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Top 5 Vertical Farming Myths Busted

Vertical farming has taken the cultivation industry by storm. The ability to cultivate up to three times more has completely revolutionized the way we think about indoor farming. However, this farming method has come with many skeptics who are wary of making the switch from single-level HPS to multi-level LED.

Let’s address some of the most common vertical farming concerns and advise on the best steps moving forward.

Myth #1: I’m concerned about all the extra time it will take to access and service the upper levels

One of the biggest myths within the vertical farming industry is that the ease of access to the second, third, or even fourth tier of the canopy is quite difficult. Ladders alone can be unsafe and the impact on employees throughout the day can be tiring and time-consuming. In order for multiple people to properly service the second level at once, cultivators need a way to efficiently, and safely, access the upper levels.

Pipp Horticulture was driven to solve one of vertical farming’s primary challenges – how to access the upper levels. An in-house team of engineers and cultivation experts developed a solution that is now known as the patent-pending ELEVATE™ Platform System.

ELEVATE™ is a modular catwalk system that creates an entire full-length walking and working aisle platform allowing cultivators to quickly and safely service the upper levels of their grow. Even before ELEVATE™, the increase in production outweighed the added labor required to service the upper levels. ELEVATE™ has taken this benefit even further.

Myth #2: We won’t be able to have people working in more than one aisle at a time

In order to have a successful and timely vertical farming operation, multiple cultivators are often needed within the same row to trim and service all the levels. Many single-tier cultivators are worried about making the shift to vertical farming due to the fear of the systems being tightly stacked near each other. Nonetheless, this is far from the truth.

With vertical farming, cultivators have the freedom to design in as much aisle space as needed. An aisle of more than 24”, such as 36”, 44”, 48”, or even 60”+ enables the users to split or share aisle space, creating multiple simultaneous access points throughout the room. Unlike typical rolling AG benches, which have limited lateral movement, Pipp Horticulture rail-based systems allow for full use of the entire aisle space. This system can be applied to one specific aisle or shared throughout multiple aisles.

Myth #3: The double-density and layers will not allow for enough airflow

It’s a common misconception within the cannabis industry that multiple levels of cultivation won’t allow for proper airflow on each tier. Airflow also plays a big role in pest and disease prevention on the grow. Many single-tier farmers have gone years with HVAC systems and manual fans on their canopy and are skeptical that the entire vertical racking system will receive the same level of airflow. However, the difference in strategic airflow can be the key to a successful harvest.

Vertical Air Solutions In-Rack Airflow Systems, are extremely important and beneficial in maintaining a healthy environment. The VAS system pushes filtered and CO2-infused air down the entire aisle, level by level, applying an even blanket of airflow over the entire canopy. This helps to maintain ideal humidity and temperature levels 24/7! Designed specifically for high-density vertical farms, VAS circulates the right amount of air in a way that traditional fans or air socks cannot.

Myth #4: Upper-level drainage will be very difficult

Indoor vertical farming can be broken down into three main complaints: system design, electrical structure, and plumbing/irrigation. Finding a drainage system that promotes good air porosity and nutrient retention can be difficult to find as a new grower in multilevel cultivation. But with Pipp Horticulture, it’s actually really simple.

Pipp’s bulkhead drain fitting has flex hose tubing that is simply attached to the bottom of each fitting. This is directed to the tray below and to an exit pipe below the lower carriage which simplifies the drainage. Here is a gallery for references and further detail: pipphorticulture.com/gallery.

Myth #5: The rows will be hard to move, like rolling benches but even harder because they are two, three, or four levels high

It’s easy to assume that multiple tiers of the canopy will make for heavy vertical racking systems. While the maximizing canopy is appealing, many cultivators feel maneuvering their grow across multiple tiers will be challenging. To keep racking systems light and manual labor to a minimum, a mechanical-assist mobile carriage is necessary to move the in-track system.

Pipp Horticulture’s Mobile Carriages are equipped with a mechanical assist and are incredibly easy to move, even at 60’ long and 3+ levels high! The dynamic gear ratio system and the 3-prong ergonomic handle enable easy and smooth movement of the carriages while converting fixed aisle space into a productive canopy.

Making The Switch

In conclusion, there are many myths that plague the vertical farming industry. Many cultivators have been misled and mistreated by cannabis farming equipment manufacturers, which has created a level of distrust.

However, evidence shows that shifting from single-level cultivation to multi-level can maximize production and revenue by up to three times. It’s important to do research and evaluate a facility’s scalability to ensure vertical farming is successful and stays ahead of emerging trends.

