Tips to make your cannabis production more sustainable

03-03-2021    12:09   |    Greenhouse Grower

A diverse group of cannabis cultivation and manufacturing experts came together in January to form the Sustainable Cannabis Coalition (SCC). Members of the group will work proactively with their industry peers to promote proven sustainable best practices that can be implemented at scale across the cannabis market.

“In order for cannabis producers to compete in a global market, they will be required to meet stringent sustainable and ethical business practices,” an announcement from the SCC stated. “We want to be a trusted resource for providing foundational best practices to further promote the economic benefits of sustainability as the industry continues to grow.”

What are the group’s initial suggestions on how growers can become more sustainable producers? We reached out to a few members to find out.

Focus on Plant Density and Energy Use

Increasing the number of crop cycles per year, while optimizing plant density with carefully selected non-photoperiod genetics, can go a long way, according to Shawn Cooney, SCC co-founder and founder of Cloud Farming and Corner Stalk Farm.

“Dense planting and larger plants do not necessarily mean more yield,” Cooney says. “The ability to right-size plant density creates uniform product on each plant and across a facility, and consistent differentiable quality gets more product to market at the best price.”

Cooney also suggests evaluating your energy use with PowerScore evaluation software developed by the Resource Innovation Institute.

“Focusing on data collection and analysis can help you more accurately set the price of your plants,” Cooney says. “For example, a traditional HVAC and lighting system approach could make up 45% of a facility’s operational costs, but a high-performance HVAC and lighting system evaluated during design could reduce operating costs to 30%.”

Proper use of data, planning, and automation can also help reduce pesticides, heavy metals, molds, and fungus contamination.

“Crops like tomatoes, cucumbers, and bell peppers, which are actually more pathogen-prone than cannabis, thrive when grown in a greenhouse with data-intensive management,” Cooney says.

Efficiency and Consistency

Byron Staton, Chief of Agriculture at vertical cannabis operation Apothca, works closely with GroIQ, a founding partner in the SCC. Staton says the biggest contributions to sustainability for any cannabis company are efficiency, cost to produce, and impact on the environment. Those three items work hand in hand, he says.

“On a greenhouse perspective, we are using analytics to help steer the machine,” Staton says. “If we are trying to cut electricity costs for production, what time of year can we shut down half of our supplemental lighting, and how will that affect plant growth? We can run this type of evaluation on every aspect of the operation.”

Staton also points out that sustainability is driven by a consistent crop and a steady revenue stream.

“If a company is truly working on sustainability, the crop’s overall performance will be affected and so will the quality,” Staton says. “To be truly sustainable, the company must be able to make a profit, while managing costs and taking the environmental impacts into consideration.”

About the Sustainable Cannabis Coalition

The Sustainable Cannabis Coalition is made up of industry leaders working together to improve sustainability in cultivation, manufacturing, and distribution throughout the market.

“SCC member companies are committed to providing businesses in the industry with case-derived, data-driven products and analysis that will aid the decision making required of any successful operation,” says Cooney.

“Look to the Netherlands as a proxy for what the SCC is trying to achieve. They produce tomatoes with five times better yield per square foot than anyone, with virtually no pesticides, and with integrated pest management and managed water and fertilization protocols, because of a single-minded commitment of integrating science into their growing practice.”

Source: Greenhouse Grower


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