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Have an inside look at this 150,000 square foot cannabis cultivation facility located in Anna, Illinois. Head Grower Zack Bigg and General Manager Steve Bundy explore their advanced grow room technologies.
Aeriz is a multi-state operator with cannabis cultivation locations in California, Arizona, and Illinois. Aeriz Illinois produces both medical and recreational cannabis.
Surna Cultivation Technologies is proud to have supplied Aeriz with their mechanical engineering design as well as climate control equipment including hot gas reheat chillers, fan coils, destratification fans, SentryIQ controls, and dehumidifiers.
[VO:] We are Aeriz, one of the largest cultivation facilities in the state. Located in Anna, Illinois, we are known for our aeroponic growing method of both medical and recreational cannabis. We are proud to be one of the largest employers in our community and surrounding areas.
[Bigg:] Hi, I’m Zack Bigg. I am the head grower. Aeriz is a cultivation facility in Illinois. We are medical and recreational and we have another facility in California and another facility in Arizona. We are most known for being an aeropannic growth facility. Most grows are soil, rock wall or Cocoa, and we are aeroponic.
[Bundy:] Here at Aeriz, we are one of the largest aeropanics cultivators in the country. What we are known for is the quality of our product. We always strive to be number one, we want to be the best.
[Bigg:] We use controls and automation on multiple fronts. We use the Surna system to change the exact set points we have for the HVAC controls in our rooms based on the stage of growth that the plants are in, and we also have the automation on the irrigation side as well. With aeroponics, we are on a strict schedule as far as how much to water, how often, and we use that to automate our irrigation cycles as well.
We are in the propagation room which has our mothers and our clones as you can see. Mainly, it’s clones to keep the product consistent. With seeds, you get different phenotype expressions and really we want the same product on the shelves every time. From here, we take cuttings, we wait for them to root, then we plant them in our veg rooms. When the plant is about three weeks or, for some strains it’s up to six, when it hits that size of that age, and after that they move to our flower rooms.
The best part about Surna has been the program they built – the technology that comes along with their system that [makes it so that] we can schedule new things and we can call them about a service that we’d like. There was one change where I wanted to have our lights do a slow increase and a slow decrease, and they were able to program that in for us.
We are in Veg One right now. We use an 18-on and 6-hours-off lighting schedule in veg. We keep it around 75°F and roughly 60% humidity. We tend to bump it a little higher for the younger plants where we get up to 70%. It’s sort of a strain by strain thing and [depends on] age. We’ll ween off the humidity before we move them into flower. With Surna products, we’ve seen a much more stable temperature and humidity, and our plants are much happier with the consistency they’re getting as far as environmental conditions. We keep the VPD relatively low to keep the plants happy and growing vigorously.
From a rooted cutting, they get put into these pots and from there, they stay in there for the rest of their lives through flower and through harvest. So at the end of our cycle, this is all the waste we will have. This pot and these little clay pebbles, and that’s about it. This is much more environmentally friendly than, say, a 40-gallon tub of soil that they have to reuse or throw out every time. This is all the waste we get, is mostly plant material.
We have four veg rooms that are double-stacked as you can see, and we have 5600 canopy in each room. An obstacle is definitely working on the second level, but for that added space, it is worth it.
We are in a flower room right now. These are about day 48/49. They’re coming down next week. Our temperatures tend to be a bit cooler because we’re aeroponic so the root zone temperature is very important to keep under control to keep pathogens under control. We like to keep it a little cooler than maybe 72°F and 60% humidity. And then we sort of taper off the humidity as we get farther along.
[Bundy:] This room was designed and set up by Surna because we need control of temperature and humidity. We get the temperature a little bit cooler at first; whenever we’re drying plants, we start out cool and we gradually raise the temperature. We try to keep the humidity right around 60% the whole time. It helps if we have some flexibility. We can move them up or down. With Surna, we have that option in these rooms. It’s also controlled with the Surna control system.
[Bigg:] This is the mechanical room. It’s sort of the heart of our HVAC system here. We like the chilled water system more than a conventional system because it does give us more control as far as temperature. It’s a much tighter window that it keeps the temperature in. And also it’s less dependent on conditions outside. Like right now it’s very hot outside and our rooms are just the same; nice and cool, exactly where we want them. We have some redundancy built-in. I think it would take about two of the chillers to run and we have three just in case one needs servicing. We have boilers and reheat chillers too, so we have a lot of redundancies built in so the system won’t ever go down completely.
This panel behind me is the SentryIQ system. This is the brain for all the individual rooms inside our building. This thing communicates with all the boards that are outside each and every room. And this is what gives us the feed so we can check online and see where our rooms are at and it sends alarms. It does all the controls.
I think the most surprising thing about working with Surna is there’s never a time when I can’t reach someone on the phone. There’s never a time when I have a call and it’s not returned promptly. You still get personal service and you’re still dealing with a person who treats you like you’re a person, you’re not just another job to Surna.
[Bigg:] We are in our RO room. So here we have our RO machines that make the water and purify the water. They take tapwater and bring it down to almost 0 ppm. We want water as pure as possible so when we add nutrients, we don’t want our recipes and ratios to be thrown off by whatever is in the tapwater. Here we have our storage tanks. Each one of these is about 4500 gallons apiece. This is excess. Just in case there’s any water issue, we will be able to keep running for almost a week. We like to have a good safety net just in case. We run a recirculating system so our reservoirs that feed our plants drains right back into the reservoir. We reuse it over a period of however long we need to really. It depends on the stage of growth, so our nutrients are getting recirculated so we don’t do drain-to-waste or anything like that. The only time will ever lose the nutrients is if we change out our reservoirs.
[Bundy:] If someone was building a grow for the first time, I’d tell them they’re going to make mistakes, and other people are going to make mistakes, and sometimes there won’t be any mistakes made and things will still go bad. You always have to have a Plan B. You have to have a plan C. And you always have to strive to get better.
[VO:] Aeriz strives to provide a consistent high quality cannabis. We worked hard to be able to deliver on that promise. And thanks to proper facility planning and advanced grow room technologies, we continue to serve customers across the state.