Pipp Horticulture

FAQs – Optimization vs Maximization Webinar

FAQs – Optimization vs Maximization Webinar

Optimization vs Maximization

The legalization and commercialization of cannabis have sparked a revolution in cultivation practices. With this evolution comes the critical question: should cultivators design facilities that optimize resources for efficiency and quality, or should they push boundaries to maximize output? In our recent webinar, we tackled this debate between optimization and maximization in cannabis cultivation design. We discussed the intricacies of both approaches, dissecting the pros and cons to provide a comprehensive understanding for cultivators, entrepreneurs, and executives alike.

At the end of the webinar, we held a Q&A with the viewers to answer any questions they had. We then took those conversations and turned them into this blog to share those great discussions and frequently asked questions with you!

#1: When going the optimized route, is it better to go with clones, seeds, or tissue culture?

Optimization referenced during the webinar was mostly referring to design, airflow, and workflow in an indoor multi-tier cultivation facility. When comparing working from clone, seed, or tissue culture there are advantages and disadvantages for each. Growers must take it into consideration many other external, regulatory, and infrastructure factors. 

Clones are one of the most common approaches for starting a cultivation facility. Clones are genetically identical copies of a mother cannabis plant, so you more or less have a general sense of what to expect in terms of the cultivar’s cannabinoid and terpene profile, plant structure, and overall performance. Mind you, how growers manage the environment, substrate selection, and irrigation strategy can manipulate plant performance. Clones also allow for the fastest speed to market (with the exception of auto-flower seeds) of the three options. It is important to ensure you are sourcing clean clones that are free of pests, diseases, and viruses. If the mother or stock plant has pests, diseases, and/or viruses, it can be spread through clones. All clones should be inspected, tested, and quarantined before being introduced to craft or commercial production. 

There are three major types of cannabis seeds, which are regular, feminized, and auto-flower. Regular seeds can germinate into male or female plants. Feminized seeds are modified so that they are incapable of creating male chromosomes, growing only the female plants. Autoflower seeds or day-neutral seeds automatically switch from vegetative growth to the flowering stage based on age, as opposed to the ratio of light to dark hours required with photoperiod-dependent cultivars. Seeds are typically free of any pests, but viruses can be spread through seeds if the parental lineage plants used to create the seeds are infected. 

Plant tissue culture (PTC) is a collection of techniques used to grow plant cells, tissues, organs, or seeds in a sterile environment on a nutrient medium. The sterilization stage in tissue culture cultivation can be particularly effective in eliminating diseases and viruses, making it stand out when compared to starting from clone or seed. PTC propagation can result in faster maturity times compared to growing from seed, which enables growers to use space more efficiently without overcrowding grow rooms. However, the key advantage of tissue culture is the sterile environment, which can eliminate diseases and provide a clean environment for plants to thrive. Most cannabis operators who utilize PTC are creating clean stock mothers and then taking cuttings through traditional cloning techniques for production. Because of the equipment involved, chemicals needed, and tools required, setting up a cannabis lab becomes an expensive process. Thus, it limits many low-budget researchers and growers to work with the technology. PTC is new to the cannabis industry and not everything has been figured out so far, like the kind of work that has been done with other plants in the area. Thus, it will require a lot more time to get a working protocol or workflow that will enable growers to produce healthy, stable, and reliable genetics without much loss.

Mobile Vertical Racking Systems

#2: To be optimized do we really need rolling tables or can they be stationary?

Good question! In most rooms with mobile racking, we see between 6-9 inches between the wall and each rack, as well as between each row. However, if it’s a stationary racking system, this spacing might not be sufficient for working with the racks and doing tasks. There’s a balance between optimizing space and not using it effectively. Mobility is key for space optimization. Avoid maximizing space to the point where it harms plant health.

#3: What do you recommend the space between rows to be while in the resting position? When working with a clean slate what is optimal?

For best results, aim for at least 6 inches of space, but ideally closer to 9 inches. The width depends on how many rows of racking you have in the room. For instance, if you have 6 rows of racking compared to 24 rows, you shouldn’t have the same width for the mobile aisle in both cases.

Once you exceed a certain number of rows, you’ll need to widen the mobile aisle. This isn’t just for airflow but also for better workflow. You can place Elevate platforms between two rows with a wider mobile aisle, allowing two teams to start working simultaneously. Introducing a competitive element can make tedious tasks more engaging and help speed things up.

It’s all about finding the right balance for your space. While 6 inches is the minimum, 9 inches is optimal. It really depends on the specific room dimensions and canopy size for each project to determine the perfect level of optimization, but we’re here to help. Feel free to share your design with us for feedback.

#4: When building a new facility, what is the ideal room height?

There are a few things to consider when planning your setup:

1. HVAC Equipment Placement: Ideally, you want to keep mechanical equipment out of the cultivation room, it can reduce your effective ceiling height and become a vector for pests/pathogens. Think about the ceiling height compared to your grow room. You might consider placing equipment above the grow room in a mezzanine, typically positioned above the main hallway.

2. Tier Consideration: If you’re planning two or three tiers, it affects your decision-making. Think about what equipment will be in your room and what will be placed above. Ensure there’s enough space for maintenance and service, as it can be challenging to fix systems if they’re cramped.

3. Free Space: Instead of just focusing on height, think about how much free space you have above the racks (i.e. head space). It’s recommended to have at least 3 feet of space. For example, if your room is around 12 feet high, the ideal ceiling height would be 16+ feet.

You can use our free room generator tool to visualize your space in 3D and plan accordingly.

#5: How can we best balance irrigation strategy with environmental management?

