Cannabis growers are increasingly turning to technology as a way of improving their production. The industry is ripe with opportunities for innovation and adoption, but it also comes with its own unique challenges that make this a difficult process.
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Cannabis growers are turning to technology to save water and energy, decrease labor expenses, and boost yields and quality.
Here are some examples of technologies that marijuana and hemp farmers are using to increase the efficiency of their operations:
- Sensors to assist with irrigation and lighting fine-tuning.
- Systems that can regulate the temperature and humidity of a grow room from afar.
- To decrease and increase the illumination, state-of-the-art LED bulbs and smartphone-controlled technologies are used.
Gone are the days when a cannabis farmer lifted a pot to see how much or how little water a plant required. Recognizing a pattern
A cultivation operation manager may assess soil moisture using software that can be accessed on a computer or smartphone, thanks to sensors offered by many businesses.
Bill Campbell, director of cultivation at The Source in Las Vegas, said his business just installed grow-media water sensors that collect data he uses to decide how much to irrigate his plants.
The sensors, which Campbell thinks will cost $50-$100 apiece, will alert him if they detect a specific proportion of the plants in the substrate do not have enough water.
“Since we began using the sensors, we’ve cut our water consumption by almost 60%,” he added.
Campbell believes that he saves approximately 300 gallons of water each day, but the advantage extends beyond financial savings.
He went on to say, “For me, it’s an environmental advantage.”
Growers would physically examine the grow medium before switching to the sensors, making informed estimates about the moisture level.
According to Campbell, carefully watering the plant has boosted yields as well as terpene and cannabinoid production.
Kenneth VandeVrede, CEO of HillviewMed, a vertically integrated marijuana and hemp business headquartered in Pequannock, New Jersey, is employing a system that includes sensors that collect plant data from top to bottom in a wider sense.
The data may be used by growers to make a number of choices, including how much light the plant should get. HillviewMed’s business approach is on the use of data.
VandeVrede said, “Everything is data-driven today.” “We construct our facilities and assets so that our farmers may utilize data as a tool to help them grow.”
Having that data recorded into an automated system lets Derek Rayhorn, director of cultivation at Chalice Farms in Hillsboro, Oregon, analyze what’s occurring week to week, which assists in budgeting.
Another advantage of using an automatic grow system is that he can make changes from any location with an internet connection.
Rayhorn, for example, can control the temperature and humidity levels in his house from his sofa.
“It’s fantastic to be able to monitor and modify the environment,” Rayhorn added.
Some systems allow for remote monitoring, but not all of them allow for modifications.
He said, “It offers you peace of mind.” “I don’t obsess about the environment.”
Temperature sensors, humidistats, and anemometers are used by Chalice Farms to monitor wind for any outside plants. Every three minutes, the sensors send out data.
Rayhorn intends to add fertigation and soil-moisture sensors to the platform in the future.
Adding an automatic watering system, he thinks, saves “quite a bit” of labor and money.
“You could have a person watering plants all day long, or you could have the employee do something else like plant care or cleaning,” Rayhorn said. “Watering is definitely something that should be automated.”
LEDs have become the industry standard.
Several of the farmers contacted for this article said that they had just switched to LED illumination.
The Green Solution’s CEO, Steve Lopez, estimates that the business has spent almost $5 million on new LEDs in Denver.
The lights, according to Lopez, are tripling the growth of his plants.
Aside from the increase in yield, the business expects to save “huge” amounts of money on energy.
Because LEDs don’t produce as much heat as the company’s previous high-pressure sodium bulbs, the HVAC system doesn’t have to work as hard to keep interior temps cool.
“With these lights, we’ll be able to reach our full potential and yield,” Lopez added.
While energy-efficient lighting is a step forward, technology that allows you to change the height of your lights from your computer or smartphone is much better.
Rayhorn at Chalice Farms is testing a lift system that attaches to the top of the light and allows him to modify it depending on the plant strain and its development patterns.
For example, sativa strains grow higher than indica strains, and with this technique, he can keep the two kinds of plants in the same room while ensuring that the lights are at the proper distance from the top of each strain.