Cannabis Facility Construction in 2022: Part 2 – Outdoor Cultivation
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Outdoor growing is the OG method, the blueprint for indoor cultivation, and the most natural approach to growing cannabis. Whether you prefer indoor or outdoor cannabis cultivation, the basic ingredients are the same: light, water, and basic nutrients. While the basic framework of growing seems simple and formulaic, each method presents unique challenges and environmental factors to contend with.
What makes outdoor cultivation so appealing as compared to indoor growing comes down to resource accessibility and cost. To grow indoors, you need to artificially simulate the sun, the rain, and the nutrients provided by healthy soil. Outdoors, you can enjoy abundant sunshine, rainwater, and the power of nature to watch over your cannabis plants.
As simple as outdoor cultivation may sound, there’s still plenty that goes into creating the perfect outdoor growing environment for your premium cannabis crops. The Vulcan Squad team has spent over a decade designing, building, and renovating cannabis facilities for top cultivators in the industry, perfecting our methods, and developing the most innovative techniques for enhancing growth potential.
In this guide, we’ll be covering the most important considerations to make when designing the perfect outdoor cultivation facility:
Selecting Geographic Location
Not all environments or types of terrain are the right fit for an outdoor cultivation facility, which is why it is so important to choose your location carefully. Wind speed, sun exposure, annual rainfall, elevation, and other geographic factors can impact greenhouse design and grow methods, so it’s important to know what you’re getting when you choose a location.
It is important to take into account all aspects of the environment when designing a greenhouse. It is recommended to spend some time at the site with an expert who can provide their professional advice to ensure no crucial information is overlooked.
Greenhouse Temperature & Humidity Control
Cannabis can be finicky, especially when it comes to temperature and humidity. Cannabis plants prefer different temperatures depending on the growth phase, and time to maturity, potency, and total yield can all be impacted by improper temperatures. Similarly, too much humidity can make plants more susceptible to disease, while too little can dehydrate crops and leave them wilted and brown.
To ensure temperature and humidity are at optimal levels and kept balanced throughout the entirety of a growing season, greenhouses should be outfitted with a sophisticated HVAC system. Using a series of sensors, greenhouse HVAC systems can be programmed to automatically heat and cool the growing environment to keep temperatures from fluctuating while retaining humidity.
Unlike conventional HVAC systems, you’ll need a professional to help with HVAC installation. The Vulcan team can help to design, install, and maintain your custom HVAC system, created to meet your facility’s particular needs. If, for example, you are interested in CO2 enrichment for your cannabis plants, we might suggest a hot water heating system. Hot water heating systems utilize a boiler. CO2 can be removed from the boiler and used to dose your crops, enhancing their growth potential.
One of the biggest advantages of outdoor greenhouse cannabis cultivation is sunlight. The sun offers growers powerful natural light for up to 12 hours per day, and it’s free! While this might sound like the ultimate money-saving scheme, 12 hours isn’t the optimal amount of light for cannabis crops. Cannabis prefers around 18 hours of light exposure, which isn’t possible when relying on the sun alone.
Because of this, it’s important to include lighting in your greenhouse design. Greenhouse lights not only help to increase daily light exposure but also offer an alternative light source for overcast days, dark winter days, etc. In some cases, cultivators may choose to put flowering cannabis into a full black-out, removing any source of light using blackout curtains, or similar methods of eliminating natural light.
Like HVAC and lighting, irrigation systems can be fine-tuned and customized to the specifications of your greenhouse. Most commonly, cannabis cultivators and designers select one of these three varieties:
- Conventional Drip Irrigation: Using a system of pipes, valves, and emitters, conventional drip irrigation allows the application of water and fertilizer to be precisely controlled and applied at a particular depth in the container. The advantages of drip irrigation for cannabis include precise volume and time control, and reduced risk of water loss. Conventional drip irrigation is ideal for small to medium containers.
- Drip Distribution Rings: Drip rings operate using the same basic principles as conventional drip irrigation, but cover a larger area. Drip rings deliver a ring of water around the base of the plant rather than delivering a steady drip directly into the substrate. The advantage of this method is enhanced root coverage, and the ability to water larger containers. Drip distribution rings are ideal for medium containers.
- Spray Stakes: Rather than delivering water to a precise location, spray stakes spray down the entirety of the surface of the soil, enhancing root coverage. Placed in the corner of the container, along the edge, a spray stake can cover the entirety of the container without overwatering. Spray stakes are ideal for medium to large containers.
One of the main advantages of having a high-end irrigation system is fertigation. Fertigation is a system by which nutrients are delivered to plants, in this case via the irrigation system. Fertigation systems can be manual, semi-automatic, or automatic. Manual fertigation is the most prone to failure since it relies entirely on human accuracy. For our clients, we always recommend semi-automatic and automatic fertigation.
- Semi-Automatic Fertigation: Semi-automatic fertigation still requires some hands-on work, which is ideal for growers who like to maintain control over when nutrients are administered to their crops. Growers must schedule feeding times and can select from a number of pre-mixed recipes. Once scheduled, the rest is done automatically.
- Automatic Fertigation: Automatic fertigation systems do everything for you, keeping your plants carefully balanced by administering the appropriate nutrients according to need. Since fertigation systems can be integrated with your irrigation systems, these processes can be done simultaneously to save time, and increase crop potential.
To Sum It Up…
The marijuana industry’s economic impact increased by 30% since 2020, and cities that have legalized recreational cannabis have collected hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue directly from cannabis sales. Yet, the industry continues to grow, and this trend is likely to continue for years to come. It’s never too early to get into the cannabis industry, so professionals should consider getting involved now!
At Vulcan, we can help you design, plan, and build the perfect cultivation facility, and provide services like those listed above. A full-service construction company, we offer everything from initial drafting services to system maintenance years after your project is completed. We’re invested in seeing you succeed, so get in touch today to start building your future!