Pipp Horticulture has a team of in-house professional engineers, CAD designers, sales support, and experienced cannabis operators to provide partners with unparalleled support before and after equipment installation to ensure operational success. Experience groundbreaking innovation in vertical farming technologies with Pipp Horticulture, contact us today!

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How To Optimize The Cannabis Drying And Curing Process

Cannabis production strategies may differ from one facility to another, but most facilities share a common goal: to produce the highest quality product at the lowest cost. One area of the cultivation cycle that is often overlooked but has great potential for optimization is the cannabis drying and curing process.

Common Drying & Curing Processes

For many cultivators, a common drying and curing process looks like this:

  1. Harvest, weigh, and transfer cannabis to the drying room. This is usually done with the use of bins or totes.
  2. Then, one by one, manually hang the plants on wire, pipe, hangers, hooks and/or racking.
  3. Once the plants have been dried, manually remove each plant and place them back into the bins or totes.
  4. The plants are then transferred to trimmers to process the cannabis into the finished product.

Each transfer event has significant labor costs, but more importantly, they can reduce the quality of the cannabis by degrading trichomes, associated cannabinoids, and terpene content.

 

For many, LEAN farming and manufacturing is a goal and driver for the production process, but many can fall short due to the process above. Why?

It’s cost-intensive and it can reduce the quality and value of the product.

First Things First: Ditch The Bins

Many commercial growers use plastic bins or totes to help them harvest. A cheap and simple solution, binning plants have been a common method amongst growers. Unfortunately, it greatly increases labor requirements due to the many staff and non-value-adding touchpoints with the plants. These touchpoints also negatively impact the final quality of the product as the terpenes and trichomes are disturbed each time.

Bins or totes also present additional and unnecessary cross-contamination, workflow, and labor challenges. They need to be cleaned and sanitized after each batch or during daily use. Many facilities are not set up or staffed appropriately to properly clean and sanitize bins and totes regularly. In addition, bins and totes take up a tremendous amount of space, which is often not taken into consideration during the facility design process. Often stacked, if these bins are not cleaned or have been on the floor, operators risk contaminating their cannabis plants and dried flowers that come in contact with the inside of the bins.

Labor is the biggest cost for a cultivation operation. And as it so happens, the harvest and the post-harvest team is often the largest department by headcount.

By introducing equipment, such as drying carts or racks, operators can decrease their labor costs while increasing product quality, all without the use of bins or totes.

Optimize Your Drying Process

An easy way to tell them apart is to remember this: dying carts bring work to the workers while cannabis drying racks bring workers to the work.

DRYING CARTS ARE MOBILE BY DESIGN. Staff roll the drying carts without the need for hangers or hooks. The drying carts are then transferred to the drying room. Once the plants have dried, the carts are then rolled into the trimming room. The product moves efficiently around the facility with little to no touching of the actual plants.

DRYING RACKS differ in that staff must still bring plants to the racks where they manually hang from the rack. A mobile drying cart can still be used for the transfer to eliminate the use of bins or totes. However, what sets these drying racks apart from common drying setups is that the racks can span the full height of the room, taking advantage of not only total available square feet but cubic feet as well. There are pros and cons to both options. Ultimately, your operation’s capacity, efficiency, and labor demands will be the deciding factor.

Vertical Drying Racks
Cannabis drying and curing made simple with commercial drying equipment

Space Requirements

The carts must be stored when not in use, and you’ll also need adequate space in your flower room for the carts to roll through the aisles. We recommend a minimum of 28” width aisles. If you’re already tight on space in the drying rooms and are using a trellis or cable wire, installing mobile drying racks will greatly optimize your room’s plant-drying capacity. Drying racks can help transform a tight, restricted space into an efficient one that supports your scaling business. To get an idea of how much space is required for either racks or carts, we crunched some numbers for you.

Here, you can see how much square footage of drying space is required for each equipment option. For this example, let’s consider 1,000 harvested cannabis plants. The following space is required in your drying area for each solution (the range accounts for plant size and density):

• PIPP 2-tier drying carts: 300-600 sq. ft.
• PIPP 3-tier drying carts: 200-400 sq. ft.
• PIPP mobile drying racks (4-tiers): 200-400 sq. ft.

You can see that the available space in the facility is the main consideration here.

If space is not an issue, the ideal choice is drying carts for the points mentioned above: lower labor costs and higher quality product.

In Conclusion

Now that you’ve made it this far, you’re probably getting a good idea of which option (drying racks or carts) might work best for your grow space. For assistance in selecting the best drying solution for your operation, download our latest e-book or contact the team at PIPP Horticulture today!

 

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