Tracking the many environmental factors that influence a cannabis harvest can be a full-time job in itself, but for cultivators, there are no shortcuts to this crucial task. Without knowing the precise settings for each component of the grow room environment -- both facility-wide factors and those adjusted by grow room zones -- it’s impossible to recreate the same desired results in future harvests. Each piece of information is essential to unlocking the master recipes needed to get the results you want in each cultivar.
Although there are many factors that influence a cannabis harvest, it’s not always practical or achievable to customize every single factor across an entire grow room. However, there are a few major ones that play a big role that can be customized:
Light placement, photoperiod scheduling, intensity (expressed as PPFD), and lighting spectrum all play a role in influencing each stage of the plant’s life cycle. All can impact total yield and overall quality.
The right lighting solution can configure these factors by zone or for the cultivar being grown. A zone is defined by the cultivator based on a room, or area that they would like to control conditions for over a certain strain or cultivar or group of cultivars being grown to optimize results. LED lighting offers many advantages; heat is not radiated from the fixture (as with HPS or HID fixtures and bulbs) to the plants, rather it is conducted away on the top of the fixture, allowing for more photon energy to be delivered to the plants without the withering heat. Plants respond positively and are able to absorb more photons, intake more nutrients and ultimately produce more (quality, terpenes, cannabinoids, yield, rosin, etc). All while consuming less energy.
Consider the growth stage of the plant when thinking about lighting, and how the right lighting and spectrum support the growing process. From seedling, to clone to veg to bloom, spectrum, intensity and light schedule all play a critical role. Full-spectrum LED lighting further enable digital controls and tunability for growing optimizations. TSRgrow’s advanced LED lighting has built in software for full dimming, zone control and grouping with no dimming wires ever needed. This enables the grower to be able to build zones and light intensity and light recipe schedules based on what is being grown in the room and in that zone during that cycle - and record the data for future analysis and repetition.
Lighting systems may also leverage environmental monitoring software to keep tabs on conditions in a grow facility for a complete data picture, creating the chance to develop growing “master recipes”. TSRGrow’s advanced LED lighting uses remote power server technology that removes the driver from the fixtures and locates them as a centralized power source outside of the grow room, reducing in room heat and operating costs by 10% or more. This further focuses room operations to the things that directly affect growth - advanced LED lighting, controls, environment, fertigation and eliminates wasted heat and items that are not a direct input to plant cultivation.
Understanding airflow and how it affects plant health is a another important aspect of cultivation. A gentle breeze can help grow stronger cannabis plants that won’t bend under the weight of a hefty yield, and it can also discourage pests from taking hold and destroying a crop. It can also discourage the growth of molds and mildews, as stagnant air can contribute to spores settling on plant surfaces and spreading.
unlocking the master recipes needed to get the results you want in each cultivar is usually measured in cubic feet per meter. To increase airflow, cultivators utilize a variety of air movers and fans to circulate air in the grow rooms, as well as a variety of channels, louvers, and air distribution tools to help ensure the full canopy sways in the breeze. To control airflow by zone, cultivators will sometimes use air socks or channels on each level of vertical racks. In indoor grows, it is generally best to maintain slight positive pressure in each grow room.
Exactly how much water and fertilization a cannabis plant needs, and at what intervals, depends on the climate and its stage in the grow cycle. Fertigation is often controlled by zone, as the nutritional needs of cannabis vary by cultivar and growth stage.
To get those rows upon rows of healthy green plants and top-quality flower, it’s critical for cultivators to properly manage the environment in the grow room as a whole, not just the parts that can be tweaked and micro-managed by zone. That’s a lot easier said than done, given the many things that impact cannabis cultivation. These factors include:
Optimal temperature varies depending on plant genetics and growing style. The ideal range tends to be anywhere from 68°F and 85°F (20°C to 29°C), though this could vary a bit for some cultivars. This range also fluctuates depending on the point in the plant’s life cycle – cannabis in the vegetative stage generally needs warmer temperatures, while late-stage flowering plants may prefer it a bit cooler. This is similar to the way light cycles mimic the seasons.
Oftentimes, the temperature is controlled by an HVACD system that runs throughout the grow room. Rooms are further defined by racking or benches that hold one or many cultivars, each of which is being grown for its unique profiles of yield, phytocannabinoid and terpene levels.
The amount of moisture in the air is essential for healthy plants. This factor is influenced by temperature and airflow and dehumidification, among other factors. Keeping a close eye on this metric helps prevent mold and mildew growth in addition to influencing the phytocannabinoid and terpene content of the flower.
Like most of the factors in this list, the optimal humidity range depends wholly on plant genetics, as each cultivar responds differently to the environment. Generally, though, the widely accepted humidity range for cannabis tends to be 40% to 70%. This is a pretty big range, so it’s important to consider the life cycle of the plant while measuring humidity. Vegetative plants need higher humidity, while flowering plants tend towards lower humidity to stave off threats to the flower.
