With years of experience in cannabis cultivation facility design and engineering, we’d like to share some wisdom that might be useful to you as you embark on your entrepreneurial journey.
1) Have a plan!
There’s an old military saying that is applicable to achieving your cultivation dreams, “Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance.” Many enthusiastic growers will neglect the “7P’s” and jump ahead several steps – finding contractors and jumping into construction before appropriately planning their build. The variables that go into creating a viable cultivation facility are not to be overlooked, and you should spend some time thinking about the details before you build something that might not get the job done. Every design element and piece of equipment will impact your facility in some way, so ensure that you are accounting for as many variables as possible.
Just a few variables to consider:
- Air flow methodology and capacity – Do you have appropriate air flow in all areas of your facility. The method for air delivery determines where the fresh, cool air is being delivered in your room. The capacity is measured in cubic feet per minute (CFM) and this is how often your canopy is exposed to treated air. The method for delivering air in a multilayer canopy is quite different from single layered designs.
- Temperature control and thermal load from lighting and the sun – How are you accounting for and mitigating the heat generated from your lights or the sun? Indoors your lighting load is your largest contributor and needs to be removed. Outside the sun is your prime thermal load and you must calculate a complex battle plan for avoiding heat stress.
- De-humidification systems- Do you have a target humidity and the means of achieving it? Crops can suffer drastic failures from mold and mildew outbreaks due to increased room humidity. Alternately, trying to keep the humidity high enough in the vegataive and clone areas can be quite difficult.
- Equipment specs – Does your equipment support your goals? Check the specs! Most people don’t realize it but all of your equipment has the exact performance specifications listed. Measuring up you facility requirements and lining that up with your equipment is a key to success.
This leads us to our next tip:
2) Utilize professional engineering
At some point, you’ll need to present your plans for local jurisdictional approval, and they will likely require state licensed architects along with, structural, electrical, and mechanical engineers to have “stamped” the design of your facility. It also doesn’t hurt to have some engineers look over your design and provide some helpful insights.
This is where a firm like Hybrid Tech can help We’ve brought together the world’s best designers and professional engineers to work together on your project, a method that has produced consistently outstanding modern facilities like Shenandoah Farms, Farma, Newcleus Nursery’s, and over 90 other successful projects. Whether you use Hybrid Tech or not, ensure that professional engineering services are part of your plan, and are engaged prior to any construction or equipment orders.
Watch the video below to learn more about Hybrid Tech and how professional engineers can help your project.
3) The right contractor
When selecting a contractor for your build, look for quality, experience, and reliability. These are critical qualities for your contractor, as even a well-designed and well-funded project can fail if an inexperienced or unreliable contractor. A design build contractor who has built a cannabis facility before can be a project saver. Look for red flags by asking pointed questions. Has your contractor completed similar projects in the past? Do they have references and are their licenses in good standing with the state? Look online for reviews and call previous clients if that information is readily available. And more than anything, trust your instinct. If something seems off, it is likely not worth the risk to your hard-earned capital.
4) Measuring success
Once your build is completed, you should accurately and consistently measure your facility’s performance. Yields can be impacted by a number of variables, and the better you are able to account for them, the more data you will assemble over time, and the easier it will be to pinpoint and fix problems
Ensure that you are consistently measuring the obvious environmental variables – temperature, CO2, humidity, and air flow, and light. Then take the next step and start logging your irrigation PPM, PH, EC and temp with your nutrient regiment. Save the data in a spreadsheet where it’s easy for you to track changes over time or take it to the next level and purchase datalogging sensors. With good data you not only find problems but the keys to replicating your successes.
If you encounter environmental control issues, go back to the engineers you used for your project and present them with your data. More often than not, they can help identify and correct problems.
Most of the maintenance for a system is in your owner manuals and is crucial to a successful operation. HVAC that has a clogged filters, broken UV lights, old refrigerant, leaking refrigerant, dirty coils, mold growing in the catch pan, etc… Will not perform at capacity or worse will contaminate your chambers. Your HVAC unit may only be operating at 60% or worse may trip its breaker turning itself off.
Even the best equipment will break or fail without proper maintenance. Ensure that yourself or your team members are explicitly tasked with regular maintenance of critical systems. Much like taking care of your car, ensure that friction points like belts, fluids, and filters are regularly checked and replacement parts are on hand. If you wait until something breaks, it may be days or weeks before an appropriate replacement part gets to your location.