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Cultivating Cannabis Profits With Vertical Farming Technology

As cannabis legalization continues to roll out across the United States, more growers are looking to optimize canopy space and their bottom line with vertical farming technology. Not only is vertical farming a solution to costly real estate necessary for large-scale cannabis production, it also reduces grow time and labor costs through standardization and automation.

Whether it’s corn, cucumbers, or cannabis, the goal of any farming operation is to grow healthy plants in abundance, and this is where vertical farming excels. Current applications of vertical farming, paired with state-of-the-art indoor growing technologies, have resulted in over 10 times the crop yield than traditional farming methods.

Vertical farming is also one of the more sustainable methods of growing cannabis, along with many other fruits, flowers, and vegetables. It uses up to 95 percent less water and nearly 100 percent less space than traditional growing methods while harvesting 80 percent more per unit of area, year-round.

Indoor Vertical Farming Technology Overview: What is it?

For decades, indoor-grown cannabis has reigned supreme in the marketplace, compared to her outdoor-grown sister. It’s no different today. Vertical farming technologies simply allow farmers to improve upon their indoor growing methods but on a much larger scale in vertically stacked layers.

Besides using every square foot of cultivation space available, vertical farming infrastructure and technologies ensure crops receive ideal lighting, airflow, water, and nutrients necessary for optimal growth.

4 Ways Vertical Farming Technology Can Improve Your Cannabis Operation

New and noteworthy technologies offer countless opportunities to incorporate vertical farming into your indoor cannabis cultivation operation. Besides energy and labor savings, indoor farming technologies help growers consistently produce healthy, high-yield crops.

Let’s look at how your vertical farming space can get an edge over the competition with four must-have technologies that are worth your investment.

1. Grow More With Mobile Vertical Grow Racks

Vertical grow racks are the foundation on which a successful vertical cannabis farming business is built. They allow for multiple levels of cannabis plants to grow on a large scale and provide the framework for shelves, LED lights, and other indoor farming technology necessary for healthy plants.

Vertical grow racks from Pipp Horticulture feature strong, anti-microbial, and fungal-resistant beams and uprights that lock together tightly, using a unique tapered finger attachment design. They can be designed with grow trays tailored to each operation, including combination grow trays, drip-to-drain grow trays and ABS combination grow trays. In addition, installing the vertical grow racks on mobile carriages transforms fixed aisle space in between each rack into more canopy space for operation. Pipp’s mobile drying carts or racks can help growers convert their dry room into a mobile, multi-tier dry/cure system while at the same time, reducing labor costs and improving the product’s quality.

2. LED Lights Grow Lush Plants With Less Energy

The most successful indoor and vertical farming operations rely on LED lights for lush and healthy plant growth. High-quality LED lighting solutions are also far more energy-efficient and produce less heat compared to traditional high-intensity discharge fixtures. By using targeted light spectrums and brightness, advanced LED light fixtures can optimize plant growth at every stage. The result is lower energy costs without sacrificing crop yield or crop quality.

3. Prevent Pathogens With Climate Control Systems

The biggest advantage of vertical farming technology is, perhaps, the ability to control the growing environment. Extreme temperatures and humidity can have a significant effect on plant health and are often the cause of poor yields, pests, and pathogens — even indoors. Fortunately, with a climate control system in place, indoor growers can control the environment for a remarkable harvest.

The best vertical farm climate control systems, like Vertical Air Solution’s Air Circulation System, operate at the microclimate level keeping consistent airflow throughout your vertical grow delivering ideal temperatures, humidity, and CO2 levels directly to the plants.

4. Controls and Sensors Offer Important Insight

Controls and sensors are essentially the central nervous system of your indoor cultivation operation that create self-regulating, micro-climates ideal for healthy plant growth. The controller operates growing equipment, collects data, and provides critical insight to the grower while sensors allow growers to monitor the environment. Oftentimes this can all be carried out with a smartphone app.

By controlling and monitoring the grow environment this way, cultivators can activate indoor farm equipment including LED lighting, HVAC units, and irrigation systems, automatically maintaining the ideal conditions to grow crops.

Vertical Farming is the Future: Trends In Technology

Industry experts have identified a rapid expansion of the general vertical farming market, which is expected to reach $7.3 billion annually by 2025. Increased access to institutional financing and banking services under proposed federal cannabis reforms will likely fuel intensified investment in vertical farming systems and indoor farming technology in the future.

With ongoing innovations in vertical farming technologies, it will be vital for growers to stay up to date on the latest advancements. By acquiring and installing high-quality vertical farming technologies today, savvy indoor farmers can expect to cultivate cannabis profits well into the future.

Watch to discover the 10 essential vertical farming tools you need for the ultimate grow room:

People also ask…

What technology is used in vertical farming?

A variety of state-of-the-art technologies, such as specialized LED lights, mobile vertical grow racks, and air-flow systems are used in vertical farming operations. In most cases, vertical farming technologies are combined into fully integrated systems.

What is the best vertical farming system?

The best vertical farming system largely depends on the growers’ needs. Mobile Vertical Grow Racks have proven to be the most effective solution for grow operations to maximize their canopy. In addition, soil-free systems, including hydroponics, are successful because of their effectiveness, eco-sustainability, and monetary advantages.

What are the methods of vertical farming?

Vertical farms come in all different shapes and sizes, from shipping containers to abandoned buildings several stories tall. Most vertical & indoor farms use one of three soil-free systems to provide nutrients to plants: hydroponic, aeroponics, or aquaponics.

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Pipp Cultivating Cannabis Connections at MJBizCon 2021

When you’re out roaming the massive floor of the MJBizCon conference & cannabis expo next week, stop by our booth and say hello. Pipp Horticulture is one of over 1,000 cannabis industry exhibitors that will attend the 10th annual MJBizCon in Las Vegas from Oct. 19 to 22, 2021.