To accurately calculate the impact of humidity on a harvest, cultivators will look for two more specific measurements: Relative humidity and vapor pressure deficit (VPD). The relative humidity is a measure of the water vapor in the air relative to the temperature. VPD is the difference between the amount of moisture in the air and how much total moisture the air could possibly contain. Using both these measures to carefully monitor and manage humidity in each zone is key to preventing a microbial invasion that can quickly spread throughout a facility and destroy entire harvests.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is an essential part of the photosynthesis process, as cannabis plants need it to convert light into growth-fueling glucose. When CO2 levels are too low, a plant’s metabolism will slow down and hinder growth. When levels are high enough, photosynthesis can continue so long as there is enough light to support it. For photosynthesis to occur at all, CO2 levels must be greater than 200 ppm; Cultivators keep CO2 levels optimized at all times. This is often monitored and managed by the grow room as a whole. CO2 levels vary with the stage of growth of the plant from Veg to Flower with CO2 augmentation occurring in flower for indoor controlled environment agriculture (CEA).
Trying to keep all this information organized can be a tough task for even the most experienced growers but unlike the old days, cannabis cultivators can now leverage smart, connected technologies and devices to improve their “master recipe” for each cultivar like never before. Cultivators can use these tools to augment their own expertise and capabilities, arming them with the information they need to ensure that their harvests will turn out precisely how they -- and their customers -- expect. Here’s how it’s done.
In a cultivation facility, there may be a dozen or more varieties of cannabis growing at any given time. Each variety is likely to have its own optimal ranges for all of the factors mentioned above. To ensure each cultivar gets what it needs, cultivators can establish distinct zones, with no physical barriers, to create individual environments tailored to the plant’s genetics. And as we established above, some of these factors are controlled by zone, while others are adjusted facility-wide. These zones can be custom generated with settings saved, to build master recipes to use from grow to grow.
Environmental monitoring software enables cultivators to oversee each zone, as well as set alerts and notifications whenever a zone drops out of its intended optimal range for any particular parameter. These ranges are governed by the facility’s master guidelines for the ideal cultivar, a detailed set of instructions on how to care for particular types of plants, conditions and standard operating procedures.
A cultivation facility and its team can only be as effective as the guidelines they create to ensure the best possible harvests. That’s why as conditions change or more information is learned about a cultivar, master recipes can be created, customized and updated.
For example, if a facility regularly grows a particular cultivar and notices one crop yielded significantly more quality flower than usual, a cultivator could review historical data related to the lighting, environment or fertigation and identify what might have been done differently in the most recent batch. If a link is confirmed, it might be a new insight that is worth adding to the existing master recipe for that cultivar. With a centralized environmental monitoring and lighting control software, the cultivator could do just that! Setting a new standard for future practices to optimize growth even further.
Many environmental monitoring systems are tied into wired sensors that are hooked into a facility’s power. Unfortunately, this approach means there are workplace tripping hazards for personnel, limitations on sensor placements and generally less flexibility to place sensors in enough places to truly measure microclimates. Additionally, more wires mean more surfaces for potential contaminants, like mold or bacteria, to live and thrive upon. Removing wires means fewer tiny surface areas to scrub and clean, saving time and reducing the risk of contamination to your crop - while giving you the capability to place sensors in any and all areas of the grow to generate a true picture of the full environment around the plants.
TSRgrow’s data collecting and monitoring platform is built in as an integration to its suite of advanced LED lighting solutions. The combination of the lighting platform, industrial wireless sensors and user-friendly adaptive software called GROWHub offers cultivators what we call our TOTALGrow™ Solution.
TSRgrow remote power and advanced lighting control software integrates seamlessly with GROWHub centralized database and wireless sensors. This supplies cultivators with an unprecedented flow of real-time data from the grow room floor. And because the sensors are wireless, there’s no excessive cabling that could be a safety hazard to facility personnel or complicate sanitation processes.
Using GROWHub, cultivators can monitor grow conditions across multiple zones in real-time, relocating sensors throughout the facility as conditions evolve and plants grow. Leveraging known data about cannabis plant genetics and optimal growing conditions, cultivators can easily monitor and track environmental trends throughout the life cycle of every plant. Finally, master recipes are customizable, allowing cultivators to find what works best for them and save their own proprietary master recipes for future use.
The future of the cannabis industry involves data-driven insights and the ability to strategically scale operations. For cultivators, this means deftly managing the entirety of a facility and fine-tuning the indoor environment to support the optimal growth of every single plant, even when a facility is home to a dozen or more different cultivars. That’s a tall order, but it’s made possible by cutting-edge lighting and control platforms like TSRgrow’s TOTALGrow™ Solution.
When you want to know about every last detail that affects your cannabis flower yield and quality, you need more than just lighting – you need a complete environmental monitoring system that will help drive optimal yields, consistent quality, and maximum profit with the lowest possible operating costs.
Contact a growing specialist today to learn how a TOTALgrow Solution can help optimize your cannabis cultivation business.