The first part of a three-part series on preventing and solving common problems in greenhouse, outdoor and indoor operations.
In the process of cultivation, terrible mistakes will occur in many things. Due to the many variables that need to be considered, growers must foresee that they will encounter a large number of daily problems, as well as unexpected events and surprises. The grower must not only be able to predict the problem, but also must be able to quickly troubleshoot/diagnose a given problem in order to properly resolve it before it becomes a bigger problem.
Every cultivation environment-whether it is a greenhouse, outdoor field or indoor facility-faces its own challenges. Whether you are solving a problem or just being appropriately proactive, here are common problems you may encounter in the greenhouse and tips on how to solve them. (Editor's note: Look for troubleshooting tips for outdoor and indoor environments in future issues.)
One of the many advantages provided by a greenhouse is that it utilizes supplemental lighting and natural sunlight (if available), which means that compared to indoors, hemp grown in a greenhouse generally has a lower production cost without sacrificing yield or quality. It is for this reason that many high-value crops, from ornamental flowers to tomatoes, are commercially produced in greenhouses. Greenhouse production also allows multiple crop cycles per year, similar to indoor production.
However, just like in any controlled environment, there are potential problem areas in the greenhouse, which must be monitored and proactively resolved. Loss of control of the environment can cause planting headaches, from poor airflow to extreme temperatures, and opportunities for diseases such as water-borne viruses such as Pythium.
Generally, a greenhouse is not a sealed environment (such as a hybrid facility with a glass roof), but a forced ventilation/positive pressure environment. This means that they should be equipped with air filtration and sterilization functions for both intake and exhaust air. Inhaled air is filtered and disinfected to prevent pests and diseases. The exhaust air is filtered, neutralized and/or disinfected to reduce problematic odors.
In California and other fire-prone areas, I predict that the ash and smoke from wildfires will force greenhouse growers to carefully check their air intake systems to minimize the threat from smoke and ash, but it is best to eliminate them.
Smoke and ashes are not just wood, but also houses and cars that burn plastic, rubber, and metal in wildfires, all of which reduce quality and increase the risk of marijuana failing the pollutant test (for more information, see: Bit. ly/cannabis-testing-smoke-damage). To understand the potential economic impact of smoke and ash on cannabis, look at the grape industry. Many California vineyards leave their grapes on the vines and advance the 2020 harvest date in order to obtain insurance payments due to “smog pollution”. "
HEPA filtration or alternative filtration methods must be used to minimize (if not eliminated) the possibility of ashes entering the greenhouse ventilation system or clogging the filter. High concentrations of smoke may require minimal ventilation or adjustments to accommodate the airflow without filling the greenhouse with smoke. A proper ventilation system also allows the grower to control the vapor pressure difference (VPD) to a certain extent.
The main sign of a clogged air filter is reduced airflow. The greenhouse operator can use the wind speed sensor to determine if the airflow is decreasing. Larger automatic ventilation systems usually have sensors that can alert the grower when the filter needs to be replaced. In other words, the air filter should be checked regularly and replaced as needed. The place of operation will determine how often the filter needs to be replaced—don’t just rely on the manufacturer’s recommendations on when to replace the filter, because every situation is different.
In the summer of 2020, the entire state of California (including the southern and northern regions) set record temperatures. In Southern California, the temperature in Death Valley reached 130 degrees, which is the highest temperature on record in nearly 90 years. In other parts of the state, the radiant temperature (defined as net radiant heat increase or heat loss, different from ambient temperature) amplified by wildfires and smoke reached 120 degrees in September.
Under such extreme ambient temperature, one possible method that does not need to increase the air-conditioning capacity is to use shade cloth or greenhouse paint to control overheated environmental conditions, including ambient temperature and radiant temperature.
Whitewashing involves applying one or more layers of non-permanent white washable paint on greenhouse glass. Operations using automatic glass cleaners can fill these systems with paint instead of cleaning solutions. Some larger operations can also be painted by helicopter.
Although the purpose of whitewashing is to lower the radiation temperature, it also affects the amount of photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) light reaching the crop. If the light level is below the target level, consider washing off the paint and applying one less or more diluted paint mixture. Ultimately, growers must weigh the risk of exposure to heat and loss of light when determining how much light and radiant heat they want to take out of the greenhouse.
Shade cloth comes in many configurations; it provides various percentages of shading (for example, 10%, 20%, or 30% shading, which means that the cloth will block the amount of light entering the greenhouse).
Like whitewashing, shade cloth does reduce the amount of light reaching the crop. Fortunately, the shade cloth can be pulled up during peak hours of sunlight and taken off when the sun goes down to minimize light loss while minimizing radiant heat.
In cold climates, heating systems are necessary. Inefficient heating systems are expensive at best and dangerous at worst. If the grower encounters cold spots in the greenhouse or the overall temperature is low, and has checked for leaks and gaps where cold air may penetrate, there may be a problem with the heating system. Early spring is the best time to thoroughly inspect and repair any heating system. All heating equipment and thermostats should be repaired and inspected before use in winter—preventing problems in the fall is better than responding in severe winter.
After harvest and between the crop cycle is the best time to troubleshoot and repair/replace any and all worn, damaged or defective irrigation or fertilization equipment.
