In this guest post from Grower’s Network, we interviewed Shane Hutto, owner of Horticultural Solutions Ltd and Horticultural Extracts LLC. Shane currently consults for commercial cannabis grow operations on greenhouse designs.
You can read the full conversation about greenhouses at Grower’s Network.
How to Choose and Shop for the Right Commercial Cannabis Greenhouse
Most people have a picture in their head of what a greenhouse is. However, there are several variations on greenhouse designs and building materials. At its core, a greenhouse is a structure with a translucent or transparent ceiling to allow sunlight in. The structure can be made of steel, wood, or hard plastic, and the translucent material can be glass, polyethylene, or some other translucent material.
Some greenhouses can vary in style from a simply polytunnel, which is a plastic covering over PVC hoops in the ground, to a “hybrid greenhouse” which has solid side walls and a translucent ceiling. These styles offer different benefits. A polytunnel allows farms to cheaply implement greenhouse benefits in their fields, while a hybrid greenhouse provides additional security, legal protection, and safety for the grow operation.
Greenhouses can also be rated by their size and technology implementation. A greenhouse that is “large” not only has more square footage, but also higher ceilings. These higher ceilings provide an environmental “buffer zone” of air, making environmental control more precise. A high-tech facility with automated irrigation systems, automatic water processing, and automatic environmental controls is considered a “high-grade” greenhouse, whereas a “low-grade” greenhouse requires significantly more manual input to regulate the environment.
The Greenhouse Market
There are a very large number of greenhouse manufacturers on the market today. The manufacturer you choose will depend on the size and technology of the greenhouse that you want. If you want heavily automated greenhouses, Havecon is a very sensible choice. Harnois builds some middle-of-the-road greenhouses that are very sturdy. If you want to try a low-tech greenhouse out before pulling the trigger on a bigger installation, Rimol makes some very reasonable greenhouses.
The other important thing about greenhouses is their construction and assembly. Many of the manufacturers do not install the greenhouses on your site, and will instead refer you to a contractor to do the work for you. Prepare for a lead time of several months on both the parts and the construction.
Why You Should Pick a Greenhouse
Greenhouses save a significant amount of money on operational costs. Greenhouses require significantly smaller light input, if any at all. This translates to equipment and maintenance savings. Additionally, if you grow in cold or dry climates, a greenhouse can easily increase the temperature or humidity of your grow operation. Over time, these savings add up and can cut your operational costs in half or more.
Greenhouses can be built nearly anywhere, from Iranian deserts to Floridian tropics to the Arctic tundra. The only time a greenhouse might be a bad idea is if the area you grow in is prone to extreme weather events that would damage the greenhouse, such as large hail or extreme winds.
Technology in a Greenhouse
Your average person might picture a greenhouse as simply being a structure with glass windows. But there are all sorts of technology you can bring into it. You can add wet walls, which are specially designed for evaporative coolers. You can also have automatic irrigation, which Dosatron or the Priva system can provide. Systems from HortiMax and Argus are expensive but can manage almost all aspects of your greenhouse.
There are even new, experimental and robotic means of automation. The ISO Group, a company from the Netherlands, has created a robot that can make brand new cuttings extremely rapidly. You merely feed it a branch, and the robot will quickly and efficiently make cuttings. Other companies, such as Oreon, are developing water-cooled lighting systems that circulate the heat that the lights generate.
The Future is Green
I see greenhouses in the cannabis industry taking over. Within a few years, you’ll see very, very few warehouse grows being built. For the most part, I think that a lot of the warehouse grows will go out of business or convert. We’ll always have some boutique growers that stay in the indoor model because they’re well-known and have a great product. But in all the other situations, I see greenhouses taking over.
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