Three Eco-Friendly Methods of Cannabis Cultivation

by | Feb 3, 2022

Written by Amanda Stern

Amanda Stern got her start in the Colorado cannabis industry and transitioned to New Mexico in 2021. She has a passion for natural, plant-based alternatives, herbs, and psychedelics.

It's no secret that commercial cannabis cultivation is stressful on the environment. Fortunately, there are an increasing number of eco-minded growers implementing more sustainable systems, helping to slow, and in some cases reverse this damage.

Outdoor Organic, Sunlight

Organic farming reigns at the top of the list when discussing environmentally healthy approaches to commercial cannabis cultivation. The word organic usually invokes visions of verdant fields basking in the warm sun; strong, healthy stalks, deeply rooted in rich living soils. Here cannabis has surely been nurtured, and cared for with hearty composts and blissfully watered by the summer rain… Lovely, yes?

The organic method of producing any crop is certainly not a new topic. Generally speaking, it is now commonly used as a way to describe a generally healthful approach to living. Organic simply means cultivation without the use of over-tilling, harsh chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or any artificial agents. The benefits of growing and consuming organically grown produce are many: less erosion; no chemical pollution; minimized stress on energy grids; and with intelligent and creative means of water reclamation, less water waste.

Organic cannabis cultivation also serves as protection from pesticide poisoning for wildlife in the region and promotes healthy local biodiversity. Relatively speaking, the more biodiversity there is on a farm, the more stable it will be, starting with its soil. Encouraging the growth of the micro-environments within the soil such as worms, mold and algae are integral to promoting good drainage, proper levels of healthy bacteria, and pH balances that provide nourishment to your crop.

Not all cannabis cultivators, though, have the luxury of being able to grow outdoors in an ideal climate. With no choice but to grow inside, while still using organic soils, composts, additives, and the wealth of accumulated knowledge available today, a green grow can be much more easily achieved now, than ever before using advancements in technology.

Sustainable Indoor Cultivation

With the cost-effective and environmentally friendly implementation of LED lighting along with smart HVAC, rain, and wastewater recycling systems, indoor cannabis cultivators can still be eco-friendly in their approach. It does take more time, effort and money to bring an organic grow indoors, but with careful management of lighting, climate, growing mediums, a more sustainable cannabis grow can be built.

LED lighting not only drops overall energy costs, but it also reduces heat stress on your plants, fire hazards in your building, and they offer more versatility such as vertical lighting and dimming features. While these systems are a larger investment upfront, overall electric usage is greatly reduced due to the high efficiency of LED lighting and the direct result it has on how heavily the HVAC system is relied upon. In fact, if a business is considering moving their indoor grow to LED from HID or other lighting, this requires managing changes within the HVAC configuration. While the overall temperature is cooler, humidity can rise.

Another way to merge eco-friendly cannabis cultivation and indoor growing is by going solar. Much like switching to LED, there is a higher upfront cost associated with installing solar panels. When considering the long-term reduction in operating costs, as well as reducing the carbon footprint of a business though, the use of this clean and renewable energy is hard to deny.

Comprehensive water management systems that include waste-water reclamation are at the basis of the eco-friendly movement. Wastewater has been flushed into local water systems adding to water pollution since before the industrial age. Today, there are a multitude of options available for a business to build and customize a water management system specific to their size and needs, enabling them to reduce both cost and waste in the long run.

Korean Natural Farming (KNF)

Taking organic farming and putting it into hyperdrive, Korean Natural Farming (KNF) has cultivators starting from scratch. Developed in the 1960s by Dr. Cho Han Kyu, KNF is a response to heavy overuse of synthetic chemicals in South Korean agriculture, KNF is the combination of plant biology and fermentation practices deeply rooted in Korean culture.

“Science for the poor, technology for humans and philosophy for all… Natural Farming is an innovative new method of farming that utilizes nature's powers for maximum performance rather than human intervention,” said Dr.Cho Han Kyu in his book Cho’s Global Natural Farming.

Using locally harvested mycelium to grow IMO (indigenous microorganisms), combined with easily sourced herbaceous roots that are soaked with various brews and alcohols to create fermentations, KNF focuses on the health of the land and all of the organisms therein. Even the byproducts of these fermentations can be made into things, such as cheese from Lactic Acid Bacteria, or vinegar from the Fermented Plant Juices.

Korean natural farming takes cannabis cultivation even further, past sustainability into regenerative farming. If those practices were to become commonplace the health of our overall environment could perhaps, even improve.