Measure the flow rate to determine if the irrigation and fertilization system is operating properly. Ideally, the grower will have a baseline that is first measured for comparison after the system is installed. Reduced flow may be a sign of clogged filters, drippers, or dosimeters. Plant wilting is a clear sign of potential irrigation problems. However, for automatic irrigation systems, the computer should tell the grower that there is a problem before there is a problem in the plant.
If the flow rate is reduced, growers can flush the irrigation system with a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water. When flushing the system, a mixture of up to five parts water and one part hydrogen peroxide can be used. For preventive treatment, this can be done between each harvest.
In addition, the grower should manually verify each dripper to ensure that there are no blockages that are not clogged by the peroxide cleaning solution.
In addition to the overall function of the watering/fertilization system, paying close attention to disinfection is also a major priority. Pythium and other disease vectors can be spread through contaminated irrigation equipment and/or contaminated water. If growers continue to experience Pythium problems over multiple crop cycles, consider purifying the entire irrigation system, including pipelines and water tanks (if water tanks are used). Again, ideally, this should be done after each harvest.
The same water and hydrogen peroxide mixture can be used to disinfect water tanks and irrigation pipes. For a permanent harvest system, the grower can partially clean the compartment/room when the plant is unplugged. The grower can arrange for the water tank to be disinfected after the watering cycle, when the water tank is mostly empty, and then fill the water tank with 20% concentrated solution.
If the watering system is disinfected, but mold and pest problems still exist, it may be time for a deep cleaning of the greenhouse. Use a more diluted hydrogen peroxide solution consisting of 10 parts water and one part hydrogen peroxide (or another organic cleaner) to scrub the floors of all planting, drying, curing, and walking areas. In addition to walls, ceilings, planting room floors and corridors, purify the air intake system, it is best to replace or maintain the air filter between crop cycles.
If there is a significant peak in the conductivity (EC) of the nutrient solution (which growers will notice in the runoff test), but the level at the source of the solution is normal, consider checking the irrigation and fertilization pipelines, as fertilizer salts may have accumulated. In addition, thoroughly inspect nutrition application equipment, such as EC and flow injectors, to prevent insufficient/over-fertilization problems from transferring and causing nutrition application problems.
If the crop seems to be dehydrated, please check all relevant electronic control devices responsible for watering, time and cycle for blockages or mechanical failures to prevent possible over/under watering or not watering on time.
Actively thinking about the potential problems that the greenhouse may face, and planning how to avoid or solve these problems, will be the difference between buzzing operations and wasted investment. With this in mind, develop an SOP that not only guides team members on how to do things correctly, but also what to do when problems arise.
Kenneth Morrow is the author, consultant and owner of Trichome Technologies. Facebook: TrichhomeTechnologies Instagram: Trichome Technologies email@example.com
Cannabis surplus may be an opportunity to research and analyze secondary cannabinoids.
Health Canada, the federal agency that oversees cannabis producers in the country, reported that as of April 2020, licensed producers (LP) held more than 600,000 kilograms of unpackaged dried cannabis and another 46,413 kilograms of packaged flowers. (This does not include the inventory of distributors and retailers.)
This overproduction of marijuana is the result of overproduction relative to the number of retail stores, which has a negative impact on the cash flow of many LPs and frightened most investors and potential investors in the Canadian stock market. For many companies planning to grow or produce marijuana products, the investor’s opportunity dries up overnight.
This oversupply caused Canopy Growth, one of the largest producers, to announce in March that it would stop planting plans and spin off multiple commercial greenhouses (but not all greenhouse assets) in favor of outdoor planting on the grounds of lower production costs.
California and Oregon also have similar problems, that is, the large-scale overproduction of market capacity, or what they call "surplus", but the reasons are different. In Oregon, too many pharmacies have led to a rapid decline in profits for most retailers. In California, cities can choose to "opt out" to allow cannabis businesses, and coupled with a heavy tax burden, dispensaries have suffered some of the biggest blows. These decisions resulted in a limited number of pharmacies relative to the number of growers, and stifled the entire industry in the world's largest market. These challenges have led me to examine and question what growers can do with cannabis they can’t sell, and the best way forward. I spoke to several Canadian sources (who requested to remain anonymous) about this surplus, and they all explained to me that the backlog of cannabis stored by Canadian LPs has been over a year. They stated that most of them would be considered unwelcome by potential customers, and some of them did not meet current testing standards.
They went on to elaborate on another factor that caused this surplus is that an LP that produces excess cannabis has a financial interest in keeping it on the books, because it means that it is against the company and/or its shareholders. In fact, its value is decreasing every day because cannabis is in a state of constant degradation and usually has a short shelf life (approximately one year under ideal storage conditions).
This oversupply may be more like a balance sheet problem than an actual overproduction problem, because most of the products in the producer's inventory are not actually products prepared by consumers. For the industry, this is a frustrating place, because this oversupply situation seems to be part of a small number of companies that has kept investors away from the entire market.
It is incorrect to say that "old" marijuana is "bad" or unpopular. It may be "old" and unwelcome to consumers, but the problem is not so simple and boring. In fact, as cannabis ages, the chemical components of cannabis (cannabinoids, terpenes, etc.) will be transformed into other chemicals. For example, the by-product of THC degradation is cannabinol (CBN), which some people claim can stimulate appetite and have antibacterial effects. In an interview with Leafly, Dr. Ethan Russo pointed out that the loss of monoterpenoids and the retention of sesquiterpenoids give old cannabis a commonly reported sedative effect, and CBN can enhance this effect through the entourage effect.
