Vertical Farming Cannabis License

8 Important Steps To Take After Receiving Your Commercial Cannabis Grow License

8 Important Steps To Take After Receiving Your Commercial Cannabis Grow License

Vertical Farming Cannabis License

You secured your license. Now what?

As a new operator in an emerging market, it’s important to get to work as soon as you receive your commercial cannabis grow license. This not only helps you stay ahead of your competition, but it also makes sure you are not impacted by regulations that require licensees to be operational within a certain timeframe or risk license forfeiture.

To help you get started with your commercial cannabis grow operation, we put together 8 essential steps to aid your transition from a conceptual business to an operational one.

 

 

Teamwork

#1. Celebrate and Involve Everyone

Securing a commercial cannabis grow license is a huge accomplishment and it’s important to celebrate your hours of hard work. Of course, recognize your team and their efforts, but be sure to also recognize your community as a whole. Establishing a commercial cannabis grow operation in a community will garner both criticism and praise, so it’s beneficial for you to start your business’s residency in the area by thanking the community, recognizing praise, and combating negative criticism.

Consider creating some positive PR with a press release and/or interviews with local or online media outlets, as well as joining your local Chamber of Commerce to start making connections. Now is also a good time to establish a social media presence for your operation if you plan to leverage one. This gives you a place to promote any positive press you create as well as an opportunity to start gaining followers. (Of course, be mindful of social media platform guidelines around posting cannabis content.)

Hyping up your business early, while it’s still in development, gives future customers the opportunity to watch you build your operation, in turn piquing curiosity in them once you officially “go live.” Generating positive buzz is valuable, and will support your future marking initiatives down the road. Once you recognize your team and community, it’s time to turn your attention to becoming operational.

#2. Evaluate Your Plan

In states with heavily contested and litigated merit-based application processes, months to years can pass before licenses are issued. That means from the time you submitted your application to the time you received your license, some things may have changed, so it’s important to evaluate what, if anything, needs to be updated from your initial plan. 

#3. Determine What Other Licenses You May Need

Unfortunately, your commercial cannabis grow license is likely not the only license you need to operate legally in your state. With your plan in place, it’s time to get a firm understanding of what additional licenses and approvals are necessary to commence operations. Each state has different licensing requirements that you can find on their official government cannabis website. You’ll likely need to register your grow operation with whatever agency your state categorizes cultivation under, such as the Department or Office of Agriculture. This registration typically proves your operation is compliant in regards to water quality, waste removal, chemical usage, etc.

Additionally, you may need a business license from the city and county you’re operating within. And if you’re planning on handling the transportation of your product once your business is operational, you’ll want to start working on obtaining that license as well.

To secure any additional licensing, it’s helpful to have the proper paperwork in order. Some documents you may need include:

  • Commercial cannabis grow license
  • EIN letter
  • Business entity operating bylaws, minutes of organizational meeting
  • Any and all agreements with lenders, investors, or landlords

#4. Meet with Regulators, Community Stakeholders, and Gatekeepers

The key players in your community are important to have on your side. These people include your state representatives and the regulators specifically assigned to your license, as well as the mayor, city manager, city council, chief of police, fire chief, and zoning personnel. Remember: Your proposed commercial cannabis grow operation may be the first experience they have with a cannabis business.

Go out of your way to set up meet-and-greets and solicit warm introductions with these stakeholders, including those that may feel less favorable toward your operation. (This is where your Chamber of Commerce connections we mentioned earlier can come in handy.) Also, consider bringing key members of your team with you to these introductions, especially if you’re not planning on being the “face” of the operation. You and your team should take this opportunity to listen, educate, and address any concerns.

Ultimately, the better your relationship with community leadership, the smoother and faster your commercial cannabis grow project will proceed. Consider offering tours, hosting public community awareness events, and providing any opportunity you can to educate anyone willing to learn.

Group of people questions

#5. Make Sure Funding Is Secured

The application phase is often self-funded or supported by a friends-and-family (F&F) round, with construction and operational portions raised once there’s an indication on a license. This can work, but if fundraising doesn’t happen timely or according to plan, it can stall or kill the project.

Ideally, prior to receiving your commercial cannabis grow license, you’ve already negotiated funding, and money can be accessed and deployed based on milestones. Be sure any financial models are representative of the current project and market status with your sources and uses included.

When reviewing your financial models, consider these questions:

  • Is all required capital committed under favorable or at least realistic terms? If not, how much is outstanding?
  • Who are the investors? At what valuation?
  • Are the initial investors willing to invest additional funds with licensing milestones met?
  • Has the valuation gone up now that the license is in hand?

