(This is an abridged version of a story that appears in the July issue of Marijuana Business Magazine.)
OutCo, a cannabis cultivation, manufacturing and retail company in Southern California, marked a milestone May 7: It harvested its final crop grown under high-pressure sodium lights.
The company needed a couple of years to transition from the powerful but power-sucking HPS lights used by most commercial growers today to more expensive – but more efficient – LED lights.
The switch was part of OutCo’s effort to be greener and more cost efficient.
“True sustainability efforts will be at the core of all businesses going forward, including cannabis,” said Allison Justice, OutCo’s director of cultivation.
In an age of plunging wholesale cannabis prices, sustainability is as much – or more – about cutting costs to survive as it is about recycling and reducing carbon footprints to be green.
“Everybody is dealing with such thin margins, so everyone is looking to be sustainable in terms of, ‘Will I be in business in five years?’” said Casey Rivero, cultivation manager at Yerba Buena in Hillsboro, Oregon.
While companies like OutCo and Yerba Buena are ahead of the curve, a growing number of cultivation operations are adopting sustainable growing technologies and techniques, experts said.
“My gut feeling is that the industry is generally getting more efficient on a production basis and facility basis,” said Derek Smith, executive director of the Resource Innovation Institute in Portland, Oregon, a nonprofit research organization that promotes energy and water conservation in the cannabis industry.
“The industry is more efficient because people know that if you don’t figure out how to make your operation more efficient, you won’t be competitive.”
To successfully transition to a sustainable cultivation model takes not only ambition but a new way of thinking.
Growers generally measure the efficiency of their operations in terms of how many grams they can produce per square foot.
However, that must – and will – change, predicted Eli McLean, a cultivation consultant in Salem, Oregon.
“That used to be the equation. But now we need to pay attention to how much did a pound cost to produce. That’s a huge side of things.”
In other words, being green is good for your bottom line.
Marijuana Business Magazine interviewed some top commercial cultivators who employ sustainable cultivation methods to get their insights on: