For the first time in cannabis history, more producers were using LED lighting than traditional HID in 2022. As the Cannabis Business Times reported, in the market's relatively short history, the percentage of cultivators relying on LED fixtures has exploded from a mere 17 percent to over 70.
But LEDs are just the start of a facility upgrade. To compete in today's market and prepare for a future of federal regulation, you'll need to set the bar higher. Here, we outline additional considerations associated with an LED retrofit, plus explore how GMP certification, grow room analytics, and crop steering can support your brand's evolution.
A one-to-one replacement of HPS fixtures with LED lighting in cannabis is possible, but it's not as straightforward as it seems. LED manufacturers often claim equivalence with HPS lights, but this doesn't account for the climatic impact on the grow room and the rest of the facility.
What else do you need to consider as you leap from traditional lighting systems into a future with LEDs?
First and foremost, work with an experienced design team. Switching fixtures from HID to LED inherently means the light distribution may also change. A one-to-one fixture swap could dramatically impact production.
No matter what fixture is installed in your production space, the end goal is to deliver the most consistent PPFD from one corner of the canopy to another. An experienced design team will help you plan the layout of the new LED fixtures to provide the maximum efficiency and consistent distribution across your canopy layout.
Many facilities assume that because LEDs produce less heat than the HPS equivalents, converting will immediately reduce the load on their HVAC system. While it's true that the heat load is lower — again, it's not that simple.
Temperature plays a direct role in humidity levels. Many growers have discovered that their heat load may be lower after the transition to LED lighting, but their humidity concerns are greater.
When we remove the heating element (HPS lighting), it shifts to how the HVAC system reacts. If you run the HVAC less, you lose some of the dehumidification that comes from the mechanical cooling action of this system.
Making the shift to LED may require additional dehumidification to keep the relative humidity in check. It could also necessitate additional changes like thermal heating instead of relying on existing HVAC systems.
Indoor cannabis cultivation has come a long way in a short period. The acceptable standards from five to ten years ago seem long outdated by today's measure.
Bringing your facility to the standards now expected across the legal landscape requires a few more upgrade considerations than just a new lighting system.
Most industry analysts expect Good Manufacturing Practice certification (GMP) to come into play across all legal markets following federal deregulation. It is a requirement to participate in the pharmaceutical industry and many new legal states are requiring it (NY, NJ).
In cannabis, GMP covers the entire production process, including drafting rigorous protocols for facility maintenance, predefined manufacturing methods, operations, documentation, accounting, recall protocols, and handling of complaints.
GMP certification, mandated in other regulated industries, is already a requirement elsewhere (EU, Australia), and many larger producers are taking note in the US. While GMP certification is demanding, it is by no means impossible. By starting the process now, you'll ensure you’ll be several steps ahead of most of the industry when it becomes a federal requirement.
Growers have long considered cannabis cultivation one part art, one part science. Because most grow rooms lacked detailed environmental monitoring, growers had to trust their gut and cultivation experience.
In a modern grow room, growers still rely on experience and instinct, but advanced environmental monitoring and powerful analytics support their decision-making process with science. The more data at a grower's disposal, the more tools they have to perfect, experiment, and diagnose.
Better grow room analysis and environmental control drive TSRgrow's TOTALgrow Solution. We have paired our high-performance LED lighting system with an intuitive GROWHub for granular-level information on temp, humidity, VPD, CO2, irrigation, nutrients, air movement, pH, and lighting conditions.
Our solution ensures growers get actionable real-time intelligence on the health and happiness of their plants. All of which translates to an unprecedented level of control over the outcome. In today's highly competitive sector, this level of control is no longer a "nice to have," it’s become mandatory.
The next step in a grow room with zone-controlled environmental inputs and advanced climate monitoring is crop steering.
Crop steering has become a bit of a buzzword among cultivators. This cultivation approach requires manipulation over various environmental factors to encourage desired outcomes, whatever they may be (ex: boost yield, enhance potency, or shorten growth cycles). Crop steering carefully pushes plants into and out of periods of stress to achieve a consistency and quality unheard of with more traditional techniques.
As cannabis evolves into a more standardized and regulated consumer packaged good, brands will be held to a higher standard. From one plant to the next, one harvest to the next, crop steering can help brands achieve the consistent, predictable outcomes that consumers are coming to expect.
Whether you are only now retrofitting your facility with LED or you were one of the early adopters, the takeaway here is that lighting is just the start. The future of cannabis requires consistency, predictability, and unprecedented quality; LED technology is just one part of the equation.
How do you bring your production into the future? The answer: granular grow room monitoring, precision environmental controls, and real-time analytics for better decision-making. With these achieved, crop steering and GMP certifications are next.
TSRgrow has adopted a holistic strategy known as the TOTALgrow approach that integrates LED lighting, power solutions, and environment and data management into a comprehensive cultivation blueprint. We can help you lay the groundwork for crop steering, GMP, and whatever else the future has in store.
Are you prepared to step into the forefront of cannabis cultivation? Speak with one of our experienced growing specialists today and let us help you embrace the future that lies ahead.