Great question, but a tough one to answer succinctly. We highly recommend you check out the book “Plant Empowerment” as this is a wonderful resource for learning how to balance all the cultivation parameters.

Irrigation strategy and environmental management are intrinsically linked via the process of transpiration, but light is still the main parameter driving plant growth. To begin dialing in this balance, consider the light levels you are providing your crop, then dial in the root zone accordingly using sensors and data collection to determine your VWC%, EC, pH, root zone temperature, and rate of dry back. Based on this data and the rate at which your plants are drying back, adjust your VPD (leaf temp, air temp, and relative humidity) either up or down to increase or decrease the rate of transpiration. All of this needs to be adjusted based on the phase of growth, the age of the plant, and whether you are steering vegetatively or generatively. Every cultivation parameter must be in balance with the others for the plant and the room to operate at their maximum potential.

Mobile Vertical Farming

#6: What are the biggest challenges with labor and operating on a multi-tiered system?

Challenges or opportunities? Lean into the excitement! The biggest challenge may lie in training individuals accustomed to different systems and guiding them through adjustments. But new hires won’t need to break old habits to adapt to new systems. The transition from single to multi-tier operations brings plenty of crossover, simplifying the process. We’ve got the tools and resources ready for you to master operating systems safely. Once you’re optimized, you’ll have the freedom to move around and operate with ease. 

#7: Is your company investing in the German Cannabis Market?

Actively working on investing in the whole EU and global market including Portugal where we have boots on the ground. We have numerous global installations completed with several more in the pipeline.

#8: How closely are you working with energy suppliers, utilities and managers when it comes to optimization- have you done a cost-benefit analysis?

We are in the beginning stage of this process. Pipp Horticulture is a member of Resource Innovation Institute, a non-profit organization driving the adoption of resource efficiency and sustainability in the CEA and cannabis sectors. We have discussed with them the idea of doing a cost-benefit analysis comparing the efficiency of single-level to multi-level cultivation facilities.  Stay tuned! Currently, we are working with utilities across the country to go after utility rebates for our highly efficient EC fan motors that are used in our VAS 2.0 In-Rack Airflow system.

In-Rack Airflow Systems

#9: In a retrofit room would you address attaining proper tier row spacing or mechanical limitations?

This is not an “or” situation but more so an “and” situation. Both optimal row spacing and mechanical systems need to be addressed. When retrofitting from single-tier to multi-tier cultivation, the current HVAC and dehumidification will likely not be sufficient. It is critical to address electrical and climate control needs along with optimal racking layout and row spacing.

Miss the webinar?

No problem! We have attached the recording so you can watch anytime!

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Episode 22: Grow Motion – Dialing in a 3-Tier Flower in Switzerland

Episode 22: Grow Motion – Dialing in a 3-Tier Flower in Switzerland

Episode 22-Grow Motion

Summary:

In this insightful episode of "Cultivation Elevated," host Michael Williamson sits down with Sia of Grow Motion, to delve into the intricate world of the European cannabis industry. They navigate the complexities of establishing a thriving cannabis enterprise in Switzerland, from crafting a unique brand that resonates with a dedicated community to employing innovative agricultural technologies like the Elevate Platform system.

Sia shares his entrepreneurial journey and the strategic moves that set Grow Motion apart in a competitive market, including exclusive genetics and German partnerships. This conversation not only highlights the challenges of scaling a business and maintaining a strong team spirit but also speculates on the evolving role of Switzerland in the European cannabis landscape and the future of THC legislation. Listeners are invited to join Michael and Sia for an episode that promises to enrich their understanding of the cannabis industry and the meticulous efforts behind Grow Motion's success.

(04:37 Building a Facility in Switzerland

(16:10) CBD and THC Usage Comparison in Europe

(24:19) Cannabis Industry Challenges

(29:00) The Decision to Build Three Tiers

(34:58) Creating a Safety-Focused Elevate Platform System

(39:48 ) GrowMotion's Unique Program Details

(45:57) Switzerland's Cannabis History

(49:38) GrowMotion Goals

"If I start a project, I will never stop anytime. I will finish it. It's important to build a community, to give them the best quality. You cannot build a brand that reaches the top level and then is forgotten after two or three months." - Sia"We have to be different if we want to play the game for the long term. You can't compete on quality alone; it's about creating a unique product that resonates with the community and stands the test of time." - Sia

"In the world of cannabis cultivation, it's about more than just the plant. It's about the people, the passion, and the dedication to create something exceptional. That's what truly makes a difference in this industry." - Michael Williamson

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MJBizCon 2023: New Products, Swag, & More!

MJBizCon 2023: New Products, Swag, & More!

Pipp Horticulture

Prepare to Be Blown Away!

Pipp Horticulture unveils new offerings at this year’s MJBizCon

“The objective was to significantly improve performance while simultaneously reducing material costs”

“We’re eager to showcase what we’ve been working on and share our latest developments and innovations. We continue to develop and refine our products to help cultivators positively affect canopy output while saving time and money by creating a more efficient facility and streamlining operations,” says Del Rockwell, Product Manager at Pipp Horticulture. The company is looking forward to unveiling several new offerings at this year’s MJBizCon. “MJBizCon is always one of the most anticipated events of the year, and this year is no exception. Pipp Horticulture is currently in full preparation mode as we gear up for the show, which is just a few weeks away,” Del says.

According to Del, the show provides the ideal platform for introducing new products, developments, and concepts. “As the Product Manager for Pipp Horticulture, this is my favorite aspect of the show,” he says. “I enjoy witnessing all the new innovations and, most importantly, having the opportunity to debut some of our innovations. This show’s platform allows us to receive immediate feedback on our ideas and concepts while also giving us insight into the developments of others in the industry. To me, it’s like a corporate-level Show ‘n Tell, and I personally love it.”

