shorten food supply chains by bringing food production closer to consumers. It also uses far less land and water, and no pesticides. The problem with vertical farming is the huge amount of energy required to power the indoor facilities. A possible solution lies in microgrids, which localize power generation and bring multiple clean energy benefits. Setting up microgrids requires a lot of upfront capital, but innovative business models like energy-as-a-service have helped to make the investment more attainable.

Key Takeaways:

  • Vertical farming is taking off as an alternative in large part because of the panic around the pandemic.
  • Most vertical farms use microgrids to supply their specific energy needs.
  • There are business models in place to help small farms secure microgrids and the technology they need.

“Despite the major advantages, there is one looming barrier to mainstream adoption: the process is very energy intensive.”

Read more: https://pv-magazine-usa.com/2020/06/16/sustaining-the-future-of-indoor-vertical-farming-with-microgrids/

San Diego has launched a new Urban Farmer Website on June 15th. City administrators predicted a new found interest in Urban farming based on Covid19. Residents in the city are being asked to shelter in place and limit grocery trips. Permits are not required to raise hens or pygmy goats and San Diego Chicken exchange groups have hit Facebook. There are very few people complaining and you can even keep up to two bee hives at your place. Many other farmers, who are not raising animals grow crops! Tower Gardens are popular and people grow herbs, leafy vegetables and other vegetables.

Key Takeaways:

  • San Diego has created a new website for urban farmers in the area.
  • With the pandemic, urban farming has become more popular than ever, but up to now there has been no tracking system.
  • Urban farmers can grow animals like chickens or goats, or take advantage of rooftops to grow vegetables.

“They grow a variety of herbs; leafy greens such as lettuce, kale, collards and Swiss chard, and non-root vegetables, including tomatoes, aeroponically in vertical towers.”

Read more: https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/columnists/story/2020-06-17/column-covid-fuels-urban-barns-and-rooftop-farming

Director General of the European Commission, Wolfgang Burtscher, has recently announced that organic farming is more feasible for the environment in the long-run. By 2030, the commission plans for 25% of all EU farmland to be organic. Not only will this help the biodiversity of the area, but it will also provide consumers with healthier produce. Also, Burtscher believes that grazing livestock can have a beneficial impact on biodiversity despite reports of the contrary. Overall, the EU is very seriously taking part in saving the environment.

Key Takeaways:

  • Organic farming comes down to making biodiversity possible. Although it may not be easy, it is very important for the environment.
  • Although we need to make enough food for 9 billion people, we have to make sure the environment is live-able.
  • Livestock can be really important for bio-diversity but extensive livestock can start to bring unwanted problems. It’s about finding a balance.

“The commission’s biodiversity strategy says that 25% of EU farm land must be under organics by 2030.”

Read more: https://www.farmersjournal.ie/organic-farming-more-sustainable-in-environmental-terms-550360

If farmers don’t take control of the climate change debate, they will get pushed around. This is why former NFU Scotland president Nigel Miller is taking on the joint chairmanship of Farming for 1.5 Degrees. Based in Edinburgh, the group has 10 farmers, scientists and environmentalists as members. As a livestock farmer and a qualified vet, Miller sees that issues are not one-dimensional. He believes that feeding people, maintaining biodiversity, and managing climate change have to go together.

Key Takeaways:

  • Under the most extreme model, all farms would be either vertical or greenhouses and livestock would be mostly pigs and poultry.
  • Agricultural output could increase from 20 to 40 percent, but red meat and dairy would decrease by 50 percent.
  • Consumers may have to pay more for their food once these changes to take place.

“Feeding people and maintaining biodiversity have to go hand in glove with managing climate change.”

Read more: https://www.fginsight.com/news/farmers-must-take-control-of-the-climate-change-debate-109263

Typical procedure for fertilizing melons in a hydroponics bay was to just dump it all in(and thereby over fertilize). Now, experimenters are realizing that different kinds of nutrients affect the melons in different ways. One nutrient set affected how thick the rind was and how dense the fruit was. Another nutrient set affected the taste and smell of the fruit. So, careful fertilization and application of nutrients will yield the best possible melons from each crop.

Key Takeaways:

  • Hydroponics often over-fertilizes without paying attention to varying nutrient needs across developmental stages.
  • In an experiment, modified nutrient solutions were applied to improve fruit quality and to optimize fertilization schemes.
  • The study demonstrated the benefits of precise N- and K-nutrient formulations applied at different developmental stages.

“The quality-oriented fruit production in well-controlled enclosed hydroponic systems has been greatly enhanced by the technology of precision agriculture.”

Read more: https://www.hortidaily.com/article/9224413/quality-improvement-of-melons-in-hydroponic-system/

A new guide called “Food that doesn’t cost the earth” by the LWARB’s Advance London team and the Sustainable Restaurant Association aims to reduce negative climate change. These tips outlined in the guide will help food establishments to affect their bottom line more efficiently. The 7 key areas in this guide can help any restaurant that is serious about tackling climate change by making small changes to their menu and business practices. The goal is to eliminate waste and create a circular economy.

Key Takeaways:

  • A new guide aims to help food producers adopt more sustainable practices.
  • The plan covers seven areas, and might also help businesses recover from future catastrophes like the current pandemic.
  • The guide was authored in collaboration with several chefs who support a greener food movement.

“Food production is globally one of the major contributors to damaging climate change emissions”

Read more: https://www.circularonline.co.uk/news/new-guide-to-running-sustainable-food-businesses/

The mayor of Jersey City announced a partnership with AeroFarms to develop the country’s first municipal vertical farming program. At 10 sites across the city, approximately 19,000 pounds of vegetables will be grown yearly. The program is part of a larger initiative by the World Economic Forum called Healthy City 2030. Jersey City is one of four cities participating globally; its selection is related to its status as a “food desert.” Residents will have access to free produce, but in return, they must attend healthy eating workshops and consent to regular health screenings.

Key Takeaways:

  • There will be 10 vertical farms throughout the city growing 19,000 pounds of vegetables yearly.
  • Jersey City is one of four cities worldwide participating in the program on behalf of the World Economic Forum.
  • Jersey City has been identified as a food desert with minimal access to supermarkets or large grocery stores.

“The public will get access to free fresh vegetables grown in Jersey City through the nation’s first municipal vertical farming program, according to an announcement by Mayor Steven Fulop.”

Read more: https://hudsonreporter.com/2020/06/10/growing-up/