How to Achieve Zone Control in Cannabis Cultivation

Cannabis is not a monolith. With hundreds of cultivars and new ones being bred all the time, each one has its own needs in the grow room. From the right amount of light to nutrient dosing to precise humidity, temperature, and VPD, the conditions that are ideal for one thriving cultivar can be different for another. Ideally, to ensure each cultivar gets the precise environment and growing condition it needs to maximize yield at optimized operating costs, cultivation facilities should implement advanced zone control capabilities to fine-tune their cultivation process. 

“Zone control” has become a buzzword in the industry. When selecting solutions for your cultivation facility, it’s important to understand exactly what goes into the process of establishing zones, setting parameters for conditions, and closely monitoring and controlling them to ensure crop yields are maximized and operational costs minimized. This guide will shine a light on the possibilities of zone control, the historical limitations facing cultivators, and the advantages of implementing a solution that supports the development of master recipes through precision crop steering.

What is Zone Control?

LED-Light-MonitoringZone control is the ability to monitor and regulate all conditions in all areas of a grow room. The ultimate purpose is to monitor and adapt to microclimates by adjusting the lighting to compensate for the effects of these microclimates. The calculation of relationships between all variables by strain is key to crop steering and zone control with lighting. Microenvironmental factors that can affect the growth of crops include lighting, temperature, humidity, CO2 levels, VPD and fertigation.

Growers many times include multiple strains/cultivars in the same room. Since each cultivar can thrive under unique conditions, different cultivars in the same room would benefit greatly from  advanced monitoring and zone control, with unique parameters developed to best support their growth. A cultivator’s ability to influence the conditions within these zones directly relates to the overall health of plants and, ultimately, how many pounds of cannabis flower they may yield and the costs incurred to produce those pounds.

Why is Zone Control Important?

Advanced zone control enables cultivators to engage in crop steering, influencing plant growth to minimize costs while maximizing yields. For example, some cultivars may grow tall and stalky, while others tend to be short and bushy, some like a lot of light, some do not, even the environmental conditions affect strains differently. Using the intensity of lights to crop steer and drive yields based on the inputs of these factors can support healthier growth by ensuring plants receive the right amount of photons for flower development, regardless of their phenotype.

Zone control is also important when it comes to responding quickly to changes in the environment to protect plants. For example, if CO2  levels fall out of the acceptable range for a cultivar in one zone but the lights remain on at full power, the photon energy delivered to the plants is wasted. Without CO2  the plants cannot feed and grow. In this situation, zone control would enable growers to dim the lights or turn them off altogether, slowing the plant’s biological processes until CO2  levels return to normal range. 

The Limitations in Conventional Zone Control

Technological limitations have prevented cultivators from engaging in true, precision zone control. This begins at the lighting level, which includes setting photoperiods, light spectrum, and intensity of each fixture, all of which need to be adaptable based on all the other conditions in the microenvironment. 

All of these conditions are intertwined and related to one another, which makes holistic zone control and environmental monitoring key to realizing the maximum return on investment. Due to the old school design of most lighting systems on the market, it’s virtually impossible to achieve any zone control.

Installing Dimming Wires and Analog Controllers

Although some lighting products are marketed  as offering zone control features, most are limited in what they can achieve due to the design of conventional, old school lighting systems. These systems are powered by local drivers (many times more than one) which are attached to each fixture. To adjust this lighting, each fixture would need an individual dimming wire run from a controller to each driver. 

Let’s illustrate this with an example: a 3,000 square foot cultivation room may have between 100 and 200 lights. For conventional lighting, this means 100 to 200 drivers and, if you want to control each light, 100 to 200 sets of dimming wires. To establish a zone out of five lighting fixtures, one would need to run a dimming wire to each one from an analog controller and establish the desired settings for each zone or group defined on the controller. That’s a lot of extra work and cost. Not to mention, these controllers are Analog, meaning no information is gathered for monitoring, future analysis, crop steering or planning.

