Top Tips to Reduce Costs for Indoor Cannabis Cultivation

Cannabis cultivation centers cost a lot to run each month, especially indoor ones. For this reason, it is important to reduce your costs while still maximizing the yield from your facility. The following tips will allow you to produce more for less.

Written By Gannon Meister
March 17th, 2016

Cannabis cultivation centers cost a lot to run each month, especially indoor ones. For this reason, it is important to reduce your costs while still maximizing the yield from your facility. The following tips will allow you to produce more for less.

Lighting

Lighting accounts for approximately 33 percent of the overall energy usage in a cultivation facility, making it a great place to start.

  • Stop using single-ended HPS bulbs. They are the least efficient bulb type. Switching to double-ended bulbs will result in a 30% increase in light output within PAR, while still using the same amount of energy. Because of this additional light, a double-ended bulb can easily cover a 5’x5’ area instead of a traditional 4’x4’ area, meaning you will need less lights overall.
  • Switch your lighting schedule to align with cheaper energy rates. Most municipalities have peak and non-peak energy usage hours. Switching your lights on cycle to happen during off-peak hours can result in substantial cost savings each month. However, charges are based on the highest load during that time, even if that increased load only occurred for a few moments. The highest energy usage will occur during ballast startup, so, instead of turning on all of the lights in the room at once, use a Smart Panel to stagger the lights. This will reduce the surge in electricity usage that accompanies ballast startup by turning them on a few at a time instead of all at once.
  • Use fresh bulbs. As bulbs age, they become less effective at producing light, but they still use the same amount of energy. Replacing bulbs according to manufacturer’s directions will allow you to maintain maximum efficiency for each bulb in the garden, resulting in higher light levels and lower amounts of heat.
  • Don’t waste light. Any light that strikes the walls or floor of the grow room is wasted. Only light that strikes the plant canopy will be used by the plants. Think about it this way: if every time you filled up your car with gas, you spilled some on the ground, you still have to pay for that wasted gas, but you don’t get any benefit from it. The same logic applies to light that does not strike the plant canopy.
  • Replace damaged reflectors immediately. When reflector linings are damaged, they are not able to reflect light in their intended manner, leading to additional wasted light. This loss of light can cost more in one grow cycle than replacing the reflector would cost.
  • Keep reflectors clean. Dirty reflective material and glass absorb the light that touches them instead of bouncing the light to its intended destination. Because of this, dirty reflectors do not perform optimally and can be a huge source of wasted energy.

Growing Medium

The growing medium affects every other decision in the grow room and can subtly impact production costs.

  • Avoid using soil. Soil is costly to purchase and transport. In addition, soil is a one time use growing medium and costs money to dispose of once is has been used. Soil is also a great way to introduce pests and pathogens into a growing environment as they can easily be living in the soil when it arrives at the facility.
  • Cannabis Root BallUse hydroponics if your grower is experienced enough. Once a hydroponic system is in place, the only recurring expense is the water that runs through the system. However, even this can be minimized by sterilizing water that has been run through the system and reusing it. By doing so, minimal additional input is needed, virtually eliminating the monthly operating costs. However, hydroponics should only be used if your grower is experienced enough to handle the advanced system as a mistake could cost the entire crop, thus negating any potential money savings.

Automation

Labor is a huge expense in any grow operation. Automating the processes that are most labor-intensive will result in huge savings.

  • Install an irrigation system and floor drains. Watering by hand is more likely to result in water spilled on the floor than when an irrigation system is used. Any water that is spilt on the floor needs to be drained away immediately. If not drained away, it will be removed through dehumidification, causing the dehu equipment to work harder and less efficiently. An irrigation system and floor drains will provide savings in the form of labor reduction, reduced water consumption and decreased dehumidification costs.
  • Automate temperature regulation, nutrient dosing and pH and acidity testing.
  • Minimize hand trimming. Trimming machines have come a long way in recent years, leaving little reason to use manual labor for the majority of your trimming needs. Only hand trim the nicest looking buds in order to maintain their appeal.

Reduce the need for pesticides.

Pesticides can cost $10,000-$12,000 per month and there is mounting consumer concern over their use. A few changes can dramatically decrease the amount used.

  • Isolate grow rooms. Pests and pathogens can spread from room to room through shared air. Prevent this by isolating the air supply in each room. Whenever possible, do not bring in outside air.
  • Install air sanitation equipment. Air sanitation equipment can help prevent breakouts of pests, pathogens and mold as well as minimize the impact if a breakout occurs. Keeping the air in your grow rooms clean allows plants to thrive and reduces the risk of crop loss due to bacteria or mold in buds.
  • Keep the entire facility clean. Sterilize all equipment and grow rooms between each use. Infectants such as powdery mildew can be transferred to new plants through equipment. Sterilizing everything that touches plants helps prevent the spread of pests and pathogens.

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