There are two main approaches to grow room layout for indoor gardening – Sea of Green (SOG) and Aisles. Sea of Green growing involves pushing all the plants together into one large plant canopy, removing all the space between them. Whereas, aisle growing involves creating rows of plants with spaces, or aisles, between them, allowing workers to walk between the rows of plants.
The main reason SOG growing has taken hold is because of inefficient reflectors. Traditional reflectors cast light in a wide footprint, including in would-be aisles. In order to avoid wasting light on aisles, growers have adapted to the equipment available and use rolling tables to push their plants together in order to capture all available light with plant canopy.
Cultivators have done the best they can with the tools that were available to them, but SOG simply masks the problem. More equipment manufacturers need to step up and supply more efficient equipment that would allow cultivators to benefit from growing in aisles.
Reflectors designed for aisle growing can now be found on the market. These reflectors create a collimated light that is directed at the plant canopy and avoids scattering light in aisleways. (Light that does not hit the plant canopy is considered wasted light because it does not contribute to plant growth.)
Switching to aisle growing provides a number of benefits for the cultivation facility including reduced labor costs, better efficiencies and healthier plants.
One of the concessions that have been made toward SOG growing is movable tables. These tables allow for one to two moveable aisles within a cultivation room, allowing cultivators to grow in one large canopy while also being able to work on the plants in the middle of the room. Rolling tables provide a number of logistical issues:
- They are expensive to purchase and the moving parts mean they can break fairly easily.
- When the tables are moved, any drainage and irrigation systems that are connected to a table must also be moved
- Moving tables around requires a lot of manpower. Because of this, the tables are typically not moved as often as they should be and the health of individual plants is not checked.
Additionally, a solid canopy, as created by the SOG method can create multiple humidity levels. The solid plant canopy creates a dense surface, making it difficult for air to move through the plants. This can result in significantly different humidity level below, in and above the canopy. If not closely monitored and accounted for, the humidity differences can create a perfect breeding ground for harmful pathogens. With aisle growing, this problem is minimized because the aisles allow for extra airflow around the plants.
With aisle growing, it is also possible to grow larger plants. A cannabis plant will grow buds wherever light is directed at it. This makes it possible to create side canopies when growing in aisles that can triple the available canopy area of each plant. To create a side canopy, an HID reflector or LEDs that have been designed for growing in aisles can be used above the plants. LEDs should then be angled towards the side of each plant, making sure the light is directed onto the side plant canopy. This can either be achieved by placing LEDs above the plant canopy and carefully angling them at the plant, or by attaching LEDs to a winch so the lights can be raised and lowered as needed. LEDs are recommended for side canopies because they are easier to control the direction of the light and they do not run as hot, allowing workers to get closer to the light setup.
As technology within the cannabis industry advances, so too should growing methods. SOG growing is a relic of the past that is no longer necessary due to advances in reflector technology. Aisle growing is the way forward and provides a number of important advantages over SOG including reduced labor costs, healthier plants and increased yields.