Although fundraising for cannabis can be challenging, more options are available now that institutional lending through local credit unions and smaller banks is more common. There’s also the potential to offset your capital needs through equipment financing, rebates, and participating in incentive programs.

Remember that your business is subject to the 280E tax code, so make sure you plan for that burden when securing financing. Keep in mind that many, if not all, of your licenses will also have annual registration renewal fees.

Pipp Horticulture Cannabis Grow

#6. Narrow Down Design, MEP, and Equipment

Depending on the requirements of your application, you may already have a complete set of facility drawings, or you may only have a basic conceptual design. If you only provided a basic design, it’s time to hire an architect, engineers, and consultants to create a full set of drawings.

Things to consider as you design:

  • Budget
  • Regulated plant capacity/plant count
  • Building or plot size
  • Waste removal process
  • Phased planning (utilizing your current budget with expansion considerations for the future)

 

We suggest hiring experienced cannabis operators as consultants to provide input to the architect and MEP team on room sizing, electrical demands, environmental conditions, water usage, fertilization and irrigation, proposed plant spacing, and the post-harvest process. It’s essential to consult with operators with experience at the scale you’re looking to operate now and in the future.

It’s also important to utilize vendors with a proven track record of success and cannabis-specific experience, like Pipp Horticulture. We provide expertise and guidance gained from working with top commercial cannabis growers across the globe and can help license holders set up and scale any size cannabis grow operation. Cannabis cultivation equipment is massive and needs to stay top of mind when designing your facility.

Grow equipment needs include:

 
Elevate Platform System

#7. Build Your Team

You must be intentional when narrowing down what positions you need to fill and when. Companies often hire a master grower right away even though cultivation may not start for six or more months. Depending on your existing team and current needs, initial hires should focus more on finance, construction, and project management.

 

Sozo Group Shot

Key Internal Hires:

  • Project Manager
  • Owners’ Rep
  • CFO/Controller
  • Operational Advisor

Key External (3rd-Party) Hires:

  • Legal with experience with local building and zoning ordinances and processes
  • Code Consultant
  • Architect experienced in building cannabis facilities
  • MEP team experienced in building cannabis facilities (often referred by architect)

Be sure to create a staffing plan that includes fully-burdened compensation estimates and a timeline for recruiting, hiring, and training.

Leafline Labs Team Cannabis Cultivation
Leafline Labs Team Cannabis Cultivation

#8. Initiate Commissioning Process

In construction, commissioning is the professional process of ensuring all building systems behave correctly and perform interactively according to the Design Intent, or Owner’s Project Requirements (OPR), of the building. Put simply, it’s making sure all building systems are working correctly before initializing operations.

The key persons involved in commissioning include:

  1. Facility Manager/Operations/General Manager
  2. Maintenance Team
  3. Head of Cultivation & Extraction
  4. Head of Manufacturing
  5. Security (internal)

 

This is a great time to identify responsibilities, coordinate, and set up onboarding and training with your team and equipment vendors. We suggest filming as much commissioning and training as possible for your future standard operating procedures (SOPs) and training guides. This process can also help you determine what your requirements will be for future employee applicants.

Conclusion

Securing a commercial cannabis grow license is a serious accomplishment, so be sure to celebrate! But remember that time is of the essence in this rapidly growing industry, so you must get to work as soon as you can.

It’s an overwhelming process, but following these 8 steps can make it go smoother. When you’re ready to start designing, reach out to us at Pipp Horticulture, and our experienced team of indoor cannabis operators and designers will work with you to create an efficient, effective, and high-yielding commercial cannabis grow operation.

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Vertical Mobile Rack System

Converting To a Vertical Farming Facility – 5 Things You Must Know

Vertical Mobile Rack System

By Guest Blog Author: Robert Sandow

Single-tier designs were the industry standard when cannabis cultivation took its first steps out of the garage and into the warehouse. At the time, singe-level design made sense. You didn’t want to change what worked, and LED lights weren’t quite “there” yet. Well, times have changed, LED lights are “there” and have been for a while now. 

As the industry and technology have matured, it has become more prudent and profitable to transition to a multi-tiered LED system to stay competitive. This is not something to take lightly, and it’s no wonder that some companies are still slow to make the switch. 