“Come meet with our team of the most experienced cultivation experts in the vertical farming industry,” said John Ritter, Director of Sales at Pipp Horticulture.

Pipp Horticulture will be at booth #C6235. Visitors to Pipp’s booth can interact with the company’s innovative TRAK-FREE™ mobile vertical racking system to feel how smoothly it glides along the floor with a simple turn of the handle.

“This hands-on experience transforms a prospect into a customer,” said Tom French, Director of Engineering & Operations at Pipp. Attendees will also have an opportunity to see Pipp’s patent-pending ELEVATE™ Platform system up close and in person.

Elevate Your Vertical Farming IQ at MJBizCon 2021

Pipp Horticulture’s ELEVATE™ Platform System is a robust, lightweight, and portable deck that allows cultivators to access the upper levels of Pipp’s Multi-Tier Mobile Grow Racks quickly, efficiently and safely.

The company’s groundbreaking system integrates with Pipp’s Bulk Rack Shelving Systems without need for modifications. Growers can easily install The ELEVATE™ Platform System on new or existing Pipp mobile vertical grow racks. Be sure to ask us about the ELEVATE™ Platform System and any other Pipp products and services at MJBizCon. We’re here to help!

MJBizCon Is The Preeminent Cannabis Event of the Year

Produced by MJBizDaily, the cannabis industry’s top business news publication since 2011, MJBizCon is the cannabis industry’s most revered event.

“MJBizDaily is highly respected in the industry and this is reflected at every event,’’ said Craig Umans, President & CEO of Pipp Horticulture. “Our team has consistently walked away with valuable leads, conversations, and opportunities that invigorate us for the year ahead. There is a high level of engagement, which makes the experience worthwhile for all parties who participate.”  

Held on 250,000 sq. ft. of expo floor at Las Vegas Convention Center, the three-day MJBizCon event gives attendees enough space and time to experience all there is to offer. Pipp’s first year at MJBizCon was in 2017. While last year’s virtual show was excellent, the company is excited that MJBizCon will be live again in 2021.

“There’s nothing like having a face-to-face conversation with like-minded attendees,” said Curtis Dadian, National Sales Manager at Pipp. “In-person is something we have been waiting for with high anticipation.”

Besides promoting its core products and services at the marijuana business conference & expo, Pipp will have the opportunity to join business leaders, major private investors, wholesale cultivators, and other industry professionals at cannabis networking events and educational seminars.

MJBizCon’s 2021 keynote speaker ABC’s Shark Tank star and The Shark Group CEO, Daymond John. Daymond is also founder/CEO of FUBU and presidential ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship. Networking events at MJBizCon this year are Achieving Equity in Cannabis, and Empowering Women in Cannabis while dozens of breakout sessions will bring Pipp and other players the latest trends and developments in cannabis. Here are just a few we’re looking forward to.

  • A Candid View of Cannabis Markets in 2021 and predictions for 2022
  • The Next Wave of Innovation and Investment in the Cannabis Economy
  • Supply Chain Interruptions, Shortages and New Contaminants: Cannabis Industry Impacts of Covid-19
  • Unicorn Yields : Raising the Bar of What Cannabis Can Produce feature latest technologies
  • From the Ground Up: Launching a Cannabis Cultivation Operation

“For cannabis companies seeking partnerships, advice, investors, connections or new products and services, MJ Biz Con is the place to do it,” said Curtis Dadian.

When you stop by Pipp’s booth #C6235, ask about our major industry announcement and be sure to enter the company’s giveaway for a chance to win Pipp’s exclusive Grower’s Survival Kit, valued at $500. The Pipp Grower’s Survival Kit includes merchandise from some of the most highly respected brands in the industry like YETI®, Revelry, Method Seven, Farmer’s Defense and more!

Look forward to connecting at MJBizCon 2021! 

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7 Signs a Plant Is Healthy

The cannabis industry is rapidly growing and is on pace to more than double in value by 2025. While new cultivators begin to enter the industry, one factor continues to set each grower apart – the health of their canopy. Achieving a plentiful harvest of healthy cannabis is not an easy task. It takes diligence, education, and many years of experience to become masterful at the grow process. From root development to canopy airflow, it is a meticulous process that must be measured and monitored continuously.

If neglected, microbials, pathogens, and pests appear and reproduce rapidly throughout the canopy, potentially destroying or minimizing total harvest yields. However, early detection helps to overcome these hurdles, so the cultivator can focus on growing lush and nutrient-rich cannabis plants.

Here we’ll discuss how to recognize the noticeable signs that indicate healthy plants throughout the cultivation process.

Visual Appearance

Visual appearance is one of the easiest ways to determine the health of a cannabis plant. Through simple visual cues, a cultivator can get a good indication of plant health and identify deficiencies that require attention.

Here are four initial visual considerations to recognize when looking for plant health:

• Typical leaf color (no discoloration) and consistency throughout plants.
• Strength of leaves – No wilting, dropping, or curling. Ideally, leaves stretching up towards the light.
• Number of leaves – mature plants typically have seven or more leaves.
• Void of spots, variegation, burnt tips.

As operations scale up, these visual cues may be more difficult to distinguish. Pipp Horticulture’s Mechanical Assist Drive System allows for easy observation of the visible appearance of plants throughout multiple aisles at the same time. To view the top-level canopy, install the ELEVATE side rails on each side of Pipp’s vertical racks, take the first deck, slide it into place on the rails, then daisy chain remaining decks down the aisle. From there, hook the ladder on, and the operator is ready to access the second level!

Root Development

After examining the general visual appearance on the top of the plant, be sure to check on the plant’s root development. Roots are the foundation for cannabis growth, and poor root development can indicate that the plant is not absorbing water or transporting essential nutrients.

