Vertical Farms for Cannabis
It’s a revolution: Across the US, states are legalizing medical and recreational cannabis so fast that supply can barely keep up. There has been an enormous flowering in cannabis vertical farms and cannabis distributors that is helping to meet this demand but there is a hard ceiling to growth: physical space. The lack of physical space and need for environmental control can place a severe restriction on how many farms can build out. Keeping up with demand can often mean extensive use of chemicals and pesticides to maximize yield which will impact the quality of the cannabis crop and ultimately the health and well being of the end users.
Improving the Vertical Farming System
The Cannabis Revolution Means More Demand
Marijuana grown outdoors is a demanding crop. A single plant requires up to six gallons of water per day to grow. Outdoor farming degrades the soil by clearing forests for growing space and depletes water reserves–a huge cause for concern in states like California, which is prone to droughts.
Build up, Not Out for Cannabis
So what are the options for growers? Maximizing your grow space is one way to keep up and that could mean vertical growing—the practice of producing plants in vertically stacked layers.
Cannabis growers were originally slow to move to vertical farms as indoor grow systems typically use high-pressure sodium lights (HPS). These quickly run very hot, which is untenable for the confined space of a vertical farm where the plant (and even your people) find the environment too hot. New LED technology runs at much lower temperatures, so you can install them inches from the plant. LEDs have both fallen in price and improved their performance often equal to or exceeding HPS.
With 24/7 lighting, controlled nutrients and environment you end up with a packaged farm; in fact, a whole farm in a box. Without worrying about the weather or pests, the grower can maintain multiple harvest cycles- it's easily possible to maintain a better yield and multiple crops per year.
Vertical Solutions for Cannabis
Many refer to stacked growing systems as vertical growing solutions. However, in reality, the typical stacked system is really a horizontal farm replicated on large shelving units indoors. Soil-based and hydroponics systems are the most popular varieties of indoor stacked farming options. While these kinds of stacked systems improve the yield per square foot averages, they typically don’t do anything to help reduce costs by themselves.
A true vertical operation takes the idea of upright cultivation up a notch. There are many iterations of what a vertical farm operation can look like, but the principles of vertical farming focus on space-savings, energy efficiency, and increased yields. Depending on crop and specific set up, a vertical design can achieve 70 to 90 percent water efficiency over horizontal grows, and boost canopy space eight times over.
Vertical growing options for cannabis farms are still evolving. From aeroponics to hydroponics to soil, cannabis producers are also coming up with innovative solutions to “grow up” instead of out.
How to Train Cannabis Plants
Cannabis branches are naturally flexible making them relatively easy to bend without halting growth, as long as the grower is careful not to break the plant.
By simply using a string, the top of the plant can be fixed a few nodes below the growing tip to an anchor point nearby. This can be as simple as attaching the string to the rim of the pot, or a stick or hook firmly pushed into the soil. The grower starts by lightly bending the stem, and gradually increasing the tension slightly every day, until happy with the position. It's important to pay attention to how the plant reacts (which can be different from plant to plant on the same container room) and to not over-tighten the string.
There are some simple guidelines. Firstly, don’t use string that’s too fine and which could accidentally cut or constricting the branch as the branch grows.
It's generally a good idea to use thick, brightly colored cord. Making sure it’s visible, helps the grower to avoid accidents.
To get the most out of plants, training is best done in the evening, or just before the lamps are turned off in a container grow system. This allows the plants to recover overnight and the next day we can inspect to see any reactions.
The Time to Start is Now
The cannabis industry is booming, but most operations already know it’s only a matter of time before the numbers catch up with them. There are relatively few places in North America with the right climate for cannabis to be grown outdoors. As the market grows real-estate and resources are being eaten up by the industry, and growing space will come at a premium. The future of cannabis, as with other crops in high demand, will surely move vertically to improve harvest per square foot of growing space, while also reducing operational costs.
If you’d like to learn more about our vertical farming systems for cannabis, feel free to contact us.
Micro Lab Farms
3353 Needles Hwy