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How to Maximize Your Cannabis Yield: Floor Plans & Equipment Systems
Any cannabis operation — whether you’re cultivating extracting, infusing, packaging, or dispensing — has dozens of moving parts. A thorough planning process ensures a more efficient operation that can maximize your cannabis yield in terms of plants and profit.
Having the ability to build in efficiencies during ground-up construction is ideal. However, when your business is ready to grow and scale, you may have an opportunity to expand physically while incorporating better functionality through updated design and/or equipment.
Real estate for the cannabis industry can be scarce due to outsized demand, zoning restrictions, and problems inherent in leasing. Available properties usually sell at a premium and often require retrofitting to suit your operation. For example, creativity — and a good set of construction drawings — can turn an IHOP into a dispensary.
Professional planning to make the best use of your space can help guarantee that your cannabis operation runs efficiently. We’ve got a few tips to help your business bring in the best return per square foot.
Too Much Space Can Shrink Your Return
It’s easy to equate extra space with potential profit, especially if you snagged a spot for a good price. However, it can be equally important to use that space productively.
If you end up with a few spare rooms in the back of your dispensary, it’s probably not a big deal. Alternately, a high-capacity open-plan warehouse can cost you if you’re using only a portion of it to grow plants.
Most cannabis growing operations require extensive cooling. Regardless of location, indoor grows need air conditioning to keep up with the heat output of grow lights. Dehumidifiers often need to run as well. These pick up the excess moisture your AC can’t remove from the air including the transpiration output of your plants.
Conditioning the air in an underutilized space can quickly bite into your budget. You might be able to partition the unused space for future use or lease it. If licensing and zoning allow, you could seize the opportunity to expand into infusing or extracting. Extra space could also be used to create white label packaging to help get your product onto dispensary shelves.
Poised to Further Maximize Your Cannabis Yield
Sometimes you have to anticipate the future before choosing or building a facility. In Illinois, the craft grower licensing regulations allow growers up to 5,000 square feet of canopy space for flowering plants. This does not include “space allocated for walkways or ancillary equipment.”
The Illinois Department of Agriculture can provide authorization to licensees for an increase or decrease in the amount of cultivation space for plants in the flowering stage. Adjustments are made in 3,000 square foot increments — up to 14,000 square feet — based on factors that include market need and a licensee’s compliance track record.
Open-ended possibilities to further maximize your cannabis yield down the road require careful consideration. Should you choose a smaller space? Or should you go big and pivot to additional uses while waiting to see what happens? You have to budget for the future and visualize where you want to be a few years down the road.
Create a Functional Floor Plan
No matter what cannabis niche(s) you navigate, you need a floor plan that flows. Your layout must support people, plants, processes, and systems. This includes everything from lights and sprinklers to security, access, and machinery.
Though you want to maximize space for plants, you need enough room to operate safely and efficiently. If you’ll need a forklift to move plants within a vertical grow, be sure your aisles are wide enough to accommodate it.
During the design phase, both moving and non-moving equipment needs to be sized and their placement and operation accounted for. When it comes time to service your air conditioning system, you don’t want to have to move shelves of plants out of the way.
Also, keep in mind that grow set-ups have to mimic mother nature. Be sure to plan so that unwanted light won’t be an issue during times when plants need darkness. Fully understanding your growing space can help you maximize your cannabis yield.
Move People Gently Through Your Operation
People are among the many “moving parts” you need to plan for. Part of keeping plants free from contamination as you interact with a grow means minimizing the amount of back-and-forth required to tend them as they flourish. A floor plan should be designed to make movements through your facility more efficient.
Will you need to routinely distribute a heavy growing medium throughout your building or nursery? Plan ahead for it when mapping your layout.
Design for Safety & Compliance
Safety practices can’t be overlooked in any cannabis business. Even though the cannabis industry functions outside of federal approval, it’s still under the purview of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Be sure your building design, including exit routes, is compliant.
Your building’s floor plan must adhere to all applicable local, state, and federal regulations to avoid citations, fines, and other liabilities that could arise. Obtaining the proper permits and plan approval from local agencies is paramount.
If you’re implementing mandatory inventory tracking software like METRC, be certain you design for a workflow that optimizes the ease with which you can tag your plants and electronically read the tags.
Keep It Clean
With the advent of Covid-19, there is increasing concern about hygienic practices, including proper product handling. Our minds are on overdrive when it comes to staying safe. Now more than ever, take time to think about the sanitary practices in your existing or soon-to-be cannabis business.
Cannabis is ingestible, which means measures should be taken throughout your business to treat it with the same care you would use to prepare food in a restaurant. For an indoor grow, measures more akin to pharmaceutical manufacturing — complete with masks, gloves, and other PPE — can be appropriate to avoid the cross-contamination of plants.
Your Dispensary’s Traffic Flow
If you currently operate or plan on starting a dispensary, know that every choice in the design of a retail space should be purposeful. The layout should encourage a natural flow of traffic that places your products in front of customers as they browse.
People should be able to move about easily without experiencing “head-ons” with other customers. Create a check-in area that isn’t cramped. Your floor plan should operate like a sales partner that helps steer your customers to the cash register.
As you plan your dispensary’s layout, it may be wise to consider accessibility for all your potential customers, including those with disabilities. While the law doesn’t currently force cannabis dispensaries to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, doing so makes you a good neighbor while potentially attracting more clientele.
Spreadsheets & Modeling
Engaging professionals for cannabis real estate design and construction services is important. It’s a good idea to entertain estimates from a few contractors and to work with someone well-versed in the cannabis industry, given its many regulations and intricacies.
A pro will crunch the numbers and provide you with plans or drawings to indicate every doorknob, sprinkler, security camera, and light fixture. Most designers also use 3D-modeling software and can give you a walkthrough of your space before construction even begins.
The real estate you choose is likely to be the biggest upfront investment in your cannabis business. It’s important to make informed decisions and continuously find ways to maximize your cannabis yield.
If you’d like to know more about how to set your cannabis business up for success, reach out to us at Higher Yields Cannabis Consulting for a free consultation.