John Perricone was an outdoor cultivator for over 17 years; he’s witnessed some dramatic changes over the past decade as the industry moves into large-scale commercialization. When he sold his farm in 2016, he committed himself to improving one of the largest issues the industry faces to date: increasing energy costs, decreasing wholesale values & increase supply.
Energy consumption of the cannabis industry has skyrocketed, keeping pace with the expansion of indoor production facilities. It’s not uncommon to see 50,000 sq. ft. to 100,000 sq. ft facilities these days, whose energy consumption, even with the most energy efficient, advanced LED technology, is unsurpassed. According to some experts, cannabis accounts for three percent of the energy consumption in the state of Colorado.
Through their partnership with Solatube International, Inc., Perricone and Cachat have developed a dynamic supplemental sunlight technology explicitly catering to the indoor marijuana market. SunGrown Zero is less than a year old, but already it has shown pretty dramatic results from their natural lighting innovations. The company has benefited from the legacy data & models, which Dr. Cachat collected over three years, spending $3.5MM in research & development. So while SunGrown Zero is relatively new, it was born out of research experience and filled with proven team members.
Dynamic Supplemental Sunlight
Solatube International, Inc. never intended on developing technology for the cannabis market. In fact, their focus has always been to bring natural light into an indoor space, to create an environment of clean, white, full-spectrum light, suitable for people. Over the last 30 years, they have become an industry standard for improving environments in office spaces, schools and the like, with their Tubular Daylighting Devices, which are even used to light massive indoor facilities like the Dubai Ski Resort.
The Solatuve SkyVault Series, now incorporated into SunGrown Zero’s cannabis-focused technology, is a daylighting system which brings 99.7% of the visible light spectrum (which plants favor). Most importantly, it does so with virtually no heat and infrared of the sun's energy. As any indoor grower currently operating with an HID lighting system will admit, the ongoing issues related to heat, humidity, and, air exchange are no joke. Perricone’s system of harnessing natural daylight removes these concerns entirely.
The Savings of Daylight Technologies
Although commonly assumed to be a lighting solution, Perricone makes clear SunGrown Zero is a total facility design. Cachat’s innovation incorporated the SkyVault Series daylight technology, in conjunction with an integrated supplemental lighting system. In regions with fewer days of sunlight, during the winter months, or throughout the different stages of cannabis growth, crops can benefit from different types of supplemental light.
In Cachat’s original testing facility, he successfully grew high-grade, medical marijuana relying on Solatube Daylighting Systems to fuel photosynthesis & LED to drive plant development. Now, with the introduction of specific light spectrums during the vegetative and flowering stages, the capacity of the system has been exponentially improved. “Using LED’s to drive photosynthesis and quite literally trick the plant into believing its fall allows us to shave two weeks off of the flowering cycle,” Dr. Cachat explained. With total indoor environmental monitoring, the SunGrown Zero system maintains the perfect PAR reading, temperature, and humidity facility-wide. Unlike conventional HID based facilities, no heat exchange is required, which means there is no need to expel excess heat nor to introduce cool air (the number one cause of mold and mildew development).
The potential cost savings with the introduction of daylight technology indoors are dramatic. Perricone estimates that depending on region (and therefore the supplemental light requirements) most facilities using SunGrown Zero system & technology can efficiently grow high-grade marijuana with only six to ten watts per sq. ft. In comparison, LEDs require roughly 35 to 40 watts per sq. ft. and HIDS over a 100. Clearly, there are exponential energy savings to be had, especially in large-scale commercial operations over 50,000 sq. ft. We are talking about reducing millions of kWh/mth to a couple hundred thousand kWh/mth – this represents savings over $800,000/year per 10,000 sq ft of canopy.
Next Moves for Sun Grown Zero
Today, Perricone says that he’s found most growers don't believe the hype around the SkyVault Series. They have to see it to believe it. Describing daylight technology just doesn’t do it justice. To address this issue, SunGrown Zero has taken their technology on the road, with a custom-built trailer with the SkyVault Series technology installed. With this trailer, Perricone can put the full-spectrum lighting technology on bright and vivid display. No matter the weather, the PAR readings inside the trailer when the SkyVaults are opened, are almost unbelievable. For the naked eye, its full-spectrum daylight, inside an enclosed space.
Perricone and Cachat are set to build their first flagship facility, a 10,000 sq. ft. space dedicated to active indoor cannabis cultivation. They also plan to design it as a teaching facility. Once complete, they plan to invite clients into their facility for real hands-on experience working within dynamic supplemental sunlight grow operation. As word spreads about the potential costs savings and energy efficiency of a SunGrown Zero designed facility, Perricone foresees it will become the industry standard for new builds in five years.