Our guest blogger today is Jonathan Valdman, an entrepreneur, farmer and educator of agricultural practices based in permaculture, sustainability and Best Management Practices. Jonathan has been farming organically for over 20 years, is a second-generation cannabis farmer and has been growing sustainable cannabis since 1992.
In 2006, Jonathan founded Forever Flowering Greenhouses, FFG, in an effort to develop a commercial-grade greenhouse company that could address the future needs of the cannabis industry with an emphasis on reducing carbon footprints and production costs.
Jonathan was invited to be the Senior Cultivation Advisor for iCan Serve, a global cannabis business services company based in Israel, in 2018. In 2019, Jonathan founded The Heart of Cannabis (THC), a family-friendly event featuring seasoned panellists and vendors to bridge the gap between the Cannabis Culture and the Cannabis Industry.
Greenhouses for Sustainable Cannabis: Make More, Spend Less, Create a Story of Value
Although most companies do not include this in their business plan, nearly every cannabis company’s bottom line is affected by the quality and quantity of cultivated cannabis, and since virtually every strain of cannabis moves from a vegetative state to flowering in response to the light cycle it is exposed to, light is critical to both quality and quantity.
While plants may ‘pre-flower’ or ‘sex’ earlier, a cannabis plant begins to grow its flowers – the part of the plant that is harvested and processed for human consumption – when the light cycle is 12 hours of darkness or less. Fewer hours of light can diminish the performance of the plants’ flowering cycle.
Indoor growers control their light cycle, or photoperiod, by having timers that turn lights ‘on’ and ‘off’. However, indoor lighting can be very expensive and the electricity required to run them can add significant cost to the operating budget.
Growing cannabis under natural sunlight without the need to invest in expensive lighting and their electric bills can reduce operating costs significantly. However, unless a farm is located near the equator, most countries’ outdoor environment will only allow the production of one crop annually. In areas further from the equator, early rain and frost may compromise the health and reliability of a successful harvest altogether.
Globally, most commercial cannabis farms require control over the elements and grow in greenhouses. In order to initiate the plant’s photoperiod, greenhouse farmers often utilize a light deprivation, or ‘light dep’, curtain system.
Light dep curtains are pieces of fabric that when closed blackout the greenhouse from light and allow farmers to control the amount of light the plants are exposed to. This creates the ability to produce multiple crops per year, control the harvest cycle and provide a higher level of crop insurance and security when compared to field-grown cannabis, and at a fraction of the cost of indoor growing.
Light dep greenhouses offer the quality and control of indoor cultivation while providing the efficiency and quantity of field-grown outdoor cannabis. This is a simple way to increase your bottom line: with a light dep greenhouse, set up and operating costs are reduced, and security and control for a successful harvest are ensured for lucrative and sustainable cannabis crop yields.
Though cannabis farmers need water to feed their plants, one of the most devastating things that could happen to an outdoor crop in the latter stages of flowering is heavy rain followed by cool weather. These conditions promote mold and mildew, and in the worst case can mean complete crop failure. Another challenge to outdoor farming is unseasonal weather. Sudden temperature drops in spring or fall can have damaging effects on sustainable cannabis production: when root zone temperatures drop, plant growth is stunted, and production is compromised.
Indoor cultivation also has its risks. With numerous mechanical operations to control lighting, airflow and temperatures, one small glitch can be disastrous to a crop.
Over the years I have seen some disasters. In one case, HVAC systems shut down while the lighting continued to operate, heating the room to temperatures so hot they literally ‘fried’ the plants to death. Power outages in indoor facilities require the use of generators that are even more expensive than typical ‘grid’ utility power to maintain indoor lighting, cooling and mechanical ventilation systems.
Greenhouses create a level of crop insurance that allows for peace of mind and the ability to mitigate certain risks associated with cultivating cannabis indoors or outside in a field. Light dep, greenhouse-grown cannabis does more to increase your bottom line, reduce operating costs and mitigate risk than any other form of cultivation while adding value to the product through the story it helps to create.
“Choosing to grow responsibly is an all-in-one path to increasing your bottom line, mitigating risk and adding value to your product.”
A good brand is differentiated by the consumer knowing more about the story of the product, its production and the company that produces it. The story of a cannabis company that chooses to grow its product under the sun is one of a company concerned about the environment. The story of a company that uses greenhouse cultivation to limit the exposure of elemental dangers to the crop is one of a company concerned about the usage of pesticides and fungicides.
Value is created by telling the story of a company and by differentiating its product from all the other products displayed on the shelf. By relaying this story to the customer, companies foster educated consumers, thereby allowing them to make informed decisions about what products to consume and which companies to support. For this reason, choosing to grow responsibly and with care is an all-in-one path to increasing your bottom line, mitigating risk and adding value to your product. This is the story of sustainable cannabis cultivation.
For more information about light dep greenhouses visit FFG today.
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