With this in mind, how does the company monetize the remaining cannabis? By changing the way we evaluate cannabis products. For example, THC is degraded and converted to CBN, and some people have reported the sedative effects of consuming old cannabis. The potential use of high CBN and high sesquiterpene products may be as sleep aids. An Associated Press article in 2018 cited a report on insomnia treatment drugs and their market size and share, and pointed out that by 2026, the global pharmaceutical sleep aid industry is expected to reach 4.3 billion U.S. dollars. Use CBN-rich cannabis sleep aid products.
I also want to know if it is possible to convert THC as a whole to CBN, so that without reducing the CBD content, what was originally considered to be "hot hemp" can be converted into a THC content equal to or less than 0.3%.
In addition to CBN, what other cannabinoids are in Canada's surplus cannabis, and what are their potential uses? Some groups are investigating the potential uses of multiple cannabinoids, from Delta-8-THC (according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information of the National Library of Medicine, it “shows a lower psychotropic drug potency than delta-9-THC ") to tetrahydrocannabinoid (THCV), tetrahydrocannabinol (THCP), cannabinol (CBG), etc. There are more than 100 cannabinoids in cannabis; the effects of most cannabinoids have not been studied, and the myriad possible formulations of these cannabinoids and their effects have not been studied.
Therefore, if I am hoarding old cannabis, I can study the possibility of extracting or isolating alternative cannabinoids and researching all potential alternatives for various applications.
Otherwise, they will eventually dispose of it or turn it into compost, because customers in the current adult marijuana market will not buy it and will not pass the test standards.
Kenneth Morrow is the author, consultant and owner of Trichome Technologies. Facebook: TrichhomeTechnologies Instagram: Trichome Technologies firstname.lastname@example.org
Choosing a knowledgeable and reliable supplier is just as important as choosing the right substrate for your operation. The following are the key questions to ask when deciding on the two.
For the production of plants grown in any type of container system, the grower must make many decisions. Considerations such as site location, outdoor or indoor production, genetics of plant materials, organic or synthetic fertilizers, selection of pesticides/fungicides or herbicides, container type and size, and irrigation methods must all be determined early in the process.
There is also substrate selection near the top of the key decision list, because it can be a large part of how you solve many of the above considerations.
The basic functions of any container substrate are the same as those provided by mineral soils for plants grown outdoors: stability, water supply, nutrient storage and availability, and sufficient air (oxygen) to promote the normal growth and development of roots. Soilless substrates, organic or inorganic, and single- or multi-component mixtures (Figure 1) are used in containers instead of mineral (field) soils for a variety of reasons, and these reasons have been fully proven and proven in the past 60 years . These soilless materials provide growers with the two most powerful tools for managing plant growth and yield: precision and control. The choice of the best substrate should be carefully considered.
The most basic advice I can give to people who buy soilless substrates in the market is to 1) choose a supplier, not a product, and 2) not to let cost be the main/initial determinant of substrate selection. This is true for growers who purchase original substrate materials and plan to mix their own substrates in their planting operations, as well as growers who purchase pre-mixed, ready-to-use mixtures. There are a lot of things to unravel in these two statements, so let me provide some reasons for my suggestion.
One of the most valuable attributes of commercial substrate suppliers is the technical assistance experts from these companies, who help customers make decisions and guide them to solve production problems. The guarantee that someone calls when they need it is usually worth paying a little more for some products. Growers who produce their own substrates or buy from suppliers that do not provide technical support may be forced to solve the problems themselves or to hire paid consultants to help solve their problems.
Another key attribute worth asking is the quality control (QC) plan the company has. Engineering substrates are thoroughly designed materials that have been commercialized after years of research and development. Companies should formulate strict operating guidelines in raw material acquisition and handling, material processing, material mixing, bagging and transportation. These steps ensure consistency across batches and over time. Suppliers should regularly check various material properties, including particle size distribution, wettability, pH, electrical conductivity (salinity), physical properties, and plant growth tests (Figure 2). Companies with strong QC plans will keep samples of all substrate batches produced and store them for several months in case problems are discovered. If so, they have a reference for product quality data.
Research and innovative development within the company (depending on scale) may be another attraction. Does the company have plans for the future? Do they provide new products based on their own research? If they do not have their own researchers (or team), do they collaborate or cooperate with university researchers or other industry partners? Not all substrate suppliers are large enough to maintain large or active research programs, but this should not disqualify them as potential suppliers. However, all suppliers should keep abreast of current research, industry trends, and new products and evolving systems, because all of these are developing rapidly. As a grower, you should be able to determine whether the company keeps up with the latest industry innovations and developments by comparing feedback from other suppliers you talk to, and by asking suppliers to address how they stay up-to-date and innovative, or by growing People ask about their products and the suppliers they use.
In the past few years, protecting the environment and its resources has been the top priority of many companies and consumers. In the global effort to reduce the environmental impact of plant growth, horticultural planting practices have taken an important step in sustainability, and the substrate industry has been a leader in this effort. Overall, it focuses on using more local Chemical/regional growth media reduce shipping distances, implement more advanced peat harvesting and peat bog restoration practices, and develop more organic growth media products to replace inorganic or non-renewable materials.
