Four Tech Solutions Every Cannabis Cultivator Should Use for Sustainability

It’s no secret that the cannabis cultivation industry has a sizable impact on our environment. Studies have shown that both indoor and outdoor cultivation is highly water-intensive and energy-consuming. For those focused on environmental sustainability, it has been an open question as to whether cannabis cultivators could ever manage to go green.

Thankfully, innovative technological solutions offer cultivators an opportunity to reduce their environmental impact. These solutions address everything from the way facilities are powered to the method of monitoring and growing the plants themselves. Here are just a few tools that companies like TSRgrow have developed for cultivators to reduce waste, boost sustainability, and improve yields and quality.

Water Conservation Systems  

Cannabis plants demand a lot of water, so reducing usage or recapturing moisture can be a major benefit to any cultivator. According to a study published in the Journal of Cannabis Research, a cannabis plant consumes an estimated 22.7 liters, or six gallons of water per day during growing season. This stretch of time typically lasts around 150 days, from June to October. In an indoor grow facility, a space measuring 50 feet by 100 feet containing 50 plants is estimated to use 24,000 gallons of water per season

Fortunately, water conservation systems can help limit the environmental and business impacts of this immense need for water. Conservation methods such as drip irrigation systems are ideal for maximizing not only sustainability but minimizing costs and improving efficiency. As the name suggests, drip irrigation systems work by slowly and automatically drip-feeding your plant’s root zone with a regulated flow of nutrient solution. While traditional sprinkler systems can run through gallons of water in just one minute, drip irrigation emitters deliver small amounts of water over extended periods.

Benefits of the drawn-out, drip-style method of irrigation include higher levels of precision and a significantly lower risk of evaporation. This means that your plants will be able to utilize every drop of the water supplied. 

In addition, employing water recycling, or the treatment of wastewater for reuse in agricultural irrigation, can help reduce waste. This is especially important to the sustainability and profitability of cultivators in regions prone to drought and water shortages, such as California. To establish a water reclamation system, cultivators could employ UV sterilization to eliminate contaminants, reverse osmosis systems to remove inorganic solids like salts, and leachate remediation systems to remove excess nutrients and additional contaminants. Work with an expert cultivation consultant to devise the best system for your facilities needs.

By using water conservation systems, plants get the water they need without the waste that affects both the planet and your bottom line.

Advanced LED lighting 

Cultivation facilities also require a lot of electricity to power lights for between 12 to 18 hours per day. In the city of Denver, CO, public health officials reported that almost 4% of the city’s entire electricity usage in 2018 was dedicated to cannabis production. 

Advanced LED lighting systems offer growers a great alternative to traditional practices that consume lots of power and produce high levels of heat. LED lights not only last far longer than conventional fluorescent grow lights but use significantly less energy as well. And while High-Pressure Sodium (HPS) lamps -- historically favored by many growers -- need bulb changing after only about 8 to 12 months, LED lights can last for about 50,000 hours, or about 10 years of use.

Cultivators who have the right LED grow lights are not only able to significantly reduce their energy use and carbon footprint, but also produce plants with greater yields and increased potency. Because LED lights create much less heat compared to traditional practices, they can be placed much closer to plants, allowing plants to better absorb the focused light. This also opens the possibility for vertical grows, helping cultivators do more with less space.

Building on LED Efficiency with TSRgrow

TSRgrow’s advanced LED lighting solutions double down on this efficiency by using Remote Power Servers to deliver power to the lights from outside the grow room. This differs from traditional LED lights, which use a ballast power system on each fixture. Using ballasts introduces additional heat into the grow room, which requires additional HVAC equipment and energy consumption to maintain a suitable environment for the plants. That equipment represents a significant capital expenditure, as well as the energy costs required to power them. 

TSRgrow’s LED grow lights also offer up to 1,000W and more than 2,600 μmol/s of full-spectrum light, a standard above and beyond other lighting on the market. TSRgrow’s lights can also be controlled from a central location and dimmed or brightened as needed, without the need for wiring and dimmer switches for each individual lighting fixture.

Environmental Monitoring Systems

Growing Cannabis SustainablyCatching issues in cannabis grows before they arise is key to producing top quality flower and big yields. Emerging technology surrounding environmental monitoring and data analysis allows cultivators to track and control their growing environment down to the grow room level. A good cannabis environmental monitoring software can help you keep tabs on key environmental factors like temperature, humidity, CO2 levels, vapor-pressure deficit (VPD), and electrical conductivity (EC). Should any of these key factors fall out of optimal ranges set by your master recipe, environmental monitoring software can alert facility personnel to help them take corrective action. 

