Improving & Retrofitting Existing Cannabis Grow Facilities

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Despite increasing legalization and legitimization of the cannabis industry as a whole, there are still far too many cannabis grow operators who cut corners or rely on poor business practices to save a quick buck. But you don’t necessarily have to choose between a well-built facility and saving money.

Bryan Hesterman and Adrian Giovenco of InSpire Transpiration Solutions have seen all kinds of terrible DIY cultivation designs, like using permeable materials that allow air and moisture to flow in and out of the room, unsealed ductwork, and dehumidifier drains that collect standing water and pathogens. 

These and similar construction issues may seem cheap and easy up front, but they cause long-term problems that end up costing more to fix than a better solution would have cost to build. So if you’re planning to retrofit an existing facility, you’ll want to make sure you go about it in the right way, right from the start. 

Here’s what you need to know about improving and retrofitting existing cannabis grow facilities for optimal performance, without breaking the bank.

Get Actionable Data

“From a retrofitting perspective, getting actionable data is probably the very first place to start when buying an asset,” Hesterman says. It’s important to do your due diligence to determine whether a facility is suitable for a cannabis grow.

That said, data — such as CO2 levels, light energy, and heat in the room — will help you identify and troubleshoot design issues like ductwork leaks or room imbalances and help you optimize your existing facility for more consistent quality, greater efficiency, and most importantly, room and plant balance — a concept elucidated in plant empowerment.

As an example, Giovenco explains, “All the energy inputs that come in need to be removed to maintain the temperature and relative humidity balance in that space. It’s counterintuitive to a lot of folks, but if you don’t have enough dehumidification capacity, one solution is to take biomass out of the room to balance the systems.”

In other words, if the data tells you you’re having trouble maintaining set points for dehumidification, you may be able to remove plant matter from the cannabis grow room instead of trying to overhaul the entire HVAC system.

Prioritize the Necessities

According to Giovenco, purchasing a facility for a new cannabis grow requires “a deeper level of due diligence than most organizations do.” Because of zoning restrictions, you do often have to work with what you can get, but there are some things you really can’t afford to compromise on.

These necessities include:

  • Utilities. For the facility to be conducive to a cannabis grow, it needs to have enough power, water, and gas, or some combination thereof.
  • Space. You’ll want to be sure the facility has enough space, not just for growing the cannabis itself but also for all the equipment you’ll need. Less space means you may have to either grow less product or find a different — often lesser — solution for your equipment. 

Sub-canopy airflow. No matter how your room is designed, you need some way to move air through the lower levels. Instead of settling for oscillating fans, opt for a cost-effective HVAC solution that directs airflow under the canopy in a purposeful way.

Building your cannabis grow facility the right way doesn’t mean you have to get it all done immediately. “Measure twice, cut once,” Hesterman cautions. “I would so much rather have a high-performing facility that gets phased out versus building a shoddy facility all at once.”

Start small — maybe just three rooms at a time — see how it performs and if you need to make any adjustments, and go from there. 

Plan Ahead

Exactly how much of a cannabis grow facility’s existing infrastructure you’ll need to replace often depends on how old the facility is. “Just by nature of how much the systems have run, there are a lot of facilities that are going to need sheer end-of-life equipment replacements,” Giovenco explains. 

For example, HVAC equipment that was designed for office use might run 2,000 hours a year in its intended application, but in a cannabis grow, it runs closer to 8,000 hours a year instead. In a facility that’s five years old or older, those units are likely failing, so you’ll need to factor replacing them into your budget. 

Additionally, you’ll want to think about where your equipment will go, especially if the building wasn’t used for cannabis before. Many warehouses have very little space for equipment on the roof, which means you may need to decrease the number of flowering rooms so you’ll have enough floorspace for the equipment, instead.

If possible, have a structural engineer look at the facility before you buy it. That way, you don’t end up stuck with a building that can’t accommodate what you’re planning to build. 

Improve Your Cannabis Grow the Right Way

Whether you’re purchasing new real estate or planning to update your existing cannabis grow facility, be careful not to fall into shoddy business practices for the sake of saving money. 

Instead, plan ahead, gather relevant, actionable data, and focus on improving your facility’s infrastructure to grow quality product — even if you have to do so in stages. 
Contact us today to learn more about how we and our partners at InSpire can help you optimize your facility for maximum yields.

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