The high costs of warehouse growing has left many professional cultivators wondering whether or not greenhouses are a better choice. When faced with providing artificial lighting and massive cooling systems for indoor growing, combined with rising utility costs, many growers are considering upgrading to a greenhouse to take advantage of the sun’s free energy.
But the benefits of greenhouse growing go beyond the balance sheet. The quality of the grow may be better, too. Josh Conley, owner of Next G3N Greenhouses, put it in perspective: “There is nothing better than natural sunlight for growing cannabis. Full-spectrum light is and always will be the best option for growers and their plants.” For professional cannabis growers, upgrading to a greenhouse can offer the opportunity to increase crop yields and expand production capacity, in addition to significantly reducing energy costs.
Benefits of going green
Saving energy is the obvious choice for those wanting to make the transition. Modern greenhouses use significantly less energy than a warehouse—and outdoor growers are seeing more “green” when it comes to energy savings. Using the sun’s power can save growers as much as 90 percent on electricity. Greenhouses also deliver another major upside to greenhouse growing: Studies have shown that natural sunlight is 30 percent more effective for plant photosynthesis than artificial lighting. Photosynthesis from natural lighting increases plant growth, provides higher yields and offers optimal plant health.
As the industry continues to thrive, many growers hope their warehouses can sustain the burgeoning industry. However, cannabis cultivation techniques are changing fast, and it’s important to continually evaluate new growing options. Greenhouse technology is also improving rapidly. “With the help of technology and the sun, we are able to provide growers with the perfect amount of light through our Light deprivation/Multi Energy screens,” Conley said. “And in our case, the screens are not an afterthought; they are the purpose.” The benefits continue to make some growers see the power of greenhouse growing as a game changer for the industry.
Costs and other challenges
Greenhouse growing comes with many advantages, but it also comes with some challenges. The typical cost of installing a greenhouse will vary greatly based on size, but Conley said you can expect to pay anywhere between $2 to $40 per square foot for a commercial greenhouse with a loop house system and year-round automation. The initial start-up cost is the biggest disadvantage to making the switch to greenhouse growing.
Another drawback is regulation: State and local laws sometimes make greenhouse and outdoor growing impractical, if not illegal. Currently, most states leave it up to local regulators. However, long-term forecasts suggest that greenhouses will play a major role in the global market, and large-scale growers can benefit from gaining expertise with both methods.
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