When I started in the indoor cannabis grow industry, and just like any new commercial grower, I went to the internet for some tips about what grow shelves to use. I wanted to adapt what I learned in my “secret grow room”. But with an increase in canopy size up to 10,000 square feet, I was unable to take my small indoor grow operation into the big leagues. I had to start learning about the equipment that has been around for years, but not necessarily for the industry that I was working in. It was all about adaptation and using what was available.
At that time, I didn’t have the time to re-write the book, and with a limited budget I had wished there was a guide to help me. But alas, there was not, and I made mistakes as many do. Once again I am here to help you learn from my mistakes so that you can get straight to doing what you do best.
I have compiled a list of different types of Grow Shelves for your commercial operation with a little history to understand where all this technology came from so you can make an educated decision for your commercial grow operation. Armed with this knowledge you can put together the right grow room setup and design for maximum profits.
Let’s start by talking about industry standards, what you can expect when you talk to a distributor and the questions that you need to ask so that you get the right growing system for your needs.
Grow Platforms vs. Grow Tables
There are two words that I hear constantly that I want to clarify. I want you to have the best experience when trying to locate your equipment. These two words are “Grow Platform” and “Grow Table”. Many times I hear them used interchangeably, but in reality they are not the same.
The platform is the structure that makes it all happen. This platform holds up the weight that you need and keeps your plants elevated. The table is what sits on top of the platform, these tables come in multiple sizes for your application. Not all platforms match the tables that you want to use, so make sure you understand platforms and tables.
Industry standards and sizes are built so that they can provide low cost equipment, without all of the overhead. When you deviate and need to make everything custom, the prices shoot through the roof. The manufacturer has taken the most common sizes and will keep them in stock, while anything outside of these sizes will result in going back to the drawing board. Fabrication and customization raises the price of your grow system and, the last time I checked, we were trying to save money, not throw it away. Try to remember that the most common sizes come in 4-foot and 8-foot segments. Although you can sometimes get 3-foot and 12-foot lengths, they are not as common and might be more difficult to obtain.
The last thing I want to discuss is how to measure a grow bench. When you are standing in front of the grow bench, looking straight ahead measures the depth, the height is how tall it is, and the width would be measuring left to right.
Now that we’ve made it through that introduction, we understand what we need to know before even thinking about growing platforms and tables. It’s time to get to the pickles of this whole article.
What are the different types of grow shelving systems? Where did they come from? What are the uses that are best for the commercial cannabis grower?
The Different Types of Grow Shelves for Your Operation
Grow Bench Systems
Pros: Simple, Easy to Build, Cheap
Cons: Not mobile, Not Durable, Not Suitable for Maximizing Space, Not Ideal for Needed Utilities
Let’s start with the cheapest and easiest of all grow systems, wood benches. Many people have been making these benches and there are a lot different ways to do this. Simply put, we just wanted to elevate the grow tables so that they are not sitting on the floor.
The good thing about these grow shelves is that all you have to do Is build a rectangle, add a few supports, place it on bricks and voila, you have a grow bench. It can be cheap, yet effective.
The bad thing about these benches is that they will not last very long, you cannot stack them, and they typically do not move. In addition, water and wood are not a good mix. Some people have put a plastic film in them to keep the bottom dry, but you cannot always control water. These benches are good for a basement, but bad for a commercial grow operation.
Rolling Flood Table Stand
Pros: Simple, Easy to Build, Cheap
Cons: Not Durable, Not Suitable for Maximizing Space, Not Ideal for Needed Utilities
These individual rolling flood tables are pretty easy to put together. You can get optional casters for the bottoms. They were one of my first purchases after deciding to move my pots off of the floor. I was able to really cram them into the room which gave me a lot more growing space to work with. I had to hang the lights from the ceiling but was able to push them back in place after I was done working on the plants.
These grow shelves required a deeper flood tray which was okay, even though I was not doing flood watering. Setting up trellis poles was a pain and I had to create something out of PVC, which was never fun to do and was cumbersome when cleaning the room. Over time the wheels started to wear down from the weight and got harder and harder to move around the room. Keeping them straight and having to move them back under the lights was always a job I disliked. These table stands were great for a couple of tables, but not so much for a large room.
Pros: Durable, Good for Greenhouses
Cons: Not Suitable for Maximizing Space, Not Mobile
These have been the industry standard for greenhouse growing for decades. They are strong because they are metal and usually galvanized for rust. They typically have a wire mesh grid to support the plants.
The downside of these benches is that they are not movable and a lot of space is wasted. These benches are good for a greenhouse, but bad for commercial grow operations.
