Biosecurity Risks in the Garden

Biosecurity is quickly becoming one of the most important topics in the cannabis industry. Testing standards are getting stricter and rates of tainted crops are sky rocketing, causing supply shortages and significant financial blows to cultivators all over the continent. Crops with mold or fungus can be deadly to consumers—especially those with lower immune systems, like many medical users. The alternative for many cultivators is to use chemicals like pesticides and fungicides to combat mold but unfortunately, these still pose a threat to consumers, placing cultivators in a catch-22 situation. Should you risk mold and fungus by avoiding chemicals? Or should you introduce potentially harmful chemicals to your plants to ensure against mold and fungus? Neither is a good option. Not only do these options put consumers at risk but, with increased regulation, they also put cultivators at risk of losing significant profits from having to dispose of sub-par harvests.

March 31, 2017

Biosecurity is quickly becoming one of the most important topics in the cannabis industry. Testing standards are getting stricter and rates of tainted crops are sky rocketing, causing supply shortages and significant financial blows to cultivators all over the continent. Crops with mold or fungus can be deadly to consumers—especially those with lower immune systems, like many medical users. The alternative for many cultivators is to use chemicals like pesticides and fungicides to combat mold but unfortunately, these still pose a threat to consumers, placing cultivators in a catch-22 situation. Should you risk mold and fungus by avoiding chemicals? Or should you introduce potentially harmful chemicals to your plants to ensure against mold and fungus? Neither is a good option. Not only do these options put consumers at risk but, with increased regulation, they also put cultivators at risk of losing significant profits from having to dispose of sub-par harvests.

Surna is a company built by growers and so we are always thinking about the challenges cultivators face and how to solve them. This is why biosecurity has become somewhat of an obsession for us. We’ve spent a lot of time thinking and researching ways to address this issue. So, this week, we want to highlight some of the major biosecurity risks we see cultivators doing every day that can be easily avoided or corrected.

Dropping your Nighttime Temperatures Too Low

There are many competing opinions about the ideal temperature range for cannabis. Many cultivators drop their nighttime temperature as much as 10°F either because they feel it is their secret to delicious crops or because they lack the right equipment for maintaining a consistent environment. And while there is some evidence that temperature swings near the end of the flowering cycle can cause the buds to “purple”, this practice actually puts plants at risk.

Humidity and temperature have a complex relationship that can be hard to grasp even with years of experience. But, the basics are that when your temperature drops, so too does your dew point, or the temperature at which moisture condenses onto surfaces, resulting in higher relative humidity levels. To make matters worse, any dehumidifier–regardless of brand–becomes less effective at lower temperatures. For example, a 300-pint per day dehumidifier at 80°F could quickly become a 200- or 150-pint per day dehumidifier at a lower temperature, making it difficult to control humidity when you need it most. Cultivators can combat this by enabling a re-heat in their gardens to keep temperatures from dropping too significantly during the lights-off photoperiod, or adding additional dehumidification.

At Surna, we understand this issue. We work with our customers to find solutions that will keep temperatures stable throughout the day while not compromising preferred cultivation practices—all while protecting against relative humidity spikes and mold/fungus growth. Our products keep temperatures stable, offering superior cooling when lights are on and heating options when lights are off.

Lacking Humidity Control

Sometimes, humidity is more difficult to control than just keeping temperatures stable. In fact, humidity control is one of the hardest and most complex pieces of the environmental control puzzle. Because it depends so much on temperatures and cooling systems, it can be a bit of a moving target. And, as we know, keeping humidity under control can be the key to staving off mold and fungus without resorting to toxic chemicals.

Surna has been in cultivation for a decade and has worked on hundreds of cultivation facilities around the continent. We are humidity experts. We are also cultivation experts and understand the water-intensive nature of growing cannabis indoors. We’ve developed our equipment with that in mind. Our fan coils are designed with a greater capacity for dehumidification, offering cultivators more of what they need. In fact, they can act as the primary source of dehumidification during the day. For nighttime, or for extra help, we’ve partnered with Anden to provide next-level dehumidification for growers of all sizes. We also size your system correctly the first time and take your temperature and relative humidity targets into account when suggesting equipment to ensure you have the right equipment for your particular needs.

Not Controlling Inputs

While humidity control is extremely important, the first line of defense is always keeping the garden clean and free of any contaminants like spores. The easiest way to do this is to completely seal the cultivation environment. Many cultivators opt to vent cultivation areas to offset heat created by lighting, pulling air from outside into the cultivation space and often bringing pests, bacteria, spores and humidity with it. What they inevitably realize is that trying to keep a facility clean while venting is virtually impossible. It’s a moving target that is never really under control.

Using a chilled water system for cooling cultivation spaces is one option. A system like this uses a chiller and pump to circulate cool water to in-room fan coils, cooling and recirculating existing air without exposing plants to external inputs and allowing for complete control. And unlike many traditional cooling options, these systems also eliminate the need for ductwork which can be a breeding ground for mold as well as difficult to clean. Instead, water pipes are easy to maintain and leave little surface area on which bacteria can grow.

There are other ways for mitigating mold and mildew in the ductwork, too. For example, our Air Sniper air sanitization equipment use UVC light technology to sanitize the air, either directly incorporated into the HVAC system or as standalone units.

Not Setting up Sanitation Processes

Another way to ensure cultivation areas stay clean is to develop, and stick to, strict cleaning processes. It is important that you regularly change your filters, clean rooms between harvests, and inspect your plants frequently.

Biosecurity is a major concern for many cultivators due to the impact that moldy or tainted crops can have on both consumers and operations’ bottom line. Unfortunately, it is a complex issue—constantly moving from one input to another—making it hard to get right. At Surna we understand how to get the cultivation environment just right and we’re always happy to share what we’ve learned. Reach out to us to learn more about how we can help you safeguard your crops against failure.

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