When determining if a root system is healthy, check for these indicators:

• Healthy white appearance with little to no browning
• Roots should be plentiful and grow outward to the edges of the container
• No signs of root rot (brown and mushy)
• Not rootbound or tangled

Remember: maintaining healthy roots is essential for producing healthy plants!

Air Movement

The growth environment, including air circulation and ventilation systems, can also play a role in determining a plant’s health. Proper intake and exhaust ensure sufficient amounts of CO2 for photosynthesis and prevent environments favorable to microbial growth.

This is why destratification techniques should be utilized to minimize any microclimates caused by transpiration from plants and other factors. Vertical Air Solutions Air Circulation System keeps consistent airflow throughout every part of a vertical grow and allows cultivators to take control of environmental factors such as temperature, humidity, and CO2 levels.

Watch how to maximize airflow throughout the pruning process below:

Brix

Brix (symbol °Bx) is a measurement of the sugar/sucrose levels in plants. A higher brix count typically indicates a healthier, more nutritious plant. Use a refractometer to measure Brix (sugar) and ensure that it is in the ideal range for healthy photosynthesis. This range is between 12%-30% and is a good indicator of plant health.

Defoliation is one of the most effective ways to raise sugar levels by redirecting sugars to the most needed parts of the plant. When searching for a Brix Refractometer, there are a wide variety of measurement tools available online and in hydroponic stores.

Runoff

Runoff is the water stream that goes beyond the root zone of the cannabis plant. This water is full of useful information about plant nutrient levels, fertilizer, and more. Measuring the concentration of solubles (PPM) and soil acidity (pH) in runoff can be an excellent indicator of overall plant health.

When performing these measurements, compare PPM/EC & PH of runoff to input PPM/EC & PH. Runoff should be considerably lower in PPM/EC, showing the plant is effectively taking in nutrients. These levels can easily be determined by using test strips from a local hydroponic store or, for more accurate measurements, use a digital EC/PH/Temp monitor.

Visual Pest Inspection

As discussed, precise temperature, airflow, and humidity levels are all essential to growing nutrient-rich plants. However, these conditions can often harbor unwanted pests and insects. The ability to identify these insects, their preferred environmental conditions, and how fast they can multiply throughout a canopy is essential to plant preservation. Visually scouting for these pests can be done by the human eye or through cameras, AI, and pest control software.

Consider utilizing yellow sticky traps, microscopes, AI, and companion plants in the pest management process. After taking all the necessary measures, the absence of or limited amount of certain pests is a good indicator of plant health.

Trichomes

Trichome color and appearance can help gauge timing for an optimal harvest. Typically healthy trichomes at their peak concentration will have a slightly milky white color, meaning they are full of THC. At this stage, use an HD digital camera/microscope or a small hand-held microscope to observe overall ripeness.

When taking an up-close look, keep an eye out for any burnt or amber colors as this could indicate some damage. Ensuring proper room temperature, humidity, and light exposure throughout the entire growth process can keep trichomes from suffering any destruction.

Summary

In conclusion, it’s essential to recognize the signs of an unhealthy cannabis plant before it spread throughout the canopy. Pipp Horticulture’s vertical farming equipment can also assist with keeping plants healthy, increasing ROI, and getting more from every harvest.

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Finding the Best Grow Tray for Your Cultivation Facility

Grow trays might be a second thought when selecting supplies and equipment for your cultivation space. But the wrong choice could result in broken equipment or pathogen friendly growing environment. Grow trays are vital to every cannabis grow and in this article we’ll review the different options and their pros and cons.

Cannabis grow trays are offered in various levels of quality and format. As with most things in life, investing in something that will last and provide a clean, safe environment for your plants pays off.

What is a Grow Tray?

 

Grow trays are molded containers that are designed to hold plants and enable easy and efficient irrigation. They are typically long, rectangular, and shallow. The most common dimensions for grow trays are 4’ x 8’.

Grow trays were certainly not invented for the modern-day cannabis industry. They have been used in greenhouse settings since the 18th century in North America. Some believe that Chinese farmers were cultivating cannabis in grow trays as far back as 500 BCE or even earlier.

While plant-growing trays are a common item on every cultivation facility’s supply list, it’s worth reevaluating the quality and value of trays you might be purchasing at local stores. The materials used in manufacturing the trays have a big impact on their performance and contribution to the growing environment.

Two Irrigation Methods

 

Irrigation in outdoor gardens is different from the methods we describe below, which are ideal for greenhouse or indoor gardens. Here is an overview of the main two ways grow trays are utilized in cannabis cultivation facilities:

Drain to Waste

One of the most common indoor cultivation setups is called Drain to Waste. The grow trays hold the plant containers which connect to numerous irrigation lines. A reservoir pumps nutrient solution to the trays and the lines release it to the tops of the plants. The solution drips through the plant medium, feeding the roots, and flows out the bottom of the plant containers. This run-off is then drained from the trays to ensure there’s no standing water in the trays that can be a host to many issues in the grow facility.

Fostering healthy root systems is vital to increasing yields. Placing several drip lines onto each plant ensures that the nutrient solution drains through the plant’s roots evenly and thoroughly. The entire surface area of the plant’s grow medium should be moistened. The faster the grow media drains, the more emitters the drip system will need.

Ebb and Flow

A less commonly used approach in commercial indoor cultivation is the ebb and flow method. Similar to the ways the ocean ebbs and flows on the shore, this method periodically floods the grow tray. The roots are fully flooded each time from the bottom, while Drain to Waste is a slow drip to the top of the grow medium. A drainage hole at the bottom of the trays brings water back to the reservoir where it can go through filtration and treatment to be used again.

