Speak to any agriculturist, and they will tell you one of the main concerns lies not only in creating but in maintaining the correct environment for growing successful indoor crops. The slightest change in humidity or temperature can veer crops off the path of healthy plants and abundant yields.
CannabisTech had the opportunity to speak with Quentin Veit, Technical Director with EasyRoots, to talk about the importance of efficient climate control. Leveraging an engineering background, Veit expressed, “Sustainability and renewable energy have always been my focus, and I’ve always believed in cannabis legalization, so I’m exercising two passions at once.”
Specialized HVAC Systems
Veit mentioned, “One of the challenging aspects is that cannabis is a climate-sensitive crop, so climate control is critical.”
Unlike other produce crops, which are grown where the climate is ideal and then shipped to stores throughout the country, cannabis must be grown in the state where it’s sold. Therefore, growers have a unique challenge to change their climate to match the plant’s needs. When a company or independent grower is considering an HVAC system for the grow room, there are several considerations.
Temperature and Humidity – The ideal temperatures can vary depending on the specific crop and/or strain. Using HVAC systems allow the temperature and the humidity range to be set and consistently maintained. However, many traditional HVAC systems will not be able to maintain the desired range of humidity, which can be up to 70%. Therefore, an additional or more inclusive system could prove useful. Furthermore, some traditional HVAC systems can create a dry environment which can be mitigated or altogether avoided with advanced climate control systems.
Energy Consumption – Using a powerful HVAC system can use a copious amount of energy. In addition to this, specialized lighting can also be energy intensive, and the combination of these two can push up production costs. Growers should consider systems which make use of alternative technology, such as solar panels, to reduce running costs.
Incentives – Veit suggested it’s important to build a relationship with your utility company, mentioning Michigan is offering up to $50,000 in rebates for installing efficient HVAC solutions, which is conservative in comparison to some other incentives.
Flexibility and Syncing
It is essential to select an HVAC system which offers the kind of flexibility needed to maintain the optimum growing environment for the marijuana plant. This flexibility can come in the form of smart grow, and smart sync technology – systems which can sync to smart devices can help to display real-time conditions, allowing producers to adjust settings on the fly. This technology gives growers an impressive advantage for their crops and assists in maintaining optimum growing conditions, no matter the changing circumstances as producers can respond immediately to any changes in environmental factors.
While some grow rooms make use of HVAC systems to either cool or heat the crop’s indoor growing space, there are a few technologies which sync with existing HVAC systems. This combination provides a more flexible range of control and a tighter rein on environmental factors, including operating costs. However, perhaps a more suitable route would be for growers to utilize some of the more innovative technologies where HVAC systems can offer intuitive options such as perceptive analytics which can anticipate the budding plant’s future needs and deliver real-time, on-hand readings brought straight to a smartphone or tablet.
One such company offering alternatives is the EasyRoots team.
Whether the grow room is in a warm or cold climate will make an impact on the type of system needed. EasyRoots has two systems available, catering for warm and cold climates. EasyRoots Climate Control options include the EasySun System, offering control for warmer climates and the EasyCool System is available for colder climates.
Both options allow cultivators to maintain a tight yet flexible hold on the grow room. In warmer climates, EasySun solar panels connect to the existing HVAC. The solar technology lowers operating costs and improves the overall efficiency of a running climate control system. Explaining the challenge, Veit stated, “HVAC systems fail when it’s hot. Not only is it overworked due to the heat load, but there’s a derating effect.”
“By integrating solar panels into the HVAC, thermal energy from the sun is fed into the refrigerant circuit, compressing it from a gas into a liquid,” he continued. “In doing so, the solar panels allow the HVAC to operate at 60-70% of their overall load, rather than 100-105% of stated capacity.”
The EasyCool system manages facilities in cold weather climates. Real-time visibility assists growers in being constantly vigilant in monitoring crops. Through the intuitive EasyCool tech, growers can sync phones and other smart devices to their grow rooms – giving valuable insight as well as real-time analyses providing information about the plants to anticipate the crops’ needs, lowering future production costs as well as avoiding issues. This handheld power can reduce production costs and prove to be an invaluable tool for producers.
While some might think in colder climates, cooling a cultivation facility should be as easy as installing ventilation, Veit reminds, the solution isn’t always that straightforward. “Using outside air to cool a facility is an option, but many cities don’t want odors escaping and most growers don’t want precious CO2 escaping either.” Instead, growers must look for ways to keep their operations cool without the use of outside air.
EasyCool systems can be used in conjunction with existing HVAC’s or dehumidifiers, but they can also be used as the primary cooling system.
Businesses and sole cultivators, who are learning how to grow indoor cannabis on a large scale, contend with a range of issues. Moreover, while the industry itself may indeed be on an upward trend, the legal landscape and tight regulations can pose a complicated set of challenges for the cannabis business owner to navigate. Therefore, it makes sense to streamline all other areas wherever possible, and with the technology EasyRoots offers to agriculturists, optimizing the indoor grow room can lead to quality plants and higher yields.
Veit offered some parting advice for prospective new cannabis businesses as we ended our conversation, “If people are throwing out numbers without understanding your full facility and the details therein, there’s a good chance those numbers are bogus. Find someone who is detail-oriented and takes the time to understand your facility before making any commitments.”