Pipp Horticulture Team

Mergers and Consolidations

According to Del, this year holds a unique significance due to broader economic trends and specific pressures within the cannabis market. “Cultivators are frequently merging and consolidating, which offers us opportunities to reassess and standardize best practices. As these partnerships mature, we’re discovering the combined value we can provide to growers and consumers alike.”

Over the past eight months, Pipp has harnessed the synergy created by these mergers and consolidations. “We’ve had the opportunity to acquire the assets of Grow Glide, combining two leading suppliers of multi-level mobile cultivation racking in the cannabis industry. This was no small feat, especially considering the high level of competition we both maintained in the industry over the past several years. It’s truly a dream scenario, as we can take the best elements from each company’s product line and culture, blend them together, and deliver something greater than the sum of its parts. Look forward to new and upgraded solutions in the coming year. We have exciting plans for the future!”

CWCBExpo in New York with our new Room Generator Tool

New Offerings

This year, there is much to anticipate, Del says. Pipp Horticulture is set to unveil several new offerings to better serve the commercial cannabis cultivation industry. “The most significant launch is the next generation of our In-Rack Air Circulation System, VAS 2.0, which we’ll debut at MJBizCon 2023 booth #33019. Over the past year, we’ve diligently collected feedback on the original system and made significant improvements and enhancements. Our goals were pretty straightforward, but I would not say ‘easy’. The objective was to significantly improve performance while simultaneously reducing material costs. Our newly assembled team employed a quantitative, science-based approach, using CFD and Design of Experiments to iterate quickly and validate our improvements. As a result, we were able to nearly double the recorded airflow, reduce material and installation costs, and enhance the system’s serviceability and cleanability. You might need to turn our fans down!” Del explains.

Pipp is also excited to showcase a variety of additional products and accessories, including:

  • ELEVATE® Platform Outside Aisle Solution: “This solution allows the use of Pipp’s ELEVATE® Platform System throughout the entire room without requiring significant layout changes for existing rooms.”
  • Modular Upright Design: “Introduced last year and now ready for launch and production, our modular uprights provide various direct and indirect advantages to our customers. The adjustable system eliminates interference points between our racking and other systems, such as airflow and irrigation, while significantly improving shipping and logistical efficiencies.”
  • Recessed Bearing Carriage Construction: “A minor visual change to our foundational carriage that yields improvements in system performance, cleanability, serviceability, and corrosion resistance, all of which play a significant role in GMP compliance.”
  • GGS Hybrid Rolling Bench: “Debuted last year as a prototype but now in full production, we’ve continued to refine the system over the past year. This product combines the best aspects of GGS’s tried-and-true rolling bench frame with continuous tray technology with the full range of mobility and rolling performance of the Pipp Carriage system into the ideal solution for single-level systems.”
  • Dispensary Storage Booth #7418: “We will be showcasing our Dispensary Mobile Shelving System in a dedicated space in the Retail Pavilion. These systems are installed in the stockrooms of hundreds of the top retailers worldwide. Our retail dispensary storage systems are designed to store your inventory safely and efficiently without sacrificing crucial floor space. Visit our retail booth #7418 to see these systems in action.”

MJBizCon 2023 is shaping up to be an exciting event for the Pipp Horticulture Team. The company is eager to share their latest developments and innovations with you at booths #33019 and #7418. “The stage is set, and there’s plenty of room for growth. See you at the show!”

*This article was featured on MMJ Daily, click here to view full article.

ELEVATE® Outside Aisle System
VAS Air Circulation System
VAS Air Circulation System

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Harvest AZ utilizing VAS Airflow Solutions for Cannabis with Pipp Grow Racks

5 Things US Cannabis Operators Need to Know About GACP & GMP

5 Things US Cannabis Operators Need to Know About GACP & GMP

Pipp Horticulture

Setting the Standard

Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) are vital quality assurance standards ensuring product consistency and safety across industries. They prevent errors, safeguard worker health, and protect the public. GMP is essential in pharmaceuticals, food, cosmetics, and more. This blog explores GMP principles, the absence of GMP guidelines in the US cannabis industry, and how businesses can prepare for future regulatory changes. We’ll also discuss GMP’s influence on architectural design and introduce Good Agricultural and Collection Practices (GACP) for medicinal plants, emphasizing GMP’s continuous pursuit of manufacturing excellence.

1. What is GMP?

GMP, or Good Manufacturing Practices, is the quality assurance process in product production that ensures product consistency and quality. GMP guidelines and compliance are critical for quality assurance, worker safety, and protecting human health. GMP prevents errors and inconsistencies that cannot be eliminated through quality control of the finished products and consumer goods. With GMP, it is possible to be sure that every unit of medicine or consumer goods manufactured is of the same quality as the units of medicine tested in the laboratory.

Key Principles of GMP:

  • Creation and enforcement of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).
  • Comprehensive documentation of all procedures and processes.
  • Validation of SOP effectiveness.
  • Development and implementation of efficient working systems.
  • Development of employee competencies.
  • Regular maintenance of systems, equipment, and facilities.
  • Prioritizing cleanliness to prevent contamination.
  • Ensuring quality is central to the design, development, and manufacturing workflow.