Challenges with Low Quality Trays

 

Cutting costs when it comes to grow trays can mean increased costs down the road. A healthy grow environment stems from multiple factors, including the materials and equipment used in the setup. Below are some major challenges associated with growing plant trays:

Sagging

Low cost trays are often thinner to save on manufacturing costs. When they are loaded with cannabis plants, they often sag or bow, which causes water to pool. Standing water is a grower’s nightmare. It can attract pests and encourage mold, bacteria or fungus to take hold.

Cracking

Over time, exposure to UV radiation can degrade plastic trays that were not made with special UV-stabilized plastic material. These trays have a shorter shelf life and can become brittle and crack. A chalky appearance and color shift on the surface are indicators of degradation.

Cracks lead to leaks and a host of added problems, like standing water on the floor and mold or microbial issues.

Sanitization Challenges

Between every round, cultivators sanitize their facility and the tables and trays in the grow rooms. With repeated scrubbing and cleaning, cheap plastic grow trays will bend, warp, or crack. Investing in grow trays manufactured of a more durable material affords long-term use and ability to withstand repeated vigorous cleanings.

Lack of Integration

Grow trays aren’t made to fit all cannabis facility designs and growing spaces. This is especially true for vertical farming operations. Purchasing trays produced by the same vendor that manufactured the vertical racking systems will ensure a proper fit and seamless integration with other equipment like HVAC and lights.

Pipp’s Top of the Line Grow Trays

Our cannabis industry product line is manufactured using the highest quality materials and manufacturing processes. With the expertise of industry mavens, we’ve designed superior grow trays and vertical racking systems. Below are the different grow trays that we manufacture, right here in the USA.

ABS Combo Grow Trays

ABS is a thermoplastic polymer typically used for injection molding. The benefits of ABS trays are that they provide UV-stability, make cleanup very easy, and are extremely durable.

Pipp’s ABS Combo Grow Trays provide the best balance of cost and performance, as they can be used for both drip-to-drain or ebb and flow irrigation styles. These grow trays are designed to sit level to provide cannabis plants with a flat growing surface. A network of sloped canals within the ABS Combo Grow Trays ensures proper drainage.

Our ABS Trays have a proprietary coating with anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties. Investing in trays that have been treated in this specific way helps prevent issues that impact crop production and business profitability.

GHI Aluminum Grow Trays

Aluminum trays are a bigger investment, but they are corrosion resistant throughout the tray’s life. They have a robust aluminum construction with great durability and a reflective white powder coat finish that absorbs or wastes very little light.

Pipp’s GHI (Greenhaus Industries) Aluminum Grow Trays are one of the only aluminum grow trays a commercial cultivator will find suitable for a large-scale operation. Built-in slopes allow run-off to move efficiently to drain fittings, while integral supports provide attachment points for lights and HVAC. The 1” pilot hole pattern allows simple attachment of any accessory.

GHI Aluminum Grow trays can be used for either drip to drain or ebb and flow
irrigation styles and are also treated with our anti-microbial and anti-fungal coating.

Finding a Quality Grow Tray

 

At Pipp Horticulture, we know our business. Our innovative products have been designed in partnership with cannabis growers and engineered in-house. Only through first-hand cultivation tech experience and leading manufacturing practices were we able to develop and produce our grow tray offerings. Given the many vulnerabilities and challenges of lower quality grow trays, Pipp’s ABS Corrugated or Aluminum Grow Trays stand out.

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Microbusiness License for Cannabis and Vertical Farming Optimization

The adult-use cannabis market is on the rise on the east coast of the United States, opening up new opportunities for those interested in opening a marijuana micro business. March of 2021 saw the joining of New York into the recreational use cannabis market alongside New Jersey, Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington D.C. Now, the industry is expected to see a massive revenue increase of over $7 billion dollars annually and cultivators across the coast are scrambling to get licensing in order to open their own cannabis cultivation facilities.

Some states have created a new class of licenses that are geared to smaller operations, creating opportunities for entrepreneurs from all walks of life, with fewer licensing fees and barriers to entry. Micro-licensing (or a cannabis micro business license) often allows for vertical integrations and sets limits for operators to grow up to a specific number of plants and process these plants into a variety of extracts and edibles. The number of allotted plants differs from state to state; but this license type often allows licensees to sell their cannabis product directly to consumers, creating a win for all involved.

Below is a closer look into the east coast’s micro-licensing policies and how they directly affect and promote vertical farming and grow space optimization.

Micro business License Regulations & Requirements

While micro-licensing may seem like an easy way to start a cannabis business, it is still an expensive and lengthy process that includes ownership, size, and operational limits not imposed on other license types. In order to obtain a micro license for cannabis business production, there are many rules and regulations that must be approved by the state and municipal licensing committee.

 

Operating Space

Operating space is one of the most important factors in obtaining a micro business license. In New Jersey, proposed regulations limit the business operating space to no more than 2,500 square feet (and, in the case of cultivators, can have a height of no more than 24 feet). Exact facility regulations vary from state to state, but operational spaces are often also capped at a certain number of employees.

Production Volume

Aside from operating space, there are also many limitations on the monthly production volume for a cannabis micro business. Some states create limits of 1,000 cannabis plants per month or limits of 1,000 pounds of usable cannabis per month, and typically include infused products and concentrates. . All these numbers differ depending on location, so it is important to check with the local licensing committee to get the most up to date and accurate numbers.

The key to operating a marijuana microbusiness license is to create an efficient facility design and production plant that accounts for restrictions and limitations imposed while taking advantage of the allowances provided for micro business license operators. Staying compliant with production volume and operational restrictions is essential. Producing too much or violating space restraints can cause a fine or even worse, forfeiture of your license, thus inhibiting business growth and opportunities.