Most designs of such a 3,000 square foot room will simply opt for just one or two zones per room, limiting the number of different cultivars and microclimates they could optimize using this method. Moreover, altering zones for future grow cyles would be a heavy lift, requiring the reinstallation of dimming switches and controllers to modify existing zones.

This approach makes it challenging to optimize operating costs while maximizing yields. Unfortunately, despite much marketing to the contrary, true zone control is a capability that is lacking in conventional LED lighting horticulture equipment.

Lack of Data Feedback for Master Recipe Development

Conventional LED grow lighting equipment also lacks integrated environmental monitoring software, limiting cultivators from tracking and responding to changes in factors like temperature, humidity, CO2  levels, and fertigation. The lack of historical data collection around these factors and how they affected the growth and yield of a particular cultivar makes it hard for cultivators to develop “master recipes,” which serve as a set-point guideline to support the optimal growth of that cultivar and create baselines by which to improve processes and yields. Being able to collect and analyze data on lighting power settings, zone information and environmental conditions and overlay them and analyze them together, helps establish a clear, complete picture of everything going on in a grow facility.

Traditional approaches to zone control fail to account for the many microenvironmental factors that affect the growth of cannabis plants within a cultivation space. With no complete record of what conditions existed during a harvest, it is difficult to determine what has worked and what has not. Cultivators may miss opportunities to optimize growth and maximize yields. True zone control must include environmental monitoring solutions that help growers keep an eye on every aspect of the microclimates in each zone, as well as record and track changes over time.

Improving Zone Control with TSRgrow’s TOTALgrow SolutionTM

TSRgrow developed its TOTALgrow Solution. Comprised of Advanced LED Lighting free of local ballasts, dimming wires, and analog controllers, wireless environmental monitoring sensors for EC, Moisture, CO2, VPD, Temp and Humidity, integrated dimming, zone mapping and control, and power monitoring of all lighting - all managed and operated by TSRgrow’s GROWHub monitoring and control software which allows cultivators to develop and build master recipes for each cultivar, room, and facility to meet GMP best practices and Regulatory requirements, now and into the future. 

TSRgrow’s lighting platform is powered by its centralized power servers, delivering power from a centralized location. Builtin monitoring and control of lighting with infinite zone control and environment sensors. This solution offers growers complete control of dimming individual fixtures or powering them on or off from a user-friendly software platform called GROWHub, enabling zones on the fly in future grows.

Beyond making the establishment and adjustment of zones far more efficient and cost-effective, the TOTALgrow Solution includes wireless GROWPod sensors that can be placed strategically throughout the facility to monitor the environment and all microclimate conditions desired and by zone. Unlike conventional lighting platforms, this enables data feedback in real-time so cultivators can monitor every factor that influences plant growth and make adjustments to lighting to compensate as required. If any microclimate falls out of acceptable ranges in any zone, an alert goes out so cultivators can quickly respond and resolve the issue or adjust lighting to compensate.

Additionally, this data can be tracked and archived on the GROWHub platform to develop and refine master recipes over time, maintaining optimal conditions for each cultivar grow after grow, maximizing yields and minimizing operating costs. The insights delivered through TSRgrow’s TOTALgrow Solution enables cultivators to establish repeatable processes for growing plants with repeatable and verifiable information.  

Gain Total Control with TSRgrow

Master recipe and zone control solutions in the industry have had limited functionality. Now,TSRgrow’s TOTALgrow SolutionTM , offers true environmental monitoring and zone control integrated with an advanced LED lighting solution. The cannabis industry is evolving, and your lighting solution should as well. Accommodating future regulations and sustainability, meeting GMP standards and maximizing your yields is a requirement for success in this industry.  Cannabis is a food and medical industry that will need to adopt stringent regulations to engage those industries when legal federal regulations are adopted. You need a TOTALgrow Solution. 

If you are looking for an advanced LED grow lighting solution that integrates dynamic monitoring and control with environmental sensors to support optimal master recipes, maximize yields and streamline operating costs, TSRgrow is the lighting partner you’ve been looking for.