It is no secret that cultivation facilities use a lot of energy. Data coming out of Boulder County, Colorado, estimates that electricity costs make up 20 percent of the wholesale price of flower for the average cultivation facility.
In the midst of a new and emerging industry, most growers have been more focused on capturing market share than reducing energy consumption, but as business owners turn their attention to reducing costs, they will need to figure out how to increase their efficiencies, either by adding or removing technology.
Although the industry is predominately focused on indoor cultivation models, there are several advantages to growing cannabis outdoors. Long-term projections of the cannabis industry predict outdoor grows will have a large role in the globalized market, and today’s growers can get an advantage by gaining adeptness at both methods.
Growing outside comes with a lot of advantages, but it also comes with its fair share of challenges. First and foremost is whether or not local regulation allows for cannabis to be grown outside of a facility. This is a decision often left up to cities by state legal frameworks and, if so, what sort of land is zoned for cannabis cultivation.
If outside grows are permissible, there are other considerations from security to odor control to pests and the limitations imposed by growing seasons, which are easily overcome with planning and preparation.
No matter the location of a grow, security is a big concern. But without the enclosure of a warehouse, outdoor operations are generally more vulnerable to security breaches. The addition of high fences or creative alarm systems can compensate to some degree, but each of these measures also draws attention to the crop. Outdoor growers depend on such security features, but most professionals in the space cite one asset above all else: secrecy.
The fewer people who know the location of an outside grow, the less likely that someone will intrude. This increased level of confidentiality can dramatically change the culture of an organization, so be wary and prepared with careful messaging to explain the extra measure to employees.
The other security threat is not human, but animal. Whether you’re dealing with birds or rabbits or deer, be prepared to invest in special fencing or netting to keep critters at bay.
Eliminating odor from an outdoor grow is among the biggest challenges, but there are ways to at least mitigate this concern—and they start long before planting your first seed. Choosing a smart location is crucial, and odor should play a big role in this decision. Consider rural locations with few neighbors downwind.
Once a site is determined, security and odor mitigation can be achieved in one fell swoop by planting an ornamental garden with strongly scented flowers and herbs with stronger or similar smells to cannabis. Once again, this requires some foresight. Plant a garden a year or two ahead of your grow to ensure privacy and full blooms.
There are geographies perfect for growing outdoors that can accommodate a year-long production cycle, others where only seasonal grows make sense, and still others in which growing outside just won’t work. Consult with local farmers and gardeners to get an idea of how practical an outside grow is in your climate zone.
Growing cannabis outdoors can be a great way to offset costs, diversify your product or appeal to new markets. Or it can just be a fun way to get to know cannabis the way it was meant to be grown. No matter your motivation, being prepared for the additional challenges will help to ensure a healthier crop and a more enjoyable experience.
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