Availability of Licenses

While recreational use may be legal in the state, municipalities still have the ability to opt-out of allowing recreational sales. Once a state’s municipality has opted in, there will be a set number of annual micro business licenses available. Due to limited license availability, there is a high level of competition amongst cannabis business owners for the first spot of approval. There will be information at local municipality offices regarding permitted cannabis zoning districts, availability of licenses, and other items.

Vertical Farming Integration

As discussed before, cannabis micro business licensees are faced with many space and production volume requirements. More often than not, buildings in properly zoned areas are also in high demand and quickly sell and lease, creating a shortage of available properties. This lack of cultivation and operating space makes every square foot of the business critical.

Many potential cultivators will be forced to take what they can get and make the best of what they have. This is where vertical farming plays a vital role in the success of the micro business owner.

Maximize Fixed Spaces

Vertical farming can maximize capacity within a fixed space, making it ideal for cannabis micro-businesses to achieve production goals while staying within space constraints. Mobile vertical racking systems can accomplish this by increasing overall canopy space by the elimination of stationery aisles, by creating a more dynamic grow space.

Increase Efficiency

Keeping operational costs to a minimum is essential when starting a micro cannabis business. There are many elements in cannabis grow that contribute to overarching facility costs and return on investment. Making the switch to vertical farming will maximize the efficiency of utilities, LED lighting, irrigation, and HVAC systems. When COGS systems are well structured, increases in revenue follow shortly after. 

Essential Vertical Farming Equipment

Working with many license restraints is one of the biggest hurdles a cannabis micro business owner may face. Pipp Horticulture has developed a variety of products to help operators and micro business owners throughout the entire seed-to-sale process so they can optimize their space.

#1: Propagation

Propagation is a delicate time in a plant’s life. It’s imperative to ensure the space is sterile with consistent temperature and humidity settings ideal for early-stage development. This is why carts and shelving units need to be mobile allowing the plants to breathe and prosper in specific temperature settings. Pipp Horticulture’s space-saving products optimize the propagation process giving plants the proper environment for early development. These essential items are:

  • Cloning Carts
  • Wire Carts
  • Stationary Shelving

 #2: Vegetative

During this period of rapid growth, plants may need to be transferred to larger pots or soilless media. This ensures an ideal grow environment for roots and foliage to develop rapidly. Using a stagnant racking system can generate a disadvantage by creating difficult transfers that often require more manpower in the grow facility. Pipp Horticulture has a variety of tools that support the vegetative process and remove the difficulties of transfers. These products include:

  • Mobile Vertical Grow Racks
  • ELEVATE Platform System
  • Grow Trays
  • Vertical Air Solutions

#3: Flowering

Flowering or Bloom is the final stage of growth for the cannabis plant. Establishing a sterile, well-vented, and controlled environment will pay big dividends. Similar to the vegetative stage, these Pipp Horticulture products also aid the flowering process

  • Mobile Vertical Grow Racks
  • ELEVATE Platform System
  • Grow Trays
  • Vertical Air Solutions

#4: Harvesting

It’s critical to create an efficient system within the regulatory framework that conserves labor while minimizing touches and plant damage. This is where a facility needs easy and portable racking systems to save time and money on manpower. Pipp Horticulture can optimize this process through these key products:

  • Drying Cart
  • Nesting Dry Rack
  • Wire Grid Trays

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#5: Drying

Creating a sound thought-out post-harvest strategy is as important as the efforts spent throughout cultivation. Pipp Horticulture’s post-harvest tools are built to equip cannabis micro business owners and improve the drying process. These tools include:

  • Dry/Cure Mobile Storage System
  • Drying Cart
  • Nesting Dry Rack
  • Wire Grid Trays

#6: Cure/Storage

Depending on the scale of a facility, this phase can account for a great deal of space. A grow facility needs drying racks that deliver ease of use, safety, and long life. Pipp Horticulture’s has a line of products built to support this phase. These products include:

  • Mobile Storage System
  • Secured Storage
  • Lockable Mobile Storage System
  • Wire Grid Security Cage 

#7: Vault

It is vital that these spaces are secure and provide access control and tracking. This will ensure only the appropriate credentialed staff may enter. Grow facilities need effective locks and lockers in order to keep cannabis goods safe.  Pipp Horticulture understands the importance of cannabis security and created a variety of solutions for cannabis micro business owners. These solutions include:

  • Mobile Storage System
  • Lockable Mobile Storage System
  • Secured Storage
  • Wire Grid Security Cage
  • Lockers

#8: Distribution

During this phase, it is important to keep the product safe and isolated while also creating accessibility for testing. Pipp Horticulture provides space-saving products that ensure easy access without affecting the integrity of the plant. These products include:

  • Mobile Storage System
  • Secured Storage
  • Lockable Mobile Storage System
  • Wire Grid Security Cage

#9: Retail/Dispensary

Efficient storage in the back of the house provides more space for sales generation and the ability to carry a broader range of products. Training staff to properly retrieve and lock up cannabis is essential. Pipp Horticulture’s retail and dispensary products are built to serve the cannabis business owner. These back-of-house products are:

  • Mobile Storage System
  • Lockable Mobile Storage System
  • Secured Storage
  • Wire Grid Security Cage
  • Lockers

If proper licensing protocols are followed, owning a micro business can be a very fruitful and effective way to grow a cannabis brand. When starting a licensed grow, optimizing space is critical to getting the most out of every square foot of the facility. Pipp Horticulture’s vertical grow racks help utilize unused cubic feet by stacking multiple layers of cannabis and other high-value plants.

