Crafting world class cannabis genetics that will consistently yield what is considered premium flower in both the U.S. and Europe requires dedication and the right skills. If you aren’t consistently above 25% THC, above 30% cannabinoids, and have the right terpene mix for customer needs - plus be willing and able to price for a competitive market in a scalable fashion on top of it all - you won’t be able to compete on a global level. As the entire industry transitions to greenhouses for reduced costs of production, skills of growers are being challenged and the greenhouse designs are advancing rapidly. Understanding your external environment and then controlling your internal environment to develop the best genetics is the key to success in the new age of industrial growing.
The more advanced your greenhouse is, the better you should be able to control the environment. Today’s best growers are pushing the limits with hybrid greenhouses, which resemble indoor facilities with glass roofs to maximize the natural sun benefits and minimize the needs for lighting and costs associated with electricity. After light, the next most important factor is airflow to keep temperatures within a desired range, generally plus or minus 15 degrees during the various seasons and for contamination control as needed. Central spline air intakes with traditional cooling pads are good advancements to traditional greenhouses and reduce the amount of contaminants by capturing pestilence before it reaches the plants. Some of the newest designs focus on airflow internally without allowing outside air in; this is accomplished using coiled cooling units and employ various cleaning techniques with ozone and UV-C scrubbers. Air-flow is key. Heating might be equally as important; the most economical and traditional is bench-level water heater piping that uses natural gas if available. Sensors and automation will help all your equipment adjust in real time to changing environments. The most sophisticated hybrid greenhouses have proprietary controlling parameters to optimize yield and results by constantly monitoring and adjusting the environment and airflow.
Experienced growers in a hybrid greenhouse need to be able to track and read computers these days, not just be educated in horticulture with a command of the abundance of cannabis strains. They also need to be able to develop the genetics for the region they are growing in, which requires a deep understanding of not only the original genetics but also how these strains have evolved around worldwide trends for patients. Designing the right genetics for the region that can produce the right terpene profile and cannabinoid count is no easy task and requires time, money and patience. The medical markets around the world are requiring higher quality, not just in THC count, but in terms of full profiles of cannabinoids and how they react to the dominant terpenes to achieve the desired effect. In the advent of stringent testing that is sweeping the U.S., and to some degree in Europe, the growers IPM protocols are most important, but the greenhouse design should not be discounted. Open air contains all sorts of molds that are harmful to the lungs. So, to reach the shelves for medical patients requires that your genetics are not just designed right and tops in all categories, but you must develop strong plants that are not only resistant to many pests and genetics that can fight off contaminates.
The final processes of drying and curing are equally important to producing a high quality product; the latest designs of hybrid greenhouses incorporate operations areas connecting the two structures to minimize contamination and improve processes flow. Optimizing layout and perfecting airflow inside drying chambers with the various dehumidifying units, humidifying units, ozone generators, carbon filters and burping chambers are a must. Sensors mounted outside the room with internal sensors to plants are key to not disturbing the drying process with unnecessary interactions. Uniformity to the cure and not roughing up the bud requires implementing proper processing protocols which will bring out the highest levels of THC, minor cannabinoids and terpene profiles. Even large companies are still using hand trim for the most top shelf bud. Don’t cut any corners with curing time and presentation if your genetics are superior.
If you build a hybrid greenhouse that will help you control your environment, be sure and collect data constantly while developing your genetics with an eye on consistency. It’s also necessary to perfect the post-harvest process; you can walk into any dispensary in the US and pharmacy in Europe and be proud that you will be giving the patients the best that they deserve to cure what ails them and prevent ailments in the future at a price that you can profit from in any market condition.
- Michael Sassano is the Founder and CEO of Solaris Farms, the largest and most technologically advanced cannabis greenhouse cultivation operation in the state of Nevada.