2. Why are there currently no GMP guidelines for cannabis in the United States?

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends guidelines for anything food, cosmetics, drug, or pharmaceutical-related. These guidelines consist of processes, procedures, and documentation that ensure manufacturing consumer goods are consistently produced and controlled according to set quality standards. Unfortunately, as the federal law currently states, the use, sale, and possession of cannabis containing over 0.3% THC by dry weight remains illegal as a Schedule I drug type under the federal Controlled Substance Act of 1970, despite laws in the majority of states that have enacted legislation permitting exemptions for various uses, including medical, industrial and recreational use. 

Because cannabis is currently a Schedule I drug type (sadly, the same category as Heroin and MDMA), federal agencies, such as the FDA, have not developed GMP guidelines for licensed and compliant cannabis operators. As a result, state lawmakers and cannabis business owners are forced to navigate this new and rapidly evolving industry without any standardized guidelines. 

On August 29, 2023, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recommended rescheduling marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). However, in the near term, this recommendation is unlikely to significantly impact the cannabis industry because the Drug Enforcement Agency must now conduct its review and decide whether to follow the HHS recommendation. It also does not legalize cannabis. State-licensed cannabis businesses will still be operating in violation of federal law. However, in the long term, the FDA could provide specific guidelines or subject cannabis to existing regulatory authority.

3. What can cannabis business owners do to be
GMP-ready as legislation changes in the future?

Cannabis operators can get critical insights into what GMP guidelines may potentially look like in the future for the US from global cannabis companies that are certified EU-GMP. Some of the differences between EU-GMP and US-GMP are that the EU-GMPs require manufacturers to have a pharmaceutical quality system (PQS), encompassing a broad range of quality management activities. The US-GMPs emphasize the establishment of a quality control unit (QCU) and use quality systems but do not have a specific requirement for a PQS.

Basic Requirements of EU-GMP:

  • All manufacturing processes are clearly defined, systematically reviewed in the light of experience, and shown to be capable of consistently manufacturing medicinal products of the required quality and complying with their specifications.
  • All critical steps of manufacturing processes and significant changes to the process are validated.
  • Appropriately qualified and trained personnel.
  • Adequate premises and space. 
  • Suitable equipment and services.
  • Correct materials, containers, and labels.
  • They approved procedures and instructions by the Pharmaceutical Quality System.
  • Suitable storage and transport.
  • Written instructions and procedures in unambiguous language tailored to the provided facilities.
  • Operators undergo training to ensure the correct execution of procedures.
  • During manufacture, operators create records manually or use recording instruments to demonstrate that they followed all steps required by the defined procedures and instructions, ensuring the expected quantity and quality of the product.
  • Any significant deviations are fully recorded and investigated to determine the root cause and appropriate corrective and preventive action implemented.
  • Manufacturers retain production and distribution records in an understandable and accessible form, enabling the tracing of the batch’s complete history.
  • The distribution of the products minimizes any risk to their quality and takes account of Good Distribution Practices.
  • A system is available to recall any product batch from sale or supply.
  • The team examines product complaints, investigates the causes of quality defects, and takes appropriate measures to prevent the recurrence of defective products.

4. How does GMP impact architectural design?

GMP can significantly influence the layout of a cultivation, extraction, and manufacturing facility and the selection of construction materials and equipment. The industrial architect must design the facility per the GMP regulations when applicable. Facility design for a GMP-compliant warehouse includes having designated areas for raw materials, finished goods, quarantine products, rejected products, etc. The warehouse must be dry, clean, and well-lit. The storage conditions shall be as per the material requirements.

Features to Incorporate in Facility Design:

  • Design and construct the facility to ensure hygienic production conditions.
  • Building materials, when applicable, should be easy to clean and sanitize.
  • There should be no way for the entry of insects, pests, birds, vermin, and rodents.
  • The facility should be spacious.
  • The facility has to be at a location where there are no fumes. The design should prevent any fumes or infestation of the product.
  • There should be covering on walls and floors, and surfaces should have cleanable surfaces.
  • The facility area should be free of cracks and open joints to avoid dust collection.
  • There should be segregation between departments and, in some cases, bio-secure vestibules for changing out personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • The facility infrastructure design should have a dedicated HVAC system based on area classification.
  • The facility should have a flexible layout.
  • The design must provide well-lit, ventilated production areas with air control facilities.
  • Design the drainage and plumbing system to prevent backflow and ensure adequate sizing.
  • Avoid open drains.
  • The construction process should not cause any negative impact on the environment.
  • The facility should have a provision for secure, hazardous, and inflammable materials as per the regulations.
  • Design a proper fire protection system.
  • Piping, electrical fittings, and other utilities should not create a recess.
  • Provide coloring and direction of flow on service lines.

5. What is GACP?

The World Health Organization (WHO) developed GACP, or Good Agricultural and Collection Practices for medicinal plants, in 2003 to enhance the safety, efficacy, and sustainability of medicinal plant material used in herbal medicines in the market. Specific to the cannabis industry, GACP consists of the practices used during agricultural production, which includes processes and procedures in the following stages: Tissue Culture, Mother/Stock, Propagation, Vegetative, Flowering, and Harvesting. Typically, the drying stage and all manufacturing after drying is where the transition happens from GACP to GMP.

Main Objectives of GACP Guidelines:

  • To contribute to the quality assurance of medicinal plant materials used as the source for herbal medicines to improve finished herbal products’ quality, safety, and efficacy.
  • To guide the formulation of national and regional GACP guidelines and GACP monographs for medicinal plants and related standard operating procedures.
  • To encourage and support the sustainable cultivation and collection of medicinal plants of good quality in ways that respect and support the conservation of medicinal plants and the environment in general.

Key Takeaway

GMP compliance is a continuous journey, not a destination. Regular audits, swift identification of potential deviations, and corrective actions are all part of this process. Embracing a culture of continuous improvement and having a team that understands and implements the principles and components of GMP are the first steps towards ensuring ‘Good’ Manufacturing Practices become ‘Great’ Manufacturing Practices.

