There’s a classic Simpsons bit in ‘Treehouse of Horrors VI’ when Homer steps into an alternate galaxy where he discovers that the theoretical ‘third dimension’ is real. Seeing the entire world in all 3 directions predictably befuddles him, and hilarity ensues.
However, even during this strange 3-D realm Homer would feel right in your own home had he happened upon one of today’s great monuments to some 2-D world: the mega-indoor cultivation facility. In here, it would appear that the concept of exploiting an entire amount of space to get down production costs is not any match for the my-square-footage-is-bigger objective of sprawling, resource-hungry cannabis cathedrals.
Monuments to ego aside, cannabis cultivation facility design is a cold and heartless numbers game. Regardless of how small or big your operation, people who can produce more for less will win. It’s time we re-imagine how indoor cultivation can remain cost-competitive; maybe it’s time to Become Adults and consider the merits of vertical cultivation.
Growing plants vertically provides a solution with potentially several fundamental advantages for cultivators. As an example, because of the same footprint it provides increased plant yields and revenue generation, while decreasing energy/water consumption by a few factors, over traditional horizontal cultivation. [Vertical cultivation often uses gravity-fed hydroponic systems but may be modified for soil.]
To become clear, the term ‘vertical cultivation’ in this context does not necessarily mean stacking horizontal grow trays along with the other person, with the plant canopy growing towards (perpendicular) the lights. Instead, imagine having a horizontal grow and flipping it, and its source of light, 90 degrees so that the plants grow upward and parallel to the light.
The thought of vertical cultivation might not be a simple someone to visualize, so an easy analogy is the difference between a magazine on the table vs. one in a bookshelf. In the event you consider the book’s cover its ‘canopy’ then it seems like horizontal growing when lying flat, but vertical cultivation when standing upright. Although it may look like a small difference in orientation, the effect of cultivating in three dimensions on overall cost efficiency is profound.
Let’s see just what the numbers appear to be should you exploit the complete volume of space with vertical cultivation, using the scenario above as our baseline comparison.
First, we go ahead and take existing grow (i.e. the ‘book’ resting) and stand it up. Simply by doing that one could now grow canopies on both sides (think of the book’s front and rear covers). Instantly, we’ve doubled our original capacity and we’re just getting started!
Next, we face Leds (of comparable PAR intensity as HPS) parallel for the canopy and then do the same on the other part, as if two flashlights were pointed in the front and back covers of a book on a shelf. Why LED over HPS? Primarily because LED allows the canopy to cultivate even closer to the sunshine with no damage to the plants, and does so at a discount operating costs.
Now, assume three feet spacing from a single light towards the other, with all the canopies between. Then, consider the entire configuration and repeat it 4x to top off the space. Taken at face value, the development and efficiency advantages of vertical cultivation over horizontal growing are clear, even if LED produces less yield/light. The fantastic news is, the thought has been put gcpsfm practice as well as the real-world results hew closely towards the hypothetical situation above.
In fairness, adopting LED technology currently requires substantially more capital investment than HPS. But, on balance, any additional upfront costs of LED are far outweighed as time passes by their ability to operate down operating costs while increasing production efficiency.