TSRgrow’s GROWHub incorporates data collected by GROWHub sensors throughout the grow room with a monitoring system connected through an advanced LED lighting platform. Cultivators can use GROWHub to detect fluctuations in environmental conditions and respond accordingly. Personnel can also control lighting directly through GROWHub, dimming or brightening (no dimming wires needed, its built in!) as conditions change to suit the plant’s needs through the grow period. With GROWHub, you’ll also have a complete historical record of environmental and power data from previous grows, enabling you to optimize and store your master recipes for each strain directly in the system and compare them from cycle to cycle.

Solar Energy and Combined Heat and Power

Businesses in a variety of industries, including cannabis, are turning to solar panels and renewable energy generation as a way to lessen their environmental impact and save money. Solar-power has  the ability to power and control growing conditions and drive cannabis cultivation without utilizing air-polluting fossil fuels. 

While solar panels are, admittedly, not the cheapest option during the initial setup phase, they have the ability to save companies thousands of dollars in operational and energy costs. For example, in 2017, a California-based cultivator was able to cut its electricity bill by 82% by working with a micro-grid company combining solar, energy storage, and energy management. Solar energy is also valuable for protecting indoor grows from power outages and can even, in certain scenarios, help qualify your businesses for a federal tax cut. 

In fact, the solar investment tax credit (ITC) can be claimed on federal corporate income taxes for 30% of the cost of a solar photovoltaic (PV) system that is placed in service during the tax year. Congress passed an extension of the ITC in December 2020, which provides a 26% cut for systems commencing construction in 2020-2022. 

It is worth noting that solar alone is usually not enough to meet the immense demand for power a cultivation facility generates. The sheer area needed for solar panels to meet this need makes it an unrealistic energy source on its own. However, it can supplement other energy sources, such as combined heat and power (CHP). By utilizing solar energy alongside CHP, cultivators can meet their energy needs in a more sustainable manner, not to mention get warm water and other byproducts necessary to support a facility’s operations.

Why Does Sustainability Matter?

On top of the benefits for the environment, sustainability practices also provide various advantages for cultivators and their businesses. Thanks to data and emerging science-driven technologies, cannabis cultivators can mitigate their emissions more effectively and conserve water, energy and other necessary materials, cutting costs and improving results. 

Whether you are a new or experienced cannabis cultivator, practicing sustainability processes can give your business the following advantages: 

  • Longevity and ROI: Sourcing sustainable materials and utilizing proper facilities and recycling practices will directly improve any business's longevity and return on investment (ROI). For example, in Oregon, a candy company called American Licorice saved $48,000 in one year after implementing a recycled materials program for all its industrial waste. Regarding cannabis specifically, sustainability practices surrounding waste disposal, growing mediums, nutrients, and seeds play a significant role in a cultivation company's operation costs and competitive advantage.
  • GMP/GAP Certification: It’s no secret that Good Manufacturing and Agricultural Practices (GMP/GAP) demands are coming to the cannabis industry soon. Tech solutions for sustainability, like LED grow lights and environmental control systems, give cultivators a head start in obtaining GMP and GAP certifications. GMP ready cannabis businesses will have a leg up on competitors that need to scramble to retrofit their operations to meet the demands of the food and medical industries driving these requirements.

  • Financial Opportunities: Several states offer utility rebate programs that incentivize switching to sustainable equipment. LED rebates in particular are available in many locales, and cannabis companies can take advantage of these programs.  TSRgrow will help any customer navigate, apply and realize these rebates and incentives for free. 

Sustainable Cannabis Businesses 

Understanding the contribution of cannabis cultivation to environmental issues such as greenhouse gasses and soil erosion, TSRgrow has made it their mission to help create a lighting-as-a-platform system that supports cultivators in minimizing resource usage, reducing waste, and improving crop health. 

If you’re looking to give the sustainability of your cannabis cultivation operation a boost, you need the right tools for the job. The TOTALgrow Solution™ from TSRgrow is changing the game in horticulture operations by taking its lighting-as-a-platform and combining Advanced LED lighting, distributed remote lighting power, environmental control and monitoring systems, and grow management software into one fluid turn-key solution. Click here for more information on our offerings and learn how they can help improve your business's sustainability. CONTACT US