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Maximizing Airflow During The Pruning Process

What is pruning and why do you prune cannabis? Pruning is removing cannabis leaves that are damaged or unproductive so that a plant can focus its energies on producing buds. While this may feel counterintuitive, the goal is to make sure that during those first few weeks of flower, when it’s bursting with growth, is to build the foundation of the plant to promote better flower development into the future. But without proper plant management and localized airflow, your canopy can’t thrive during this crucial process.

To gain complete control of airflow during the pruning process to form denser, more cannabinoid-rich buds you need to be able to regulate environmental factors such as temperature, humidity, and CO2 levels for more consistent yields. Watch as James Cunningham with Vertical Air Solutions guides us through the pruning process to achieve maximum airflow and light penetration.

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The Effects of Airflow to Your Canopy

In the previous video, we showed you a comparison between the absence of any airflow solutions in the vertical space and the presence of Vertical Air Solutions (VAS) providing laminar airflow. The VAS system provides seamless integration into your racking system, and it is built for the “long haul”. With functionality and efficiency in mind, we did not want to sacrifice vertical space, the velocity of airflow, or the ability to strategically supply conditioned air.

As growers, VAS developed this solution thinking about the potential losses that could be encountered by not controlling the environment correctly. The team was also considering the ongoing costs of maintenance in the vertical farm and teh effects of airflow to any multi-tiered canopy.

With an excessive amount of fans, your grow facility uses an excessive amount of power and negatively impacts your profit. Watch as James Cunningham heads into the Fog City Farms cultivation facility with Vertical Air Solutions and demonstrates just how different the two types of airflow are and how they greatly affect your grow.

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The Ultimate Cultivation Airflow Test

When it comes to cultivation, strategic airflow is key. In a close proximity space, microclimates can be very easily created, and very quickly your humidity levels will shoot up to above 70% relative humidity. With a CO² injections, In-Rack Airflow Systems will allow you to deliver enriched air to every section of the crop to help consistently produce high-quality flower.

It’s also important to destratify any microclimates that are caused by transpiration from plants. These In-Rack Airflow Systems also provide air filtration that clean the room rather than aimlessly blowing around dust, dirt, and debris. Through localized airflow, growers can expect to see increased consistency, enhanced crop yields, and decreased crop loss.

James Cunningham from Vertical Air Solutions took us for a tour inside the Fog City Farms cultivation facility to test the presence of localized airflow, and the results were pretty astounding.

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Top Vertical Farming Trends Of 2021

Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA), especially related to cannabis cultivation, is one of the world’s most dynamic and competitive industries. Due to its rapid growth, sophisticated cannabis operators are actively looking for opportunities to standardize, optimize, and increase margins without sacrificing quality. With this in mind, many cultivators are transitioning antiquated single-level facilities into highly efficient vertical farms, with multi-level systems that are utilized from nursery to drying and then storage of the finished product.

These trends go far beyond North America and cannabis cultivation. Vertical farming continues to grow globally and is utilized across several industries and high-value crops. We are seeing a continuation of these trends and with a year full of advancements, improvements, and installations. In this article, we’ll review several advantages of vertical farming and uncover the top trends to watch.

Why Choose Vertical Farming?

Vertical farming involves stacking multiple grow levels on top of one another. In this way, a cultivation operation can double or triple the number of plants grown because they are leveraging the footprint of traditional single-level growing methods. While vertical farming typically requires more investment upfront, it quickly pays for itself with boosts to yield and profitability per square foot.

Top 4 Vertical Farming Trends

Although commercial cannabis is a nascent industry, trends are starting to emerge. They may not come as a surprise but without a full understanding of what they are and why they matter, players in the industry may be significantly affected.

Here are the four emerging trends to watch:

  1. The rapid expansion of the vertical farming market
  2. Increased access to institutional financing and banking services
  3. Rapid advancement in agricultural technology and systems
  4. Increased competition and pricing pressure

This is a simple roadmap of the terrain ahead, but now it’s time to take a closer look at each trend and what cultivation operators need to be aware of.

Rapid Expansion of the Vertical Farming Market

To get an idea of how quickly the cannabis industry will adopt vertical farming, it’s important to look at the growth projections for commercial farming of food in vertical farming systems. The vertical farming industry is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 20.2% from 2020 to 2025. In that time, it’s projected to reach a market cap of $7.3 Billion in 2025, roughly 2.5x the 2020 market cap of $2.9 Billion. [1]

Vertical farming’s relative growth is a sign of the rapid advancement, investment, and optimization cannabis growers are making to achieve higher yields, and better quality while lowering costs per square foot. With waves of funding and technological upgrades surfacing,  legacy growers are compelled to make a choice between embracing innovation or staying their course. Innovation can be costly, but without change, cultivators may lag in output, quality, and consistency.

Another factor driving the rapid expansion of the vertical growing market is the ongoing expansion of the legal cannabis market in America. In the November 2020 election, voters in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota voted to legalize recreational cannabis, continuing the nation’s spread of legalization. Since then, state legislatures in New York, New Mexico, and Virginia have approved bills to legalize cannabis for recreational use.

Now, in fact, there are more states that have legalized (either medical or recreational) than states that have not.  Paramount to this success was the ‘essential’ designation of the cannabis industry, which allowed it to continue operating through lockdowns. Over the past year and a half, many cannabis businesses incorporated delivery options, making it an industry norm. As new concepts have been adopted, it has shown how cannabis use trends can shape the industry’s future.

According to Forbes, “Almost half of the cannabis consumers aged 21 and up have replaced or reduced their alcohol consumption with marijuana since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the results of a Harris Poll released [December 2020].”

The rise of cannabis use and acceptance is a key indicator that the cannabis industry has an eager customer base that will continue to expand. And as a result of these market trends, vertical farming operations are growing in confidence and ROI.