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Episode 17: Helping the World Grow Smarter with Corinne Wilder from Fluence

Episode 17: Helping the World Grow Smarter with Corinne Wilder from Fluence

Helping The World Grow Smarter

Summary:

Ever wonder how the world of vertical farming is being revolutionized by LED lighting? Corinne Wilder, the VP of Global Commercial Operations at Fluence, joins host Michael Williamson. Corinne reveals the science-driven approach behind Fluence, a global LED horticultural lighting company. She shares her personal journey from a child growing up in a state park to a marine biology and ecology graduate and her transition to working in the commercial lighting industry.

Corinne has a unique perspective on the industry, having experienced firsthand the transition from a corporate giant like Panasonic to a startup atmosphere at Fluence. She sheds light on how LED technology has disrupted the vertical farming world, leading to the introduction of the all-white light at trade shows. Corinne also gives us an insider view on the challenges of understanding the title 24 code in California and its role in energy savings and rebates. You’ll gain a fresh perspective on the advantages of a broader spectrum of light for detecting pests and pathogens.

We discuss Corinne's leadership journey and her insights into women in leadership roles. She imparts valuable advice on finding your passion, advocating for yourself, and fighting against boundaries. We also delve into the fascinating world of oyster cultivation with our second guest, Rowan Jacobson, the author of numerous books on oysters. Get ready to discover the intricacies of oyster cultivation, the importance of native oysters to the American coast, and the intriguing possibility of creating an indoor aquarium environment for growing oysters. As we wrap up, we refocus on Fluence and the valuable resources they offer for those keen to delve deeper into this fascinating world.

  • 0:00 - Vertical Farming With LED Lighting
  • 8:58 - LED Technology Industry Career Transition
  • 20:34 - Commercial Operations and Female Leadership
  • 31:14 - Oyster Cultivation and Fluence Science

 
 

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Best Practices For Multi - tier Cannabis Cultivation

Lessons Learned – Best Practices For Multi-Tier Cannabis Cultivation Speaker Session at Cannabis Conference

Lessons Learned – Best Practices For Multi-Tier Cannabis Cultivation Speaker Session at Cannabis Conference

Lessons Learned – Best Practices For Multi-Tier Cannabis Cultivation Speaker Session at Cannabis Conference

Knowledge is Power!

Have you ever wondered if your facility is ready for that next phase in your process or if multi-tier cannabis cultivation is your calling? Our expert team presented at this year’s Cannabis Conference in Las Vegas, discussing lessons learned in the industry and best practices for multi-tier cannabis cultivation.

Listen as Michael Williamson, Director of Cultivation, Anders Peterson, Director of Horticulture, and Del Rockwell, Product Manager at Pipp Horticulture, examine the design of a space, such as keeping in mind room layout and how to incorporate your HVAC to have consistent airflow, while sharing tips and tricks on how to manage your canopy operation best and creating a harvesting strategy to stay consistent.

You will want to take advantage of this opportunity to hear from industry experts to learn something new you may want to incorporate into your daily routine!

Watch full session below!

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Episode 16: Future Proofing and Integrated Design with Mitch Galton from UrbanGro

Episode 16: Future Proofing and Integrated Design with Mitch Galton from UrbanGro

Future Proofing Integrated & Design

Summary:

Are you ready to unlock the secrets of the cannabis industry? Join us in an enlightening discussion with Mitch Galton, Director of Business Development at Urban Gro, as he pulls back the curtain on the highs and lows of navigating the burgeoning field. From conquering the market with speed to circumventing the industry's notorious delays, Mitch shares how Urban Gro's turnkey model is paving the way for success. Plus, he takes us on a trip down memory lane with his fascinating transition into the world of cannabis.

Scaling a 15-person startup to a 200-strong team is no mean feat - Mitch has seen it all. His journey in the horticulture and cannabis sector is filled with defining moments that shaped his career. He takes us from Texas to Canada, discussing the unique challenges that tagged along. With the stringent cultivation policies and retail restrictions in Canada, there's a lot to unpack. Stay tuned as we delve into the complexities of retrofitting cannabis facilities and how Urban Gro is facilitating smooth transitions for its clients.

Ever wondered how LED lighting and genetic selection play crucial roles in cannabis cultivation? Mitch's in-depth insights into these areas will leave you intrigued. He shines a light on the advantages of LED lighting for cultivation, the importance of genetic selection, and the challenges Canadian cultivators face. The conversation isn't only packed with practical insights but also brings to the forefront some thought-provoking questions about the future of the cannabis industry. So, is the industry ready to strike the perfect balance and future-proof cannabis facilities? Join us to find out!

  • 0:00 - Urban Gro's Solutions and Challenges
  • 06:45 - Startup Journey and Growth in Texas
  • 10:36 - Canadian Cannabis Market Challenges and Issues
  • 14:45 - Considerations for Retrofitting Cannabis Facilities
  • 26:03 - LED Lighting for Cannabis Cultivation
  • 36:41 - Genetic Selection and Brand Viability
  • 45:09 - Challenges and Considerations in Genetic Selection
  • 49:16 - Future-Proofing Cannabis Facilities

 
 

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This podcast uses the following third-party services for analysis: Chartable - https://chartable.com/privacy

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Fog City Farms

10 Essential Tips for Creating a Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) Facility

10 Essential Tips for Creating a Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) Facility

Vertical Air Solutions – Dry Ice Test for Cultivation Airflow w/ James Cunningham

Setting up a Successful CEA Facility

Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) has transformed the agricultural landscape, offering innovative solutions to traditional farming challenges. As urbanization increases and the demand for locally grown, pesticide-free crops increase, CEA facilities are gaining prominence. But setting up a successful CEA facility requires careful planning and foresight. Here are ten expert tips to help establish a thriving CEA operation.

