Cannabis as an industry is still very young, and people are still figuring out how to do it right, but it’s still a business like any other. No matter how altruistic your reasons for growing cannabis indoors may be, at the end of the day, you still need to turn a profit — and that means you need to ensure your operation is as efficient as possible.
We recently sat down with two of our partners over at InSpire Transpiration Solutions, Bryan Hesterman and Adrian Giovenco, to talk about how the right HVAC system and facility design can help you lower production costs in the long term.
Setting yourself up for cannabis cultivation success starts with a facility and an HVAC system that’s designed with optimal plant growth in mind. From there, you need to understand the science and data behind it all, so you can not only grow more and better-quality cannabis but also cut down excess costs in the process.
Read on to learn how to optimize your HVAC systems and leverage the data to lower the production costs of growing cannabis indoors.
Optimizing Facility Design
According to Hesterman, lowering production costs long term starts with how the facility itself is built. “The way it’s planned, the expertise and resources you choose, the equipment you choose, the people you hire, the building you select — it all plays a part in building a business that can remain profitable in the long run.”
Making your cultivation more efficient isn’t just about decreasing labor and energy use; it’s also about optimizing your real estate to get the most out of the space you have.
Vertical farming, for example, allows you to squeeze more plant density into the same square footage, increasing product output without requiring more space for growing cannabis indoors. It also greatly increases the need for an appropriate environmental control system, including reliable HVAC, environment controls, and airflow.
Crafting a Plan
Beyond the facility design, Hesterman adds that the whole system for growing cannabis indoors — from the construction quality to the lighting and power supply to the environmental control and fertigation systems — must work synergistically together.
“You’re only as good as your weakest link,” Hesterman says in reference to Liebig’s Law of the Minimum. “If you’ve got one low stave in a barrel, there’s water leaking out of that stave.” Likewise, if one aspect of your facility’s system isn’t working properly, the whole business suffers.
To start, you need a plan. You need to understand what systems to use and how they all work together, and optimize your facility for maximum production. “Then, once you’ve got the right construction and the right systems in place,” Hesterman concludes, “you’ve got to finetune your SOPs and operation with data.”
Just having the right facility and systems for growing cannabis indoors isn’t enough if you don’t know how to gather, analyze, and leverage data to grow your profitability.
Leveraging Plant Science & HVAC Data
When it comes to evaluating and leveraging data for growing cannabis indoors, Giovenco says the key is to ask yourself what you’re aiming for and what you’re actually getting in terms of:
- Air temperature
- Leaf temperature
- Relative humidity
- Indoor air quality
Of these, it’s especially useful to monitor temperature and relative humidity, which together make up the vapor pressure deficit (VPD).
“Think of it like a hydraulic pump pumping water and nutrients through the plants,” Giovenco says. “Getting the temperature and relative humidity to the right condition in the room is really what’s going to allow you to drive that plant growth, from an environmental perspective.”
That’s where integrated HVAC systems come in. Growing cannabis indoors depends on maintaining a proper VPD for multiple reasons, including:
- Modulating cooling, dehumidification, and heat. To keep the VPD in the right zone, it’s essential to remove moisture from the air without affecting the air temperature in the room. This requires HVAC systems that can deliver and circulate conditioned air that’s already adjusted to the proper temperature.
- Preventing pests and pathogens. When the VPD isn’t where it should be, the room becomes either too dry or too humid. Both create problems for plant growth, and the latter allows for mold, pests, and other pathogens to proliferate.
- Lowering labor costs. When your VPD is too high or too low, not only do you lose product to things like mold and bud rot, but you also expend labor and energy dealing with these problems. An integrated HVAC system saves your workers time by preventing the issues in the first place.
“By setting up the right system and infrastructure from the beginning,” Giovenco says, “you’re building a business model that can last the test of time and be built for decades, not just years.” The right system will allow you to maintain a consistent VPD to maximize plant vitality and increase your overall efficiency.
Growing Cannabis Indoors the Right Way
HVAC may not be sexy — and when it’s working properly, it may not even be noticeable — but the right system can save you big time on energy, labor, and other costs associated with growing cannabis indoors. Companies we’ve worked with have seen profit increases upwards of 20% just by optimizing their systems.
At the same time, however, you have to be hands-on about learning how to operate that system to its fullest potential. “You can give somebody the keys to a Ferrari,” Hesterman says, “but it doesn’t mean they’re going to drive it well.”
But with a well-designed facility, an optimized HVAC system, and a solid understanding of the science behind it all, you can leverage your HVAC data to create and implement an effective plan for maximum plant growth and lower long-term costs.
Ready to optimize your systems for higher yields at lower production costs? Contact us today to get started.