If sustainability is a priority for growers, it is important to ask potential suppliers about their sustainability efforts. Substrate manufacturers can participate in many certifications to verify their environmental protection efforts (for example, Veriflora certification, Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), International Organization for Standardization (ISO), etc.). Ask them about their work in resource protection, ecosystem protection, restoration work, etc. Sustainability work also applies to the use of packaging materials (plastics), types of transportation, and long-distance supply and transportation.
In addition to sustainability measures, potential substrate suppliers should also be asked about their reputation among other growers, product types, delivery time and scheduling flexibility, willingness and ability to create customized mixtures on request, online training resources, and grower information , Response time communication (phone or email), etc. In the long run, building a positive relationship with suppliers and developing a working relationship of trust and respect is far more important than mere price.
There are many factors to consider when matching the substrate to your specific needs. First determine whether the substrate is used for plant propagation (seed germination or cuttings) or for plant production/finishing in larger containers. The propagation medium is specially designed and formulated to meet the needs of young seedlings with root development. Due to the different proportions of the components and the different particle sizes of these components, these substrates are not suitable for larger containers for plant production and finishing because they will produce different air and water characteristics as well as drainage and drying characteristics. For materials such as mineral wool or rock wool, the size and compression ratio of the slab can change these physical/hydrological properties.
Other criteria for substrate selection include physical and chemical properties, regional availability, crop longevity, mixing and mixing issues or problems, ease of automatic canning/flat packaging, excessive curing or shrinkage in the container, and of course cost.
Selecting components such as peat moss, coir, wood products, and pine bark (Figure 1, page 59) can be challenging because there are usually many types, grades, and sizes to choose from. A knowledgeable supplier can relieve the burden of having to make these decisions by providing information.
Once the base material (contains one or more ingredients) is selected, there will be a question of which amendments to add, which may include aggregates (Figure 3), including perlite, rice husk, pumice, wood chips, or other materials that can change the base. Material and drainage properties of material porosity. Other matrix modifiers may include lime, mycorrhiza, water-absorbing polymers/gels, wetting agents, gypsum, detonator fertilizers, controlled release fertilizers, and organic fertilizers (Figure 4).
Growers using hydroponic systems or hybrid hydroponic systems-the substrate in the bag or tray that pulses the nutrient solution through the system and then recaptures it-may use more inorganic materials, including perlite, vermiculite, growth stone, and stone/ Rock wool. The selection of these substrate products may be different from loose fill (mainly organic substrates), but the number and type of products may be the same.
(Excellent substrate manufacturers/suppliers will provide valuable guidance in this selection process.)
The growing media industry in North America’s dedication to growers large and small should comfort growers (any crop, generation or experience level), they don’t have to make individual decisions or face challenges and production-related issues without guidance and help . The efforts, resources and innovations of the evolving media industry are second to none in the gardening field, and their efforts will only continue to grow as the future value, importance and area of container plant production increase.
Dr. Brian E. Jackson is an associate professor and director of the Horticultural Substrate Laboratory at North Carolina State University.
CBT interviewed three hydroponic growers to find out how they kept the hydroponic system at the pinnacle of deep cleanliness.
The pathogens lurking in the hydroponic system are not always obvious-until they adversely affect your growth. Regular and thorough disinfection of hydroponic components helps to maintain an optimal growth environment. This includes cleaning hard-to-reach crevices that are usually overlooked. Cannabis Business Times interviewed three hydroponic growers to find out how they kept the hydroponic system at the pinnacle of deep cleanliness.
As Director of Production Operations at Wellness Connection in Maine, Andrews is responsible for overseeing two adjacent production facilities with a total area of 22,000 square feet. Both are produced for the company's four pharmacies. He imitated the sterilization methods of traditional agriculture and emphasized prevention.
"A large part of successful growth is well thought out and make sure everything is well thought out, well planned and well executed," he said.
Andrews provides the following tips related to hydroponic disinfection:
1. Start with a good design. To prevent problems before they start, Andrews recommends using materials and accessories that can block light and completely seal. "Never use a transparent irrigation pipe; it allows light to enter the production line and allows algae to grow," he said.
2. Design your system to facilitate cleaning. "If the disassembly is painful, your cultivation team will want to cut corners," Andrews said. "Run anything you can run in a straight line, without too many elbows or too many accessories. [That] is just more you need to disassemble and clean, and where it might accumulate in your production line."
3. Try to keep your system and manufacturer unified. "Multiple systems and manufacturers add time and complexity, and increase the possibility of missing certain aspects of sterilization," he said. "It's very important to stay unified."
4. Pay special attention to the components in contact with plants. "Things that actually come into contact with the plant or the roots or root ball - the dripper or the spaghetti line leading to the dripper or the flower pot where the plant is located - these are the things that we absolutely have to take apart and disinfect during each crop cycle. Between," Andrews said. The process includes the use of industrial dishwashers. "We are actually heating these [components] to a temperature that kills the growth of microorganisms," he said.
5. Make sure your team understands the importance of sterilization. "Develop a standard, comprehensive sterilization program, and train your team to follow it every time," Andrews said. "Make sure they all understand the'why' behind every aspect of your program."
6. Never take shortcuts in the sterilization process. "Many times, growers are very focused on harvesting and then refill the room with the next crop as soon as possible to avoid any unnecessary downtime, and therefore neglect the disinfection of critical equipment," Andrews said. "This step must be included in the turnover rate of the room, otherwise the time saved will be insignificant compared to the weeks lost."