There are a ton of details to think about when making this kind of upgrade, but here are a few key points to ponder while looking upon your single level grow room as you dream about the day you are fully tiered out, maximizing all your available space, and utilizing the latest technology to take your business to the next level!

Flora Terra - Pipp Horticulture Mobile Vertical Grow Racks
Oakfruitland Vertical Farming

#1. Have a solid plan.

Working collaboratively with PIPP will provide a racking design and layout that sets the foundation for the entire project. From there, consider every detail of daily operations. Get feedback from all department heads. These folks have their boots on the ground and play a vital role in a smooth transition by keeping the rest of the crew on task. Take each person’s strengths and weaknesses into consideration and develop a plan that everyone will understand and get behind. Consider all the impact areas, from propagation to packaging, to develop solutions to mitigate bottlenecks. 

Some critical questions include: How many plants are needed for the new design? When will you need to ramp up your propagation department or clone orders to meet those numbers? What are your increased nutrient quantities, and when to order? How much labor will you need to complete the care of the additional plants? Which Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) will need to be adjusted, and someone who must be identified to update them? Usually, the switch to multi-tier happens immediately after harvest to finish before the next flip. Be sure to consider your specific facility’s needs and production plan while evaluating options to install. The main goal is to get back up and running by quickly addressing anything that slows the process down. Being proactive and solving problems help keep things moving. Try to be as upbeat and as supportive as you can. Transitions are an opportunity to create a positive team-building experience.

 

#2. Make a checklist for each department.

This is a great time to have each department head create a list of needs for increased production, plant care, harvest, and post-harvest processing. The first checklist will be construction needs. Make sure you have every item you need onsite before the switch date, from brackets to hang the lights to the zip ties to button it all together. Getting caught halfway through a transition without enough bolts, wire, or tools will result in costly, unwanted delays. A week before the switch, utilize your checklist and do a run-through with your key people. Ensure everyone knows what they should be doing, go over any remaining questions, and make sure all supplies are on hand. Have everything accessible and sorted in the order you need it so you won’t need to search. 

Many hands make lite work, so don’t forget to account for enough tools for everyone to use, especially if you have more than one person on the same project. Be prepared to have your crew do prep work while waiting for the contractors to finish installing the new infrastructure. Anything you can do beforehand will save you time when it counts, from pre-making irrigation dripper lines to unboxing and prepping all your lights to hang. Create a journal and document day-to-day events to utilize efficiencies for the next room or project. 

#3. Account for the increase in environmental and infrastructure needs.

Do you have enough power, water, drainage, and staff? You will be doubling or tripling everything from the amount of water flowing through the system to the number of plants you need to move and harvest. When designing the irrigation system, having multiple zones helps you tightly control your watering events allowing you to stagger watering. Doing so can prevent overwhelming your drains with the increased volume of water. Be proactive with ensuring proper airflow through multiple canopies. This will be one of your biggest challenges for growers to adjust to, as the room is now 3-dimensional, heat rises, and stagnant zones can become serious problems. PIPP has already tackled this problem through the system designed by its subsidiary Vertical Air Solutions, one of the best airflow products for managing the airflow in your multi-tiered system. Dialing in the environment becomes slightly more difficult when you add multiple levels; utilizing sensors throughout each level will help you quickly dial in your VPD and will easily pay for itself in short order.

#4. Anticipate the difference between growing under HPS vs. LED.

You can run the room a little warmer with an LED because the lights run cooler and are less stressful on the plants. Cleanouts are a little different as well. Since LED lights don’t penetrate as deep as the older HPS lights, removing fan leaves earlier (ideally before day 18 of flower) will help lower bud sites get light while giving the plant enough time to fill back in. Foliar feeding the increased number of plants can be a challenge and usually involves the usage of OSHA-approved ladders or scaffolding to spray the upper levels. Using foggers for application is an option, but make sure your sensors and lights won’t be damaged!

#5. Be proactive in training your staff on equipment, ladder, and scaffold usage.

Proper use of spray equipment is essential when utilizing OSHA-approved ladders and scaffolding. Working at height exposes you to more hazards than single-tier growing, but proper training can reduce incidents. Anything dropped from a height onto someone below could be harmful, and scissors are especially problematic. Make sure staff keep the tops of ladder and scaffolding clear of anything and utilize a sensible scaffolding system for your space. PIPP racking has designed a great platform system called ELEVATE that integrates seamlessly with their racks, eliminating many safety concerns and saving you time with easy setup and takedown.
 
Sozo Vertical Farming
Tru Infusion with Pipp Horticulture

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