There’s a classic Simpsons bit in ‘Treehouse of Horrors VI’ when Homer steps into another universe where he discovers that this theoretical ‘third dimension’ is genuine. Seeing the world in all 3 directions predictably befuddles him, and hilarity ensues.
However, even during this strange 3-D realm Homer would feel right at home had he happened upon one of today’s great monuments to some 2-D world: the mega-indoor cultivation facility. In here, it seems that the thought of exploiting an entire amount of space to get down production costs is no match for your my-square-footage-is-bigger objective of sprawling, resource-hungry cannabis cathedrals.
Monuments to ego aside, cannabis grow facility layout is really a cold and heartless numbers game. Regardless of how big or small your operation, people who can produce more for less will win. It’s time we re-imagine how indoor cultivation can remain cost-competitive; maybe it’s time for you to Become Adults and consider the merits of vertical cultivation.
Growing plants vertically provides a solution with potentially several fundamental advantages for cultivators. As an example, given the same footprint it provides increased plant yields and revenue generation, while decreasing energy/water consumption by a few factors, over traditional horizontal cultivation. [Vertical cultivation often uses gravity-fed hydroponic systems but may be modified for soil.]
To become clear, the term ‘vertical cultivation’ in this particular context does NOT mean stacking horizontal grow trays on the top of one another, with all the plant canopy growing towards (perpendicular) the lights. Instead, imagine having a horizontal grow and flipping it, and its light source, 90 degrees in order that the plants grow upward and parallel for the light.
The idea of vertical cultivation may not be a simple someone to visualize, so a basic analogy would be the difference between a book on a table vs. one in a bookshelf. If you think about the book’s cover its ‘canopy’ it seems like horizontal growing when lying flat, but vertical cultivation when standing upright. Although it may seem just like a small difference in orientation, the effect of cultivating in three dimensions on overall cost efficiency is profound.
Let’s see what the numbers seem like should you exploit the whole amount of space with vertical cultivation, using the scenario above as our baseline comparison.
First, we go ahead and take existing grow (i.e. the ‘book’ lying down) and stand it. By simply doing that you can now grow canopies on both sides (think of the book’s front and back covers). Instantly, we’ve doubled our original capacity and we’re just how to get started!
Next, we face LED lights (of comparable PAR intensity as HPS) parallel to the canopy and then perform the same on the opposite side, as though two flashlights were pointed in the front and back covers of any book over a shelf. Why LED over HPS? Primarily because LED allows the canopy to grow closer to the lighting without damaging the plants, and does so at a discount operating costs.
Now, assume three feet spacing from a single light for the other, with the canopies in the middle. Then, take the entire configuration and repeat it 4x to top off the space. Taken at face value, the development and efficiency benefits of vertical cultivation over horizontal growing are clear, even when LED produces less yield/light. The great news is, the idea continues to be put gcpsfm practice and the real-world results hew closely towards the hypothetical situation above.
In fairness, adopting LED technology currently requires substantially more capital investment than HPS. But, on balance, the additional upfront costs of LED are far outweighed as time passes by remarkable ability to drive down operating costs while increasing production efficiency.