5 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Building a Cultivation Facility

While starting a new commercial cannabis cultivation operation may seem daunting at first, there are a few simple actions that you can take to make everything go as smoothly as possible. Ideally, all of these things should be planned out before starting to build the grow, but some aspects can be added in phases if start-up finances are limited.

March 19, 2015

While starting a new commercial cannabis cultivation operation may seem daunting at first, there are a few simple actions that you can take to make everything go as smoothly as possible. Ideally, all of these things should be planned out before starting to build the grow, but some aspects can be added in phases if start-up finances are limited.

1. Not Creating a Blueprint

Many grow operations skip this step for some reason, however this is a grave mistake in our experience. Whether you plan to build from scratch or convert an existing structure, you will need a plan to follow. Creating a blueprint will allow the grow room designer and any contractors that are hired to know exactly what the plan is for the space.

During construction, you will be putting holes in the wall, designing irrigation systems, laying out elaborate electrical infrastructure and implementing a more robust cooling system. All of these things will require proper communication on the part of everyone involved and a blueprint ensures everyone is on the same page.

Input from a Master Grower is paramount at this stage as having a visual blueprint of the space will allow the grower to make workflow and logistical decisions, both of which determine the proper placement of all of the equipment that will be used and how staff interface with their work environment.

2. Not Using Water Filtration

Filtering all water that is used on plants is incredibly important, especially when growing hydroponically. Mineral and chemical content of water can vary widely even within a single city. This makes it difficult to control exactly what a plant receives, and thus absorbs. Indoor cannabis growing is all about controlling every aspect of the grow. Why should the water plants receive be any different?

It is recommended to purify and sterilize all water before using it on plants. By doing so, any costly surprises associated with changes in the mineral content of the water being used will be avoided and you will always know exactly what minerals your cannabis plants are receiving and in what quantity.

3. Not Checking the Electrical Sizing and Design to Find Out if There is Enough Power

An indoor cannabis grow consumes a lot of power. As such, it is important to check that your intended location can handle the electrical load or that it is possible to get enough extra electricity if the building is not currently capable of handling the desired load.

To check this, look at the number listed on the transformer pole outside the building. This will tell you the maximum amount of power that can be delivered to that building via existing infrastructure. Second, check with the local electricity provider to ensure you are actually able to draw that much power. It is not uncommon for a building to be rated for 400 amps and only actually be able to draw 80% of that power.

Working closely with your electrical supply company is necessary for your business to function properly, so get to know them early and establish a good relationship.  Make them aware of your upfront needs 6 months or more before you need the power in order to avoid complications or extra wait times.  It’s a good idea to let them know of any expansion plans as well so that you don’t experience headaches down the line.

When performing equipment installation, professional electricians should do all electrical work on the building. Cannabis cultivation centers are often under high scrutiny from local authorities who may be looking for any reason to shut the operation down. In order to avoid this, make sure all electrical work is up to code and done by a professional.

4. Undersizing the Climate Control System

If you undersize your environmental control system, it will hurt.  Badly.  Downtimes can be long, and the renovations to infrastructure can be very costly.  Many HVAC companies are used to sizing cooling systems based on the square footage of the space and typically their calculations are based off of comfort cooling rather than process cooling loads.

Cannabis cultivation requires many lights and support equipment that produce heat in each room. In these applications, by increasing the overall heat-load of the room to rates much higher than are typically found outside of indoor cultivation, you are putting stresses on your HVAC equipment that were likely not accounted for during original sizing.

To prevent purchasing an undersized cooling system, make sure any talks about the size requirements take into consideration the number of lights and grow equipment in each room in addition to the square footage.  Provide a slight oversize padding to give yourself some head room and to account for anomalous weather behavior.

5. Undersizing Veg Rooms

When designing a cultivation facility, a lot of attention goes into the Flower Rooms and the Veg Rooms occasionally are a bit of an afterthought. However, a proper vegetative space is critical to the success of the Flower Room, and thus the overall success of your business.

Think of your Veg Room as a staging area for the Flower Room – as soon as the Flower Room is ready, a new batch of plants should be healthy, pest free, fully grown and ready to move into Flower.  Assuming that you have knowledge of the strains that you’re growing, you should know how long your plants need to be in a vegetative state to fill the desired square footage in the flower room.

If timed correctly, and if quality control procedures are upheld (i.e. environmental maintenance, preventative pest control, etc.), a grower can very effectively uphold a perpetual flowering regimen and experience minimal post-harvest downtime in the bloom rooms.  However, this can only be accomplished if there is a solid plant rotation through the Veg Room; if you don’t have enough space there, you will always either experience some downtime in your Flower Room, or your yield per square foot figures will be lower than achievable in that space.

These are just a few intricacies behind planning your new cannabusiness, however they will absolutely make or break your bottom line in this new and increasingly competitive market.   If you keep the above information in mind from the start, not only will you have a solid business in the end, but you’ll also save a lot of time and money along the way.

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