As the planting manager of Giving Tree Dispensary in Arizona, Miller's background in plant pathology influenced his hydroponic disinfection methods and 5,000 square foot canopy planting operations. Miller emphasized the prevention of conditions that could cause pathogen problems.
Nutrient reservoirs are always a priority. "Keeping the reservoir clean is very important because this is the source of all plants," Miller said. "During harvest week, there will be no plants in the room for a few days. We will perform a deep cleaning to make everything look new."
Miller provides these tips related to sterilization:
7. Keep the nutrient solution flowing. "If it becomes stagnant, algae, bacteria and fungi will grow there," Miller warned. "It is very important to let it circulate and inflate with a circulation pump-adding air stones and a bubbler -"
8. Use cooling system to control nutrient temperature. "Connect the [cooler system] to your circulation pump to maintain the perfect temperature for the solution. If the temperature is too high, you may breed certain organisms that you don't want," Miller said.
9. Avoid using oil in irrigation pipelines. Miller said that oil can cause blockages and harmful growth in irrigation pipes. He explained: "Sometimes people use oil to irrigate to remove phylloxera or similar things." "I recommend never running something like that through an irrigation system because it's hard to get out."
10. Rinse with acid to decompose the fertilizer accumulation. Flushing the pipeline with a low-pH phosphoric acid solution (pH close to 3) to break down the salt is part of Miller's deep cleaning after harvest, but he cautioned against using solutions with a pH lower than this value. He once tried a solution with a pH below 2 and let it soak in the pipe overnight. "When I came in the next day, it had corroded all my plastic manifolds, so when I turned on the irrigation, it basically exploded," he said. "That would be something that should not be done."
11. Do not recycle irrigation water to other planting areas. "If you recycle the water and use it in different areas of a growing business, you may recycle and spread the disease to other areas of the facility," Miller said. He made every room have its own irrigation system.
12. Treat the circulating water with a UV sterilizer. "When you recirculate your reservoir, you can continuously transfer water through a membrane with ultraviolet rays. The light is breaking down the cells of all types of organisms that can infect plants. This is very effective at killing fungi and bacteria," Miller Said; however, he pointed out that "a challenge is that it can also decompose elements in fertilizer formulations-especially iron." Micro-dose supplementation of nutrients may be required to make up for the deficiency.
13. Don't forget your tank. "Every once in a while, someone needs to enter the tank and perform a deep cleaning. Even if you perform aeration, it is very likely that you will still accumulate some kind of residue on the tank wall," Miller said. "We used a few different things: hydrogen peroxide, and then a product called Physan 20, which is an algaecide, fungicide, fungicide, and virucide."
14. After cleaning, perform a thorough rinse and water quality check. Miller recommends that after using any cleaning products in your system, rinse them thoroughly with clean water. "Before you start irrigating plants, make sure to collect this water and check the quality of the water flowing from the pipe," he said.
As the planting supervisor of Lucy Sky Cannabis Boutique in Colorado, Meyer oversees 50,000 square feet of planting and supplies Lucy Sky to four pharmacies and wholesale customers across the state. With approximately 10,000 plants on hand at any one time, Meyer emphasized that strict sterilization procedures are the key to success.
“Just because it’s invisible to us doesn’t mean that we don’t have different types of microorganisms and different types of pathogens, as well as molds and mildews. Therefore, we list things to do every time-after we harvest the room, Then the room is cleaned after harvest, and then into the growth cycle itself, all the way to," he explained.
15. Disinfect the irrigation pipeline. Meyer recommends two products for disinfecting irrigation pipes between crops. "I use ZeroTol 2.0. This is a biosafety product composed of hydrogen dioxide and peracetic acid," he said. "Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is a more commonly used and safe substance, preferably for commercial use, and its concentration is higher than what you would normally buy in a grocery store."
16. Root rinse once a week. Meyer recommends a root zone rinse once a week. "In terms of disinfection, you must clean up your production line to prevent any type of algae, biofilm or waterborne pathogens from accumulating," he said. By adding ZeroTol to the mixture, “you can kill any potential pathogens that may be present,” he added.
17. Always put safety first. Meyer emphasizes the safety of employees and the use of appropriate safety equipment as a priority for disinfection: "Ultimately, it is healthy people, healthy plants. We don't want anyone to be harmed." The standard operating procedures for sterilization include the breakdown of each procedure. Step agreement, including protective equipment. "It is important that we provide proper eye protection, proper respiratory care and proper protection for your skin, arms and hands," he said.
18. Don't be complacent. "[Sterilization] can easily become complacent and think,'I don't see any harmful effects. I might skip this time. This is where the problem starts. Once you encounter a problem, it takes twice as much effort to solve it. "Meyer said. "Disinfection is essential.... It's really important that you have a strict agreement and a strict plan."
Jolene Hansen writes frequently for publications of GIE Media Horticulture Group.
Solar Therapeutics, located in Massachusetts, has a combined heat and power system that uses solar technology and a highly controlled environment, and hopes to extend its model across state boundaries.
Solar Therapeutics is partly a plantation company and partly a power plant, and the company is seeking to replicate its model in different markets.
As an engineer at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and the Deepwater Submergence Laboratory, Ed Dow explored the depths of the ocean, tagging whales to track and design submersibles for deep seabed exploration. Now, as the CEO of Solar Therapeutics, a vertically integrated medical and adult cannabis business in Massachusetts, he has turned his attention to the sun.