1. Create a Comprehensive Plan

Setting up a Controlled Environment Agriculture facility requires a well-thought-out approach, accounting for many factors ranging from finance to nuanced design and engineering elements. One cannot overstate the importance of a comprehensive plan in ensuring your CEA facility’s efficiency, sustainability, and profitability. Investing time and effort into crafting a comprehensive plan can be the difference between the success and failure of your CEA venture. This plan should include: 

Business Plan

Start with a thorough business plan. This Business Plan should be the roadmap that guides your journey. Understand your target market, identify supply gaps, determine the crops you plan to produce based on market demand, and research the competition. 

The business plan should outline your marketing strategy, pricing model, and sales approach. Consider external factors that might influence your business, such as regulations, competition, market fluctuations, technological advances, and environmental concerns. Building flexibility into your business plan can help you adapt to unforeseen changes.

Financial Proforma

This is a critical component of planning that will have implications throughout the operations lifecycle. A financial proforma provides projections for revenues, expenses, and profitability. Your proforma should include estimates for initial startup costs, operating costs, anticipated yields, and selling prices. You must also factor in technology costs, testing, labor, genetics, nutrients, advisors, sales and marketing, and utilities. 

This document is crucial not only for internal budgeting but also imperative when seeking external financing or investors. Remember to regularly revisit and adjust your financial proforma as real-world data from your operations flows in.

Facility Design

Designing the facility is one of the most crucial yet challenging components of setting up a CEA. Whether you’re conceptualizing an indoor vertical farm, greenhouse, or another type of CEA environment, the design should optimize space, ensure efficient and ergonomic labor, minimize utility consumption, and promote high yields. 

Consider light sources, ventilation, environmental control, pest control management, and workflow. A well-thought-out design can significantly influence the efficiency and productivity of your CEA setup. If possible, involve experts or consultants in this phase to benefit from their experience.

2. Define Your Goals

Defining clear and measurable goals ensures success, strengthens morale, and maximizes resources when setting up a CEA facility. Before diving into the technicalities, clarify your objectives. Are you aiming for a specific ROI, year-round production, specific crop production, organic, and or GMP certification? Your facility’s design, technology, and operating procedures should align with these objectives. Early in the planning stage, it is essential to identify the type(s) and volume of crops you intend to cultivate. Each crop will have unique environmental needs regarding light, humidity, temperature, CO2, and nutrients. Once you’ve identified the crop, set clear yield objectives. Your infrastructure, technology, and financial investments will largely pivot on this decision. By defining goals clearly and precisely, informed stakeholders can align to ensure their facility’s resilience, profitability, and community impact.

3. Choose the Right Location

While Controlled Environment Agriculture facilities offer greater environmental control, location still matters and can impact nearly all variables operators manage. Here are a few factors to consider:

Energy Availability

Understand your power requirements. Ensure you have access to consistent, affordable energy sources. Lack of power can significantly impede optimization or worse.

Water Quality

Access to clean water is crucial. Test water for contaminants and consider and establish a purification system based on the results.

Logistics

Proximity to suppliers and markets reduces transportation costs and ensures product freshness.

Labor Force

Ensure access to the appropriate labor force at rates within the allocated budget.

4. Plan for Scalability and Future Expansion

When planning your facility, defining your goals, and selecting a location, don’t neglect to consider scalability. Planning for scalability and future expansion in a Controlled Environment Agriculture facility is a multifaceted endeavor that can save significant time, effort, and money. Developing a modular design is a practical approach to ensuring scalability, designing, and constructing in a way that allows for easy expansion or integration of new sections. Your modular design involves conceptualizing the physical structure, electrical, plumbing, and other systems to be expandable. Operations can add new modules or zones with minimal downtime and impact on existing processes.

A scalable CEA facility doesn’t just refer to infrastructure and technology; it’s also the team operating it. Continuous training programs ensure a prepared workforce to handle expansions and adopt new technologies. Focusing on workforce development ensures that personnel are ready to take on managerial roles as the company scales. Scaling operations often require significant capital. It’s crucial to have a clear financial roadmap that outlines the resources needed for future expansions. Scaling operations may entail setting aside a portion of profits for reinvestment, exploring external financing options, or partnering with investors who understand the vision of the business. Finally, it’s essential to have mechanisms in place to gauge market demand constantly. Scalability should be in line with market needs. By establishing strong feedback loops with distributors, retailers, and end-consumers, the CEA facility can fine-tune its expansion plans to better align with market dynamics.

5. Optimize for Space

Optimizing space in a CEA Facility is paramount, given the premium costs associated and the need to maximize yields to ensure profitability. As urban farming and indoor agriculture continue to gain traction, operations are constantly searching for innovative techniques and technologies to maximize output in limited space. A groundbreaking innovation in this space is the development of mobile vertical farming racks. Mobile vertical grow racks allow farmers to utilize unused aisles and vertical space, which is particularly relevant in urban settings where horizontal space is often limited. By stacking crops on top of one another, these racks can dramatically increase yields in a fixed area and their mobility allows for additional space optimization by eliminating static aisles and improves plant maintenance, harvesting, and cleaning.

