When aspiring to be a commercial cultivator, utilize new products and procedures to maximize harvest potential and quality while minimizing expenses and time.
By Max Lavine
Entrepreneurial growers all over the country are seeking out ways to seize the moment—and the market—by scaling up their operations in hopes of making (rather than just saving) money by growing Cannabis. This, however, is much easier said than done.
The road from hobby grower to commercial grower can be a rocky one, filled with challenges and decisions. As a professional working in the medical Cannabis industry, I meet with both aspiring and established growers on a daily basis. I recognize the difficulties individuals face when trying to take their cultivation businesses to the next level and earn a living in this competitive industry. My recommendations here are based on best practices and streamlining operations from the cultivation side. Compliance with individual state laws and regulations is outside of the parameters of this column. We’re talking about growing here—and the best way for you to produce top-quality product.
Commercial growing is much different than small-scale operations. In fact, you’re taking on a whole new reality. Figuring out what that reality will mean for you will require starting with the basics: space and time.
Space is always an important issue, and as you develop your cultivation skills, it will only become more critical. Indoor growers faced with limited square footage in a detached garage or shed should look for ways to maximize vertical space. The Buddha Box Vertical Grow is a high-end, plug-and-play grow tent and hydro system featuring 75 plant locations arranged in three stories encircling two 600-watt HPS lights. While not all growers will be enthused by the considerable price tag, the unit is also a wealth of inspiration for the creative and crafty cultivator.
Outdoor growers will want to think about the arrangement of their plants since they don’t get to control the position of the light source. Begin with basic grow concepts like employing a SCROG (Google “screen of green” for setup instructions) system as an effective and time-tested way to get your plants maximum sun or light exposure, while supporting large bud growth.
Topping and training your plants in the vegetative phase produces multiple cola sites, causing the plants to take a bushier, almost hydra-like form. This shape, while great for production, can make it difficult for light and air to penetrate the plant effectively. You can help by visiting your local gardening and/or hardware store to find yourself some trellis netting and PVC. From these materials you can build a netted frame, with the trellis netting pulled into a taught grid just over the tops of your plants. As they stretch, this support will allow the heavy branches to rest without falling as their buds swell through flowering. This simple strategy allows outdoor growers to maximize the efficiency of a plot with limited space by maximizing sun exposure and canopy density.
Time is no less important to the aspiring grower. For indoor grows, proper scheduling is essential. Especially when working on a larger scale, separating your vegetative and flowering spaces allows you to save time and energy. Because vegetative plants require far less space and light intensity, a simple grow tent can be the first step toward creating a separate veg area in your indoor garden. Separate rooms for vegetative and flower stages are optimum for large-scale grows, but tents are useful, too. Tents, like those available from SecretJardin, Hydrohut, Gorilla, and Growlab, allow you to utilize a light-tight, plant-ready room-within-a-room within hours.
Inside this tent, you can vegetate your plants under a simple T-5 fluorescent light bank, which will save you bundles each round compared to HID lights. This is especially advantageous because during veg, lights need to be on between 18 and 24 hours per day, so using lower-energy bulbs when possible will drastically reduce the cost of your grow. You’ll still have to flower under HIDs, but at that point they’ll only be on 12 hours at a time, creating the light conditions necessary to induce flowering. By creating this separation and managing your flowering periods correctly, you can ensure that every cash-draining hour your flowering area HID lights are on, they’re going to the best possible use. Plus, you can increase your overall yields dramatically as your harvests will be more frequent.
Growing outside, you don’t have control of the photoperiod, nor do you have to pay for the radiant energy that your plants require. Intrepid cultivators learned to deal with nature’s inflexible scheduling in the form of “black box” growing. By manipulating the photoperiod to induce flowering, outdoor growers in hospitable climates can get in an extra harvest if they time things just right.
How? Building a simple PVC skeleton around the ready-to-flower crop and covering that skeleton with a light-proof tarp is enough to create the 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness necessary to induce flowering in the hands of a diligent cultivator. Using this method, outdoor growers in relatively warm Western climes have been able to veg indoors under T5 lights during the winter and start their black box crop early enough in the year that a smaller June-July harvest can ease the wait for autumn.
Gone are the days when developing growers could pull a few grand out of their closets every few months, despite their struggle up the learning curve. The prices of prime Cannabis aren’t getting any higher, so newer cultivators who want to make the transition to commercial projects will need to be more clever and strategic than their predecessors. If you’re ready for the challenge, however, the community of minds in the cultivation community is more productive than ever in generating new techniques and products to do more with less and scale up from small grows to substantial and lucrative commercial-grow operations. It’s all in the planning and execution.
Max Lavine is a proud resident of Oakland, California. He works at the Cannabis Buyers Club of Berkeley, one of the oldest dispensaries in the state, as the Cannabis concentrates buyer and product manager. Out of the office, he is working on product development, marketing, and distribution for local concentrate companies, with the long-term goal of helping to create the world’s first fully legal market for specialty/artisan Cannabis products.
Big Buddha Box Vertical Grow System
SUPERCLOSET, INC. P.O. Box 6105 Santa Rosa, CA 95406 (877) 476-9787 Fax: (415) 285-0301
Grow Tents from Secret Jardin, Hydrohut, Gorilla, Growlab, and Oasis
HYDROBUILDER.COM 312 Otterson Dr., Ste. D Chico, CA 95928 (888) 815-9763 Fax: (888) 582-0009 email@example.com
Screen of Green Growing Technique