Horticulturalist Ed Rosenthal believes glaring inefficiencies exist within most steps of the marijuana cultivation process, and that cannabis business owners must identify and then fix these problems in order to survive as the industry becomes more competitive.
Rosenthal – who has written more than a dozen books on cannabis cultivation, including the 2010 Marijuana Grower’s Handbook – spoke with Marijuana Business Daily about what the cannabis industry will look like several years down the road. (See more of his views on the future of the marijuana business in the upcoming issue of CannaBusiness Magazine.)
He envisions a world of automated watering and trimming systems, large-scale greenhouses and university-educated cultivators.
Rosenthal said the industry has a long way to go to get to that point, but current business owners can still learn something from his vision.
“There is no such thing in the United States as a marijuana farm – I haven’t seen anything that you would call ‘industrialized,’” Rosenthal said. “The difference between farming and market gardening is the amount of labor that is put into it. [Cannabis] is still relying on lots of labor.”
In Rosenthal’s image of a future marijuana farm, soil is mixed and then poured into pots by a mechanized system. The plants are hooked up to irrigation systems and CO2 systems controlled by machines.
Machines also accomplish the trimming and bagging, cutting down on the need for labor. A tiny staff of horticulturalists spend their time overseeing the mechanized processes and then examining plants for fungus or parasites.
Rosenthal believes that marijuana farms of the future will need to utilize partial or full greenhouse space to cut down on electricity bills.
“Most people are doing cookie-cutter operations. I don’t think they realize the economies of scale that are available,” Rosenthal said. “I would tell them to tear down the rooms and get the full space of the warehouse going for each crop. You can’t have economies of scale with smaller rooms.”
Finally, Rosenthal believes that future marijuana operations could shift their hiring practices away from “industry” growers who have only cultivated marijuana throughout their careers.
Instead, business owners will start choosing their employees from agribusiness universities and horticulture schools. These students will be better equipped to employ cost-cutting practices that are tried and true in more advanced agriculture markets.
Rosenthal views this in a positive light.
“One of the big problems, and it’s a sociological problem, is that if someone has been growing [cannabis] for three years, they consider themselves an expert, and they do not want to take advice from anyone,” Rosenthal said. “That’s why you have a system that is so traditional. There’s going to be a whole crop of gardeners coming out of the universities, and they are going to replace the gardeners who learned by experience.”