Catwalk systems are another space-saving tool for CEA facilities. They’re advantageous operations where accessing the top tiers of vertical farming racks can become a challenge. Catwalks provide growers with safe and convenient access to all vertical indoor farming setup levels. This ease of access can also speed up farming operations like pruning, scouting, and harvesting. Mobile carts have become indispensable tools in modern CEA setups. These carts are designed and customized for seeding, transplanting, or harvesting tasks. Due to their mobility, they allow workers to move seamlessly from one location to another, carrying all the necessary tools and supplies with them. Utilizing mobile carts saves space and significantly improves operational efficiency, wasting less time moving back and forth.

6. Ensure Proper Air Circulation

One of the essential components contributing to the success of a CEA facility is ensuring proper air circulation and sanitation. Efficient air movement is vital for plant health and crucial for temperature, humidity, and contaminant control, influencing crop yields and quality. The ambient airflow system is at the heart of maintaining an ideal growing environment. Ambient airflow creates a gentle, consistent movement of air that minimizes hot, cold, or stagnant spots and ensures an even distribution of heat, humidity, and carbon dioxide (CO2) around the plants. Proper ambient airflow can also help prevent the growth of mold and other pathogens by reducing the moisture build-up on plant surfaces.

When well-designed, ambient airflow systems can significantly improve plant health and productivity by creating an environment where plants can optimally perform photosynthesis and transpiration. Multi-Level Airflow Systems: For multi-tiered growing systems, multi-level airflow becomes essential. Unlike traditional single-layer operations, multi-tiered systems have unique challenges, as each layer might have slightly different microclimates. The multi-level airflow system addresses these issues and ensures that each tier gets adequate air movement. Design and install these systems to ensure every plant receives a uniform air supply. Additionally, these systems help prevent diseases and pest infestations specific to each level. By effectively understanding and implementing these systems, growers can expect crop quality, yield, and overall plant health improvements.

7. Automate for Consistency

Automation in a CEA facility can encompass a multitude of systems and processes. Consistent automation could range from simple temperature and humidity controls to complex nutrient dosing, CO2 enrichment, and integrated pest management systems. By automating these processes, growers can ensure that plants receive the exact amount of water, light, nutrients, and other necessities at the right time. Such precision maximizes crop yield and quality and minimizes resource waste. When external conditions, such as temperature or sunlight, fluctuate, automation systems can adjust internal conditions to maintain the desired environment, ensuring that plants remain unaffected.

In addition to enhancing crop growth, automating processes can lead to operational efficiencies and labor savings. Modern automated systems often come equipped with data analytics capabilities. Allowing growers to monitor trends, make predictions, and refine their cultivation strategies to minimize utility and nutrient use while adjusting for optimal conditions. Having access to this information not only reduces costs but also lessens the environmental footprint of the facility.

8. Invest in Training and Continuous Learning

Setting up a CEA facility is a multifaceted undertaking that demands an in-depth understanding of various interdisciplinary domains. It amalgamates knowledge from botany, engineering, data science, and even business. As such, training and continuous learning become crucial components for the success of any CEA initiative.

Initial Training

When first embarking on a CEA venture, the team should undergo intensive training on the fundamentals of the system. This type of training could range from understanding plant physiology and its specific requirements for optimal growth to mastering the intricacies of the CEA technologies. Light intensity, nutrient mix, temperature, and humidity must be controlled and optimized. Mistakes in managing these variables can result in crop failure or suboptimal yields, making training a critical investment for long-term viability.

This training isn’t just limited to technicians or the individuals directly handling the crops. Stakeholders at all levels, from managerial to marketing, should fundamentally understand the operations. This training ensures everyone is aligned, leading to efficient decision-making and problem-solving.

Continuous Learning

As with any technology-driven industry, the world of CEA is constantly evolving. New research provides insights into better crop management practices. Technological advancements introduce tools and systems to optimize plant growth and reduce operational costs. Given this rapidly changing landscape, continuous learning is not just beneficial; it’s imperative.

Team members should regularly attend workshops, seminars, and courses. Many academic and research institutions offer specialized programs focused on CEA. Online platforms have become treasure troves of knowledge, with webinars, courses, and forums dedicated to CEA best practices. Leveraging these resources can provide a competitive edge.

Collaborative Learning and Networking

CEA facilities can benefit immensely from networking with similar operations elsewhere. Collaborative learning opportunities can be invaluable, where facilities share successes, challenges, and learnings. Collaborative efforts could lead to shared research projects, the pooling of resources for better training tools, or even joint ventures in exploring new markets or crop possibilities. Leverage the collective knowledge of the CEA community to overcome individual challenges and push the envelope on what’s achievable in controlled environment agriculture.

9. Implementing IPM Program

Implementing Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programs in Controlled Environment Agriculture facilities is essential for ensuring crop health, optimizing yields, and overall success. Due to the controlled nature of these environments, there’s an opportunity to adopt a comprehensive and proactive approach to pest management. IPM focuses on a holistic approach, combining various strategies to manage pests and pathogens rather than relying solely on chemical pesticides. In a CEA facility, it starts with preventing pest entry. Pests mainly gain access via new plants, materials, or humans. Regularly inspecting and quarantining new plants, ensuring the facility is airtight, and having proper hygiene, cleaning, and sanitation protocols can help prevent pest entry.

Continuous monitoring is crucial for an effective IPM strategy in a CEA setup. Use yellow or blue sticky traps to monitor flying insects’ presence and population levels. Once pests are detected, it’s vital to identify them accurately. Not all insects or microorganisms are harmful; some might even be beneficial. Accurate identification ensures that the response is appropriate and effective. Beneficial insects, like ladybugs, predatory mites, and parasitic wasps, can be introduced to manage pest populations. A controlled and sealed environment maximizes the efficacy of releasing these biocontrol agents.