As the name suggests, Solar Therapeutics was launched in 2019 and is not a sun-grown cannabis company. Instead, the name is derived from the large number of solar panels used by the company-70,000 square feet on the roof of the building and more acres of the adjacent solar field.
Considering the severe winter in Massachusetts, Dow believes that indoor cannabis cultivation is the best choice for his company, but he also realizes that indoor cultivation is not the most effective way of resource utilization. He wants to use his engineering background to develop a facility to reduce operating costs and carbon emissions, while maximizing quality and output. Dow told Cannabis Business Times that finding a property equipped with an array of solar panels was "absolutely a happy accident."
"This is of great value to me," he continued. "Because we have to change the partition, it may take several months to integrate our property, but in my opinion it is very worthwhile. And I think it is paying dividends now."
Canopy size: The permitted area is 100,000 square feet, and the current planting area is about 50,000 square feet.
Products provided: flowers, solvent and solvent-free extracts, food, CBD
When Dow decided to enter the cannabis industry, he quickly realized that the assets he had accumulated in his previous company would not cut it. (Massachusetts requires applicants to have at least $500,000 in cash before applying for a license.) But he knows that his engineering background in the laboratory and his experience in the use of automated systems in the metal finishing industry are very valuable. He can contribute to the development of cannabis The planting-related system brings skills, so he contacted friends and family, and formed seven founding investors (mainly composed of doctors) to support his application.
Dow explained that finding investors in the early stages of Massachusetts medical projects was an interesting challenge because potential licensees must also be registered as non-profit organizations. He founded Dow Capital Partners as a financing tool and established "these very complex service agreements between Dow Capital and our cannabis company," he said. "Fortunately, Massachusetts realized that this [is] very troublesome... They allowed us to switch to for-profit purposes two years ago. We did it as soon as we had the opportunity. We cancelled the non-profit organization Service agreement, and now we maintain it as a for-profit company."
The importance of these first investors goes beyond their financial support. Without them, Solar Therapeutics would not find its home in Somerset.
Dow said that looking for real estate in the Registered Marijuana District (RMD) area-an area that meets the state's cannabis business requirements-is like trying to "find a needle in a haystack." He found his current position after a founding partner who owned the ownership of the property proposed to him the idea of using the website. After some research, Dow learned that it is one of the three structures that qualify for the RMD zone in the Somerset area. The fact that the property is equipped with solar panels is the cherry on top of the sundae. "For this reason, we changed our name to Solar Therapeutics," Dow added.
However, a challenge remains: the property is zoned for commercial use, not industrial use. (In order to save part of the investment, the previous owner converted the original industrial land to commercial use during the industrial diving in the 1990s). Dow said that it took only two special town meetings to change the appropriate statutes and zoning regulations. "Only 20% of the property is occupied by five tenants. So, I propose to occupy the whole place and convert the whole thing with a considerable amount of money.... They... support this idea," Dow Jones detailed information.
Another requirement of the Massachusetts plan is the required host community agreement (HCA)-the applicant must sign a contract with the city government to show local support for the project. Dow said that the negotiations three years ago were fairly simple: a company would submit its plan, revenue forecast, team members, and proposed location to the city council. Conversely, if the city council thinks the project is strong enough, it will approve the project.
State regulations surrounding HCA also allow municipalities to collect annual taxes of up to 3% for up to five years. “I didn’t even bother to negotiate,” Dow said. "It seems that if you want to be serious, you just ask, this is what the town wants." He suggested that new applicants follow this example. "Don't try to lower the cost. That's crazy...but be wary of offering an offer that exceeds the cost, because it's not necessarily legal." He cited the case of the Mayor of Fall River, Massachusetts, arrested in 2019. The mayor is suspected of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from marijuana companies hoping to open stores in the town, causing a scandal as a lesson to be learned.
When negotiating the HCA, “just give the highest end of the range allowed by the law, this is the only way Massachusetts wants to deal with you,” he suggested.
The biggest challenge in starting or maintaining planting operations: "For facilities as large as ours, we must figure out how to generate the required electricity from the grid to support the output of our buildings. When we realize that we cannot get this energy from the grid When it comes to assets, sourcing them becomes a major obstacle. However, each of these problems has a solution. Because we face the uphill battle to provide power to our facilities, we have to turn to. This is where we do it ourselves And implement the origin of our own energy infrastructure on site."
People don’t realize when they run a cannabis business: “In this industry-like many other industries-we are dealing with many aspects of the business. Internally, there are many people and departments that must function at a high level. Supervise these Departments and arranging appropriate leaders to manage these departments are critical to the success of the company."
What keeps you awake at night: "What I want to say is that with the development of multiple departments and more people, there will naturally be growing pains. In addition, you must also consider meeting the needs and wishes of our investors. We It is 100% privately funded, so we always want to provide verification and proof of success to our investor community."
What can help you fall asleep at night: "We spent such a busy day at Solar (which is a good thing). However, it is good to unplug the power at the end of each day so that I can prepare for the next day. "
Advice to other practitioners: "It is important to build a team that you trust. As I mentioned before, when you try to do the right thing in this business, you eventually have to scale up. When you scale quickly like Solar At times, it’s almost impossible to do it alone. Get the right people in place from top to bottom to win."
Dow described the Somerset facility as a "perfect blank slate."