Watch our vertical farming cultivation tools overview below:

Increased Access to Institutional Financing and Banking Services

A point of contention for cannabis business owners has been their inability to access the same financial services as businesses in other industries. Being forced to carry cash on hand, there has been minimal action to move away from the industry’s past. However, in April 2021 cannabis businesses gained legal access to banking and financing services. Tapping into the banking ecosystem will now have a massive impact on legal cannabis business owners by providing legitimacy and opportunity for the industry to flourish.

Most importantly, this banking access opens the floodgates for investors to pour into the industry. For example, a cannabis company looking for capital to increase capacity could seek a standard bridge loan vs. taking a hard money loan, which comes with increased risk and high-interest rates. Access to the vast pools of institutional capital makes business expansion more feasible and worthwhile for entrepreneurs than alternatives like offering several private investment rounds or taking a high-interest loan.

Efforts to give cannabis business owners access to banking services started in 2019. The Senate vote was scheduled to happen in 2020, but the bill was held up due to COVID-19 reprioritizing government initiatives. In April 2021, the United States House of Representatives passed the SAFE Banking Act, which indemnifies banks from federal prosecution for working with legitimate cannabis companies. This Senate vote on legalizing cannabis industry banking was the culmination of a two-year-long effort and will benefit the industry tremendously.

Access to market-rate financing and other agricultural lending programs will propel the vertical farming industry’s growth by reducing the burden of the upfront capital required to get into vertical farming. All the equipment that we’ve outlined previously requires investment by the company, it’s investors, or sometimes more simply, through a bridge loan. Now that there is an open door to the same opportunities and programs for financial services, the industry will see an increase in new legitimate cannabis businesses making competition even more aggressive.

Advancement in Agricultural Technology and Systems

 

Most farmers learn right away that it’s essential to learn, master, and trust equipment. Leaps in technology have defined advancements in the history of agriculture, and vertical cannabis farming is no different. With the previously discussed industry growth attracting more investment and more competition, growers who can get a leg up through the use of technology can create a sustainable amount of market share.

Software for monitoring and managing growing conditions and equipment is an area where substantial innovation is happening. Although manual data collection and tracking are on the decline, there are many cultivators that are still using notebooks, spreadsheets, and whiteboards.

Software companies are deploying vertical farming technology and automation into cultivation facilities automating many of these tasks. These solutions are creating an environment where data-driven decision-making and crop steering are optimizing the chemo-type expression, overall yields of biomass, and active ingredients. Many of these systems and software packages enable operators to adjust growing conditions, feeding, and equipment functionality remotely. Over the past year alone, the need for these continued advancements in data collection, data analysis, and other innovations has not just been a trend but has been noted as an essential tool for success.

In addition to technological advancements, product innovation has also been on the rise. Enhancements in racking systems, such as the  TRAK-FREE™ Carriage System are setting the tone for what’s to come. Utilizing a single guide rail along the back row eliminates the need for multiple tracks providing clearer walkways. Most recently, product innovations like the ELEVATE™ Platform System are also having an influence on the industry. This robust yet lightweight, modular deck allows cultivators to access the upper levels of multi-tiered vertical grow racks quickly, efficiently, and most importantly – safely. Systems like these are prioritizing safety and streamline operations for growing environments. The results of these trending innovations are proving to reduce the material and labor cost of installation and ultimately creating a better environment for products and industry workers. 

Increased Competition and Price Pressure

The vertical farming industry’s projected growth will be a double-edged sword for cannabis and commercial cultivators. On the one hand, vertical farming can provide a platform that allows growers to increase overall capacity, revenue, and margins. On the other hand, vertical farming will increase efficiency and productivity, which will likely drive prices down and increase competition. The potential for huge profits breeds competition. This means that with the rapid expansion of the vertical farming market, the first-mover advantage for cultivators is dwindling. Consumers demand high-quality products at cost-effective prices. Implementing the right systems today provides a competitive advantage to meet consumer demand.

To capitalize on these vertical grow trends, individual growers need to ensure their vertical farming operation runs at peak performance. Labor is the highest cost for a cannabis farming operation. With greater competition, optimizing labor processes is becoming a main priority. Utilizing labor-saving equipment like mobile carts and racks can reduce costs while increasing production volume and quality. Every touchpoint with a plant is a contamination risk and expense, so minimizing the interactions will increase the quality of terpenes and trichomes.

As competition grows, optimization of a grow facility and its operations are vital in order to stand out in the industry. 

Conclusion 

So far, 2021 has been another breakout year for vertical farming within the cannabis industry. Fueled by these four trends, operators that embrace vertical farming, implement proven technology, and optimize through data-driven feedback will have a competitive advantage over operators unwilling or unable to implement

If you’re interested in turning your grow operation vertical and installing the best multi-level growing equipment on the market, contact Pipp Horticulture today. We will provide a vertical growing solution tailored to your facility that maximizes production and capacity.

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6 Things to Consider When Selecting a Vertical Racking Provider

The vertical farming industry is growing every day. Grand View Research estimates that the global vertical farming product market will grow by 25.7% by 2027. With growers in food innovation, cannabis, and specialty crops, essential tools are required for a successful growth system. Of these tools, mobile vertical racks are critical. When choosing a mobile vertical rack provider, there are several things that need to be considered when researching solutions.

Specifically for cannabis cultivation, mobile vertical racks can make a difference in yields and annual revenue. Reviews and word of mouth can help provide guidance when choosing a vertical rack provider, but the research should not stop there. Here are 6 things that need to be considered when evaluating the companies that manufacture, design, sell, and install these facility-transforming systems.

#1. Dedication to The Horticulture Market / Education

Are they committed? This is a question that needs to be considered immediately. A large investment of time and money is made when building and designing a facility plan and all the elements that make up a system. Mobile vertical rack system technology is newer to the industry and is growing rapidly. Because of this growth, there are companies that have cut corners in order to get to the market faster. This can result in mobile vertical racks that are untested and undeveloped, all to capitalize on this dynamic market at your expense.

