Facility Design: Five Mistakes to Avoid as a Cannabis Cultivator

In the US alone, there are tens of thousands of licensed cannabis cultivation facilities (Statista). This expansive infrastructure network has fostered the growth of specialized consultants, engineering firms, and design teams. Cannabis facility design has become an industry in its own right.

However, despite their expertise, most facilities are hastily constructed in order to meet market opening deadlines. Due to the intense competition that compels companies to take shortcuts and rush to the finish line, many end up facing structural and workflow challenges once they are operational. These facility design issues are not merely a source of frustration, they also have a significant impact on production capacity, employees, and ultimately, profits.

During the design phase, it pays to slow down. By investing more time, thought, and expertise into the design portion of a buildout, it's possible to learn from the mistakes of others in our industry.

Five Facility Design Mistakes to Avoid in Cannabis Facility Buildout

cannabis-cultivation-facility-designSpeeding Through the Design Process

The segmented state-by-state rollout of cannabis in the US and the highly competitive licensing process hinder today's cultivators. It's a rush for new facilities to design, build, and get to market in every new state that legalizes production. This naturally limits a thoughtful design process.

Yet, taking time during the design to get it right will pay dividends as the facility gets under production. Instead of working with firms that promise to get you to the finish line first, consider working with companies with proven experience building at an industrial scale, knowledge of GMP, food and medical facility design, and with a record of happy clients.

Ignoring Facility Workflow 

Many current cultivators can attest to the nightmares caused by an illogical floor plan. All too often, floor plans are made to fit a budget or existing building but forget about the movement of people and plants. Facility workflow can seriously hinder your employees’ productivity and, in some cases, put your plants at increased risk of contamination.

For example, are the drying rooms located near the flower rooms, or do staff have to move plants to the other end of the building? During the rush to sanitize post-harvest, how many people can realistically move through the room with all the associated cleaning equipment without putting themselves at risk of injury? 

Workflow considerations such as this can impact your production, product quality, and employee turnover. As far too many operators in today's industry have realized, facility workflow problems have far-reaching effects that are not easily righted.

Pushing GMP Certification Down the Road

Federal (and even global) regulations will require that cannabis production adheres to Good Manufacturing Processes (GMP). As with other highly-regulated industries, GMP certification ensures final products are consistently produced to meet specific quality standards. 

Yet, many facilities are woefully underprepared. With GMP protocols covering all aspects of the supply chain, including materials, premises, equipment, storage, staff training, hygiene, and more, it must be a foundational consideration during the design process. If you are building for longevity, future-proofing for GMP has to be a part of that equation.

Failing to Build Automation into the Design

Executives and venture capitalists often refer to automation in cannabis cultivation in a way that suggests human intervention is no longer required. Unfortunately, robot cannabis is still a practical impossibility, but that doesn't mean today's producers can't reap the production efficiencies of what current technologies allow.

From lighting to fertigation to environmental controls, automations allow growers to take a step back from the labor-intensive, repetitive, and mundane jobs within the grow room. This creates time savings, which can be better spent perfecting the grow environment, scaling production, and mitigating risks.

TSRgrow's GrowHub Software is only one example. We have automated environmental management with real-time monitoring and analysis of past and present grow cycles. With room-by-room control over temperature, humidity, CO2, VPD, water temperature, and more, your staff will have more time to experiment, optimize and increase production. 

Relegating Data to an Afterthought

It is technically possible to grow cannabis without collecting any grow data, but it's not smart. For cannabis produced at a commercial (or even industrial) scale, profitability hinges on data. Especially with GMP coming down the pipeline, all facilities must infuse data collection into their facility design.

While most cultivators continue to work with a rudimentary grow room monitor for temperature, humidity, and VPD, the future of cannabis will require a completely integrated facility. From the get-go, a facility design plan needs to connect all rooms, equipment, and instruments into a centralized building automation system or direct digital controller.

Not only does this provide the data-driven insight management needs to produce a consistently high-quality final product, but it's necessary for ongoing R&D efforts and environmental optimizations. 

Smart Facility Design Supports Long-Term Viability

The importance of strategic design in cannabis cultivation facilities cannot be overstated. Rushing the design process, overlooking facility workflow, delaying GMP considerations, and treating data as an afterthought are all too common pitfalls amongst today’s operators.

TSRgrow can help you avoid the critical facility design mistakes that could cost you down the road. We merge advanced LED lighting, remote power, environmental control, and monitoring systems into a single, turn-key solution. The TOTALgrow Solution is the foundation of smart facility design, to assist cultivators in optimizing operations, enhancing yields, and ensuring consistent quality.

If you are embarking on the exciting journey of designing a cultivation facility, let our expertise guide you in creating a facility that stands the test of time. Reach out to our dedicated sales team today and unlock the potential of your project.


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