"This building was originally an industrial building. If you saw it with your own eyes, you would say that it shouldn't be a commercial advertisement.... We look like a everyone's treasure," the CEO said with a smile. After demolishing the partition wall for commercial tenants, the structure became “the perfect canvas for us to build a new building in this space”.
The next step is to rebuild the room to create vegetable and flowering spaces. This is done using the PermaTherm wall system-the insulation panels are thermally efficient. A new HVAC system designed specifically for marijuana cultivation was installed and adjustments were made to the facility’s 100,000-square-foot permitted canopy, although the company only grew about half of the space when it slowly increased production to meet demand.
Compared with obtaining the power required to operate the facility at full capacity, adjusting the size of the HVAC is very simple. Although there are acres of solar panels, "this is not necessarily something you can rely on to meet your facility needs," Dow explains. Massachusetts is not always sunny, and battery storage is still a major obstacle to the solar industry. "Tesla has not yet figured out battery storage for solar energy," he said. "Once they figure it out, then maybe we can rely on pure solar panel operation. But you still need grid power, or you need to figure out a way to make your own electricity."
Solar Therapeutics does not use solar energy directly, but sells electricity back to the local grid, and the proceeds offset other operating costs. Although solar assets offset its energy use, grid power is not an option for Solar Therapeutics, because power plants that provide energy to the site will not increase its output to the facility. Faced with the misfortune of his company in only six months of construction (and investment of millions of dollars), Dow decided to become its own electricity supplier and built a microgrid that uses both solar energy and combined heat and power. (CHP) system.
Solar Therapeutics' CHP system burns natural gas and collects heat for recycling to the HVAC system. Dow worked for a company that provides combined heat and power systems for oil rigs and gold mines for nearly two years to develop plans and departments. The combined heat and power system "produces about half of the carbon emissions of a typical power plant," Dow said, "but if you do something interesting, such as recovering heat... we do this... then you can further reduce energy Consumption."
The combined heat and power plant allows the company to operate at an emission rate 60% lower than that of ordinary power plants, “but our goal is more than 90%,” he continued. "As solar cell storage develops further, we hope to rely more on solar energy and further reduce our carbon footprint."
Water recycling is another resource efficiency aspect planned from the beginning. Solar Therapeutics recovers and recycles all water captured by the facility's air handlers. “We recondensed it, took it back to the irrigation and fertilization room, cleaned it, and then put it directly back into our water supply system,” Dow said.
Dow said that the use of LED lights throughout the facility allows the company to reduce the heat load and thus operate its HVAC system with higher efficiency. Automatic watering and fertilization, as well as environmental control and lighting, also enable companies to collect data to establish benchmarks and determine further efficiencies as they complete more harvests.
Solar Therapeutics also uses centralized heating and cooling technology to heat or cool individual growth chambers and/or equipment by delivering hot or cold water through a closed loop system. The system can create "free" cooling by sucking cold outside air into a free closed cooler, allowing the company to avoid turning on a cooling system that is expensive to run. "This is a more expensive pre-construction method, but if you have these large operations, it is a more [energy-efficient] construction method," Dow explained. "When the free closed cooling tower is running, we only need to turn on the fan."
These early investments in high-efficiency and automated systems have allowed Solar Therapeutics to significantly reduce the two biggest cost drivers that are usually the planting business: energy and labor. According to Robert Keller, the company's chief financial officer, labor has now surpassed energy and has become the company's largest operating expenditure. "Because of our energy efficiency, our current energy costs are about 30% of our labor costs," he said. "When we complete the installation of all these components, our energy costs will actually drop another 30% to 35%."
Between the solar panels and the CHP system, Solar Therapeutics' microgrid can generate 5 megawatts of electricity (enough to power approximately 5,000 small homes). "Our location is capable of generating approximately 700 kilowatts of solar energy," Dow explained. "Due to the current contract and SREC [Solar Renewable Energy Certificate], it must be returned to the grid through net metering. Solar ultimately intends to bring this electricity in the future.' Behind the meter, and the power infrastructure needed to accommodate the existing solar energy has been established, as well as additional solar assets."
In addition, Keller said that for Solar Therapeutics' LEDs, HVAC systems and coolers, the company has received nearly $1 million in rebates.
Keller found that utility companies are very helpful and willing to work with cannabis companies-ultimately, it is in the utility company's interest to reduce the amount of energy that any facility obtains from the grid. He suggested that growers considering energy incentives and rebates establish direct communication channels with their respective utility companies and let them help growers who are not familiar with the process to complete the application.
When Brendan Delaney, the company's planting director, first visited the site during a job interview with Dow, the emphasis on the sustainability of solar therapy-scale indoor facilities attracted him. After honed his skills in the Emerald Triangle in California, and worked in outdoor farms and greenhouse operations, “undertaking such a large indoor project is absolutely fascinating for me,” Delaney said.
Each flowering room of Solar Therapeutics is equipped with 200 LED lights, which are distributed on a three-story vertical rack system. Having a microgrid on site also allows the company to run the lights at any intensity the variety likes, without worrying about peak rates. "Don't worry about energy companies' peak hours are great [because] if we want, we can actually run the lights during the day, and people can work on the normal nine-to-five schedule," Delaney said.
