As with any business, the bottom line often hinges directly on the quantity and quality
of a product. Nowhere is this more true than in a facility where growers often face the quandary of successfully cultivating a large harvest that produces a high-quality yield within a limited area.
From irrigation and light to soil and layout, a lot of factors can impact the cultivation process, especially as plants transition through their growth cycles. Today, in creating a next-generation grow facility, cultivators have unprecedented technologies and methods at their fingertips to transform their operations into high-yield, high-quality production venues, while maximizing efficiencies. The flower-in-place method and vertical racking are two of the simplest ways to improve yield and quality.
Reaping the Benefits of the Flower-in-Place Method
Perhaps one of the most efficient ways a grower can improve the pace of their facility is to streamline operations, eliminating unnecessary steps or stages that may slow down or impede the growth process. Implementing a flower-in-place method is just one example of a smart, efficient way to improve operations.
A plant’s natural life cycle responds to the transition between the seasons. Ideally, a grow facility should closely replicate the cooler light to provide an artificial spring, a warmer, more intense light for summer, and then transition back into lower levels of light for autumn and winter. Adjustable LED lights with advanced spectral tuning capabilities allow the cultivator to mimic the transition of seasons. When these lights are successfully implemented, cultivators can streamline their operations, starting with the veg room, which is where young plants mature before moving to a flower room.
In the veg room, lights replicate a springtime environment to give plants the chance to transition from an immature stage to adolescence. The correct lighting technology – specifically LED lights with spectral tuning capabilities – can render a veg room unnecessary, instead allowing the grower to keep the plants stationary. Eliminating the veg room has several benefits:
• Reduces labor and time investments as there is no need to replant.
• Allows a grower to transition a veg room into a grow room.
• Provides the most accurate indoor representation of the natural cycle of seasons.
• Encourages resilience across strains and crops against pests and disease.
• Gives the grower more control over the final results, such as height, plant mass, and appearance.
Why Seasons Matter
Seasons bring either longer or shorter daylight hours that are complemented by varying light spectrums and intensities. For many plants, new seedlings typically sprout in the spring, as the days are lengthening. As summer approaches, the light intensifies, allowing plants to gain more mass by growing taller and producing more leaves. Many growers circle June 21 on their calendar as this is the summer solstice, when we receive equal hours of daylight and night. From this point, days get shorter as autumn approaches and many plants enter their flowering phase, releasing seeds before the colder months set in.
For millions of years, plants have evolved specifically to respond to this natural rhythm, which is why it makes sense for grow facilities to recreate this environment. Unfortunately, some growing techniques rely on outdated technology and result in plants thrust from an artificial spring where they enjoyed a low intensity, cooler light, to the middle of summer, when the light is at its most intense. Others tend to fall back on providing “June 21” conditions every day during the grow. While this will propel plants to flower, it throws off the natural clock of a plant’s most basic biology.
As a result of this biological confusion, many plants tend to go into shock, become more susceptible to disease, or even fail to reach the flowering stage at all. Instead of focusing on the natural order of growth, they react to the sudden change in temperature, light intensity, and location.
LEDs: Helping Recreate Mother Nature
LED lights offer the most accurate replica of natural sunlight. But not all LEDs are created equally. LED lighting with spectral tuning capabilities helps the cultivator easily adjust the intensity and temperature of the light the crop receives. These advancements in LED lighting technology give growers the control to almost perfectly recreate the seasons – whether spring, summer, autumn, or winter – in their grow room. This adjustability is a powerful asset to any facility, whether cultivating cannabis, greenery, or edible foods. The end result is a resilient, healthy crop.
Growing Up, Not Out, Through Vertical Racking
The biggest advantage growers have when building out their facilities is to start thinking in cubic feet versus square feet. Growers often don’t have an unlimited amount of space to expand their operation, which is why smart design is vital, especially for high density areas. Just as a city builds vertically to accommodate more people, so too can growers take advantage of wasted space through vertical racking. In fact, this new way of building grow facilities is the future of cannabis and other horticulture across the world.
Vertical Racking Creates Efficient Use of Space, Better Growth Opportunities
One of the best ways to immediately boost a harvest’s yield is to vertically rack the crops. This efficient crop layout maximizes the benefit of the space available to growers, which is vital for states that only permit cannabis to be grown indoors, or to cultivators with limited square footage. As the cannabis industry has grown in the U.S., the cost of appropriate facilities for large indoor crops has increased, which makes space efficiency a vital business decision.
Vertically racking crops can be best described as a leafy green skyscraper. There are multiple tiers, each with space for the plants to thrive. Some companies, like ProGrowTech, have specifically designed efficient LED lights for vertical racking, with each plant receiving an equal and appropriate amount of light. This multilevel approach allows for more seedlings to grow together, resulting in potentially doubling or tripling a harvest.
Not All Lighting is Equal for Vertical Racking
While vertical racking isn’t a new concept, it has only recently been embraced by the cannabis growing community. That’s because many grow facilities have traditionally relied on HPS lighting solutions, which are not suited to this design as they cannot deliver the same level of lighting uniformity as LEDs. And as LED technology continues to advance, the design intelligence of vertical racking is expected to become an industry best practice for grow operations.
Easy Changes Bring Big Returns
Increasing yield and improving harvest quality are within arm’s reach for today’s growers as they look to enhance their operations to keep pace with market demand. Smart design combined with scientifically backed technologies currently available on the market can help propel any grow facility into a 21st-century operation that’s ready to grow more plants in smaller spaces without compromising quality.
Andrew Myers is President of ProGrowTech. The company helps commercial horticulture operations increase profitability, yield and energy efficiency with industry-leading LED lighting systems. For more information, visit progrowtech.com. Image courtesy of ProGrowTech.