Marijuana Business Magazine January 2019

Marijuana Business Magazine | January 2019 102 W ith wholesale cannabis prices tanking, growers are under huge pressure to keep a lid on costs to survive in today’s hotly competitive market. Here are several ways cultivators can tighten their belts: • Design your cultivation facility to operate with a smaller, highly professional workforce. • Mix your own plant nutrients. • Use energy-efficient lights. • Automate everything you can, including your trimming operations. “The three most expensive things in a cultivation operation are lights, humans and nutrients,” said Jesse Peters, a Canby, Oregon-based grower who’s also director of oper- ations for C21 Investments. “People think of price as the race to the bot- tom. But the real race to the bottom has to do with costs.” Facility Design At SunMed Growers’ 60,000-square-foot cultivation facility in Warwick, Mary- land, owner Jake Van Wingerden has designed his glass greenhouse to lower his primary expense: labor. VanWingerden comes from a family of farmers who mainly grow bedding plants such as petunias, marigolds and geraniums. The knowledge that’s been passed down through three generations spurred him to design his cannabis greenhouse to operate with the smallest staff possible. His plants are arranged on 3-foot- wide, 25-foot-long rolling tables, or benches. The self-contained custom tables include support netting, irriga- tion and drainage. The benches are rolled through nine different zones of the greenhouse as the plants mature. Each zone has different temperatures, humidity and nutrients, depending on where the plants are in the growing process. The system produces about 500 plants for harvest each week. At the end of the 16- to 18-week growth cycle, the plants are chopped down and harvested—and the rolling table is returned to the beginning. “The idea is that you’re not picking up and moving plants all over the place,” Van Wingerden said. “We have a greenhouse that can be operated with a minimal amount of people.” Van Wingerden is able to run his 60,000-square-foot facility with 20 total employees—10 assigned to the greenhouse and 10 to trimming and packaging. He guesses that a typical indoor facility would need two to three times that number to handle a space of the same size. Beyond the rolling tables, Van Wing- erden also selected the glass green- house model to keep his costs low. Cost Cutters Faced with falling wholesale prices, growers can lower costs by saving on labor, using LEDs and mixing their own nutrients By Bart Schaneman The rolling tables at SunMed Growers include irrigation and drainage. Courtesy Photo Best Practices | Cultivation In this new monthly series, we’re asking growers to divulge their hard-earned tricks of the trade. This year, we’ll explore a wide range of tips and techniques for cultivators, including how to keep production costs low, find the best grow lights and mix your own soil nutrients. To suggest topics you'd like to see covered in future issues, contact us at