A provider needs to show commitment to the industry and it starts with providing value. This means producing and delivering quality products, service, installation, R&D, and innovation. To achieve the most competitive price points requires years of operational systems refinement and product development. There are few companies that will meet this requirement, and if they do, it’s time to look deeper at their commitment to the customer. Warranties, customer service, engagement with growers on a regular basis?

A mobile vertical rack supplier needs to align themselves with their customer and the needs of the ever-changing indoor farming industry.  If your supplier lacks a clear presentation of their dedicated (horticulture) market knowledge base showcasing their work product, satisfied customers, product developments and industry-specific content, it may be a sign that they are not advancing in the space and are not committed long-term.  Even more specifically, does your mobile vertical grow racking systems partner simply add “Horticulture” or “Vertical Grow Racks” to their list of many other markets served, or have they developed a dedicated team that is focused on this application exclusively, properly branded, and thoroughly presented. Any viable option in this space, at this time, should be able to point to numerous installations rather than repeatedly showcasing a single project.

#2. Innovation

Closely linked to no. 1 above, are they innovating?  Are they leading the charge to provide growers with tools that will enhance their yields? Innovation is a word that can easily be thrown around. Everyone thinks they are innovating, but what is the true definition of innovate? The definition is: to introduce something new; make changes in anything established. This is especially true when introducing new methods, ideas, or products. As mentioned above, there are more and more players coming to the table with vertical racks but what sets them apart? PIPP Horticulture is making an effort to continuously innovate.

For example, in February PIPP announced The ELEVATE™ Platform System. Outside of its robust, lightweight, and portable deck, it was designed with the customer in mind. Innovation can come with a lot of bells and whistles, but ultimately, innovation is about the customer.  When considering a vertical rack provider, look beyond the flashy and make sure that innovation is centered on the customer experience.

#3. Lead Times & Made in the USA!

Facility developers and operators are great at asking questions about price upfront and early, but what about lead times? This can be equally or even more critical to the successful outcome of a cultivation project launch. In order to avoid 2, 3, or 4 months delays, lead time needs to be considered. There are many phases of a project that need to be taken into account when understanding lead times. The first phase is the time it takes to receive the product for the build. This is a key part of the timeline when working towards the start of an operation, but what about the post-build (operational phase)? If product lead times are beyond industry standards, replacement parts, expansion orders and general support may be challenging. A trustworthy provider will design, manufacturer, ship, and install a system in a reasonable amount of time. Although current lead times have been extended for all manufacturers, Pipp Horticulture’s products and materials are USA made & sourced, therefore the transportation challenges with importing containers affecting many other manufacturers are a non-issue for our clients.

For example, Pipp Horticulture’s High-Density Mobile Vertical Racking Systems and Solutions are made in the USA and typically have a lead-time of 3 to 5 weeks. (at the moment, lead-times are extended due to economic variables in the supply chain). Based on the industry, this is considered a reasonable lead time. If a provider is making estimates that are longer, it’s worth looking at other options. It is important to also note that as a grower, after set-up or the initial installation, modifications are possible. As these occur, working with a provider that is located in the USA and has an established US-based supply chain (sourcing materials domestically) ensures quick responses resulting in quick solutions.

#4. Integrated Tray System

There are many elements that make up a fully operating vertical rack system. Items to consider vertical grow racks,  carriage track systems, wire decks, and grow tray systems. For many providers, these items are separately sourced which can add a layer of complexity when developing a functioning system. There are providers that are leading the way in this space, and developing integrated tray offerings. With a tray system specifically designed to work in unison with the racks, it can enhance performance, reduce cost, and enable a more seamless purchasing, fulfillment and operational experience.

An integrated tray system does not require separated components to support the trays.  The supports are part of the racks and help to optimize the integration of other critical equipment (lighting, airflow, drainage…).  These components are worth the research and should be evaluated when choosing a provider.

#5. The Drive System

The days of rolling casters are long gone and technology has evolved.  When selecting a new system, it’s important to ask the provider whether a ‘continuous drive shaft’ is a standard feature in their mobile rack systems.  For exceptional quality and a highly functional mobile racking system, an all-wheel-drive carriage, aka continuous drive shaft, is the optimal choice.

In a system that does not have a continuous drive shaft, one end of the carriage moves before the other. This continuous friction between the wheel and the rail can destroy the equipment over time, impeding movement and ultimately leading to failure.  If this is not taken into consideration the carriage movement will be difficult at best risking the efficiency of an operation.

#6. Sales, Installation & Service

There is a popular saying in the industry, “the quality of the installation & support is just as important as the quality of the product!” And it’s popular because it is true.

Start the consideration process early to allow time for research and referrals. Reach out to other like-minded cultivation companies and ask questions. Gathering information will be the greatest asset in the consideration process. Here is a series of questions that can help:

  • What was the installation like?
  • Do they provide on-demand service nationally?
  • What is the structure of the provider’s ongoing support?
  • Is their installation department managed by a dedicated corporate team?
  • What is their level of experience with mobile vertical racking installation specifically?
  • How many systems have they installed?

It’s important to know that support is available and that quality is apparent. But most of all, the customer has to be the provider’s primary focus. PIPP Horticulture is a dedicated mobile vertical rack provider with a trained and certified staff located throughout the US and Canada.  With more than 40 years of experience in the mobile racking industry, PIPP Horticulture is not just a provider, but a partner. Our certified installation team and cultivation experts are driven to provide industry leaders with custom solutions that help the industry grow. Learn more about PIPP installations and our dedication to the industry by downloading one of our latest case studies: https://pipphorticulture.com/resources/

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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