One of Delaney's major adjustments was to learn to grow in rock wool cubes, because he was certified in Permaculture Design in California and can grow in organic soil. "Transitioning to a six by six [inch rock wool] cube and using a truly state-of-the-art fertilization system is a big change. There is much less room for things like this to go wrong," he said. When using organic cultivation, the soil acts as a buffer and protects the plants from mistakes. "If you make a big mistake here, you might kill more than 2,000 plants in a room," he continued. He added that automation technology and a collaborative team of technicians help reduce the possibility of catastrophic failure in any one room.
Delaney described that the rock wool cube is equipped with two drip irrigation and fertilization, and each plant needs a small amount of nutrients six to eight times a day, and uses a customized mixed nutrient mixture suitable for the company's planting methods.
These short irrigation and fertilization rounds last for 6 minutes, allowing the plants to receive a small amount of water on a regular basis. The system helps "on the one hand prevent waste and keep plants in a state of constant drinking and eating," Delaney said. "This is just a state of continuous absorption.... Our flowering period is actually shorter than I expected. Eventually, we may be able to increase the whole [every year] by reducing vegetable time and spending a little bit. operation hours."
Keeping the plants stress-free and maintaining a strictly controlled environment has allowed Delaney (so far) to avoid any pest and mold problems in the facility. In addition to strict environmental control, he also used preventive citric acid spray during the vegetation cycle and used beneficial predatory mites in the late flowering period.
The automatic CO2 enrichment system allows Delaney to set target parts per million (PPM) levels based on the needs of each species in each room. "We have a liquid carbon dioxide tank that can store 16 tons of liquid carbon dioxide," he elaborated. "We have sensors throughout the room to take readings, and then if we need to add more, it will add more.... [Plants] Only use carbon dioxide when the lights are on, so we really do our best To increase this number without going too far."
Although the company currently uses a separate tank of liquid carbon dioxide to supplement the growth chamber, Solar Therapeutics intends to use the carbon dioxide emitted by the CHP system to further improve its efficiency. "This is definitely planned, but we haven't implemented it yet," Delaney said.
In addition to tracking and sending signals to inject carbon dioxide into the planting room, environmental sensors also collect different environmental and fertilization-related data points for draenei's analysis and tracking. Not enough data has been collected to watch for any trends-the company has been growing plants in the facility since February 2020-but Delaney is looking forward to finding any strain-specific needs that he can program into centralized management In the system.
The genetic selection of Solar Therapeutics came from Delaney himself: he brought the seeds of about 30 strains from California, and he explained that some of them he has worked for many years, while others are unique to the Massachusetts company. Solar Therapeutics offers THC-rich varieties such as pink champagne, ice cream and all-gas OG, as well as high CBD strains such as critical mass and harlequin. Delaney is also committed to crossing these THC and CBD varieties to create a more balanced cannabinoid ratio, which is still an ongoing project. In addition to the cannabinoid content, Delaney is also trying to market varieties with terpene characteristics unique to the East Coast. He is working with a handful of West Coast breeders to bring exclusive varieties to his market. "In this state, exclusivity is huge," he said.
Delaney avoids varieties with inconsistent watering or fertilization requirements, and varieties that are susceptible to mold and pests. "At this scale, it is difficult to focus on a group of plants," he explained. "You have to come up with a feeding schedule that applies to all [plants in a room]." Crossing the correct varieties can help create more standardized and robust plants, but it takes time. Instead, Delaney focused its breeding efforts on reducing flowering time to maximize the company's annual harvest. "Sour Diesel or Chem strains usually [flower] 10 weeks. If we can shorten them to eight weeks and still maintain all the good qualities, that is what we are going to do here," he said.
Although not every facility is equipped with solar panel arrays, Dow believes that the model he developed in Somerset, Massachusetts can be exported and replicated in other states, especially as solar technology continues to evolve. When he became familiar with some of the larger players in the solar panel field, he came to a conclusion, he said, "I have the ability to take solar panels wherever we go," he said. "So this means I don't need to choose the perfect building, the perfect location. I can always add these solar assets. More importantly, I can add CHP.
"The microgrid combines many different power generation assets and merges them together. This is where the best efficiency occurs," Dow explained. The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly slowed these expansion plans, but the CEO stated that he is seeing the market expand again.
Whether he opens a new facility on his own or works with existing or new licensees in a different state will depend on the circumstances that arise. But he warned that the microgrid model "brought extra trouble to the operation.... It's not that you hire a contractor and they build a microgrid for you... If this is true, Everyone will do it."
Chief Financial Officer Keller looks forward to improving the efficiency of the Somerset plant to reduce operating costs while continuing to develop the company's pharmacy business. In addition to the Somerset location connected to the planting site, Solar Therapeutics also plans to open at least two retail stores in Massachusetts. He said these retail locations will become an important source of income because the company continues to operate at a loss while establishing and improving the planting process. In other words, "I think in the next three to five years, Solar may appear in two to four states-this is my goal," Keller said.
"We are working hard now, but it is a balancing process. You don't want to grow too fast and too strong, just because you don't want your head to go over your skis," he added.
Delaney's future goals for Solar Therapeutics are entirely out of the grower's guide: "My personal goal is definitely to produce the highest quality flowers in the most efficient way on the East Coast." He believes that the system adopted and created by the company, plus The existing team means that the potential of Solar Therapeutics is unlimited. Or, as he said, "The sky for this company is unlimited."
Brian MacIver is the senior editor of Cannabis Business Times, Cannabis Dispensary and Hemp Grower.
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