Rolling Slide Bench
Pros: Durable, Adjustable, Better Use of Space
Cons: Not Mobile, Difficult to Maintain, Not Ideal for Needed Utilities
These benches are an adaptation of the nursery benches. They have non-moveable supports that are anchored to the ground. The part that moves is the top of the platform, with the ability to slide left or right.
The manufacturer states that “the bench table top allows for plus or minus 8.5 inches of travel (or movement) side to side, measured from the center position, or 17 inches’ total travel.” They typically use large poles that roll underneath the table that make it glide back and forth.
I had these benches and they did serve their purpose. While they did help to maximize space, they also had their issues.
Lights had to be hung from the ceiling and were challenging to adjust. The assembly was a challenge; I spent a good chunk of time putting the room together. I had filters and dehumidifiers above the tables and I found it difficult to get up to this equipment to service because of the narrow aisle space. Over time, my aluminum slide benches started to fall apart. Keeping the tables straight was always a chore, they tended to slide out of place and not be aligned unless weighted down heavily and were hard to keep straight. I do know that some companies have fixed some of these issues with mobility, although I did not want to deal with these issues.
Finally, a trellis system for these was hard to use and I ended up having to use pvc pipes for this. My honest summary is that benches are not a bad system, but I don’t feel that it was the best I could have used. The frustrations were ongoing. With the installation and the small problems, I eventually needed to get something else.
Carriage Grow Shelf Systems
Pros: Durable, Mobile, Multi-Tiered, Fancy
Cons: Extremely High COST, Difficult to Install
Originally made for the storage of clothing, library books, records, and other such products, these were designed to carry heavy loads. With crank handles to move thousands of pounds in a minimal square footage, they were ideal for the blooming cannabis industry. With a few design changes, you suddenly had a two and three tier rack that could be moved with a handle.
This is a great concept that allows the ability to maximize your canopy space, and makes this an ideal system for commercial grow operations. Boy, these things come with bells and whistles and can really do the job. But while the system was ideal for what I needed, it had a few drawbacks that made it challenging for me.
The most prominent challenge was simply the cost. Like any luxury car you pay a high price for leather seats and fancy navigation systems. As a result, I had to decide if the cost was something I could afford and sadly I did not need the bells and whistles.
As far as Installation, I have no idea what it takes because these companies insist on doing the installation on their product and in turn you get the added cost for assembly. Once again, difficulty of assembly drives up the cost of the product. I would rate this product 9 out of 10 with the only downfalls being the cost and challenges of assembly and that the carriage system did not allow good airflow under the tables.
Vertical Grow Rack Systems on V-groove Tracks
Pros: Durable, Mobile, Multi-Tiered, Lower-cost, Expandable
Cons: Not Much
These systems were originally made for the shelf storage industry, made to support thousands of pounds. In warehouses, these shelves are generally bolted to the ground and filled with forklifts. You have seen them at your Costco or Home Depot. Although these were giants and you saw them in every storage facility, it had to be dialed back a little bit for the cannabis industry.
Taking these systems and configuring them for cannabis growing operations was a no-brainer. Their ease of assembly and ability to adjust for each individual grow operation was the number one reason I went with this system.
The white powder coated exterior was excellent for keeping the system clean and rust resistant. Being able to mount V-groove glass-filled nylon wheels to the bottom of these made it so there would not be any rusting issues. And with the v-groove track that is connected to the ground, these keep straight and strong, easily moved by hand. Assembly was my favorite part; I was able to put together a 50 x 50 room in less than a day with 2 helpers.
The existing poles made it easy for a trellis system, and with a simple plant tie band you can easily adjust your trellis. With 1 to 3 grow levels to put your plants on and a light level to connect your lights, there is no more need for hanging lights from the ceiling, and the lights follow the plants. You can make each row up to 32 feet and can still comfortably move them by hand.
These grow shelves can work as a bench system with light supports or a multi-tier system to double or triple your canopy space and increase your cannabis yields. You can even start with one level and add on as your business grows. This system was a no-brainer for me.
This system was made for a cannabis farmer by a cannabis farmer and with a lower price tag. The ease of use made it easy for me to go in this direction. These systems outlast all of the other equipment in your room. I can’t lie, I like bells and whistles too, but in time they break. You can’t break a John Deere tractor and this system, in my opinion, is the workhorse of the industry.
Explore Vertical Grow Rack Systems, or Talk to a Grow Room Expert About What Grow Shelves You Need
GrowHigher is an industry leader in vertical grow rack systems. You can explore our vertical grow racks, or our mobile vertical grow rack systems to find the right grow shelves for you. If you need any help to find the best solution for your grow operation, our grow room experts are always on hand to help! Contact us today for a free consultation, and get your grow operation off the ground the right way.