In a CEA facility, growers have the advantage of adjusting environmental parameters, such as temperature and humidity, to unfavorable levels for pests. Physical controls, such as barriers, screens, or UV light traps, can be installed to prevent or reduce the entry and movement of pests. While the emphasis in IPM is to minimize chemical use, sometimes it becomes necessary, especially when pest populations reach threatening levels. In such cases, select pesticides wisely. Preferably, choose those that are least toxic, have minimal residual effect, and are safe for beneficial insects. Rotation of different modes of action can prevent resistance development in pest populations.

10. Continuous Evaluation and Adaption

CEA facilities and associated growing methodologies significantly advance modern agricultural practices, emphasizing precise control over environmental conditions to optimize plant growth and production. This technology-driven approach to farming can be applied in greenhouses, vertical farms, or other indoor facilities and hinges upon continuous evaluation, improvement, and adaptation to optimize crop outcomes. Essentially consistently monitoring and adjusting conditions in real-time to meet plants’ specific needs throughout their growth cycles.

Continuous evaluation in CEA is an ongoing process of collecting and analyzing data on various environmental parameters. By regularly tracking these variables, growers can identify patterns, anomalies, or inefficiencies that may impact plant health, growth rate, or yield. CEA operations often integrate many tools and systems to facilitate the perpetual cycle of monitoring and adjusting. Sensors continuously measure soil moisture content, ambient environmental conditions, and nutrient levels, feeding this data into centralized control systems. Automated irrigation systems can adjust water delivery based on real-time moisture data, ensuring plants receive optimal hydration with minimal waste.

Similarly, climate control systems can regulate temperature and humidity, ensuring they remain within desired ranges. Remote monitoring and cloud-based platforms have become increasingly prevalent in CEA, enabling growers to supervise and manage their facilities from anywhere in the world. Remote monitoring and cloud-based platforms facilitate quicker decision-making and allow for collaboration among experts in different geographical locations.

Conclusion

As our world continues to change, efficient, sustainable, and optimized agricultural production becomes imperative. By following the ten essential tips outlined in this blog, you’re ensuring a well-established foundation for your CEA facility, promising higher yields, optimal plant health, and a significant reduction in resource waste. 

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Episode 15: Progress and Challenges for the Global Cannabis Market with Fluence

Episode 15: Progress and Challenges for the Global Cannabis Market with Fluence

Progress & Challenges for the Global Cannabis Market

Summary:

Ever wondered why Germany plays such a pivotal role in the European cannabis industry? Join your host, Michael Williamson, as he speaks with Timo Bongartz, General Manager of Fluence, in an engaging discussion exploring the fascinating world of cannabis cultivation and lighting. Michael and Timo shed light on the complexities of obtaining a prescription for medical cannabis in Germany and discuss potential shifts in this landscape.

They address the progress and challenges of the cannabis lighting industry, the need for market correction and standardization and the intricacies of managing complex business models. They explore the future of Europe’s role and the steps necessary for swift development. Through analysis of pilot projects in Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands and their potential impacts on the supply chain, you’ll discover why the German cannabis market is crucial for international stakeholders and how the country's healthcare system influences patient access to medical cannabis.

Explore insights, trends, and investment opportunities within the dynamic cannabis market. Our guide unveils advanced cannabis cultivation techniques, ensuring top-tier medical cannabis quality. Ready to master the art of cultivation? Join us in setting a path to distinction in this ever-evolving industry. Elevate your understanding, seize opportunities, and redefine the future of healthcare. Take the first step – explore, learn, and innovate with us. Your journey starts now.

  • 00:00 - Vertical Farming and German Cannabis Market

  •  

    13:28 - Cannabis Industry Challenges and Progress

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Episode 14: The Science & Business of Cannabis: What to Measure & Why with GrowGlide

Episode 14: The Science & Business of Cannabis: What to Measure & Why with GrowGlide

Science Business of Cannabis What to Measure & Why

Summary:

Join us on Cultivation Elevated as we embark on an exciting exploration into the world of cannabis cultivation. This episode features a fascinating discussion with Jesse Porter, the Director of Cultivation for GrowGlide. Listen in as Jesse discusses the impact of GrowGlide's recent acquisition by Pipp Horticulture. He shares insights on the challenges and rewards of competition in the industry and how this acquisition paves the way for innovation and better support for the end customer.

We journey through host Michael Williamson's personal experiences in the cannabis industry. From being a hydro shop and nursery owner to moving to the West Coast and experiencing the boom of the cannabis market, Michael shares his strategies for differentiation in a competitive market. He also delves into how metrics and KPIs can help cannabis businesses enhance their efficiencies and how simple solutions can significantly improve your business without any additional financial cost.

We conclude the episode with a deep dive into how to maximize success in multi-tier cannabis cultivation. We take a closer look at how understanding your environment is crucial when transitioning to a multi-tier cultivation facility. So, whether you're an existing grower or owner looking to optimize your facility or someone looking to cultivate more in less space, tune in for key insights into vertical farming success.

  • 00:02 - Competition and Innovation in Vertical Farming
  • 12:50 - Hydro Shop Owner's Cannabis Journey
  • 23:28 - Optimizing Canopy Yield and Workflow Efficiency
  • 27:07 - Maximizing Success in Multi-Tier Cannabis Cultivation
  • 31:46 - Cannabis Cultivation Survival and Lean Principles
  • 44:39 - Efficiency and Data in Cannabis Facilities
  • 49:13 - Future Predictions for Cannabis and Food
  • 55:54 - Appreciation for Cultivation Elevated Podcast

 
 

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