Greenhouse Technology Shakes Up Economics of Cannabis Cultivation

By Fred Dreier

Lured by the prospect of cutting electricity costs, more marijuana entrepreneurs are pursuing greenhouse cultivation facilities.

Greenhouse manufacturers claim that their structures can save anywhere from 25% to 50% on electricity costs compared to indoor grows. And the companies also say that, when grown correctly, plants in greenhouses can reach harvest at a similar frequency to those grown indoors.

Building a cannabis-friendly greenhouse, however, is an expensive and sometimes tricky proposition. Construction costs can soar above $1 million, local laws and restrictions often require the buildings to be isolated or hidden from view, and there are specifics to greenhouse construction that often baffle cannabis professionals.

Craig Humphrey, CEO of Nexus Greenhouse Systems, said the cannabis professionals who have come to him for help are heavy on enthusiasm but light on greenhouse knowledge.

“A lot of them don’t know what they want to accomplish other than to keep the electric meter from spinning around and around,” Humphrey said. “There will probably be some new systems that come out of their experimentation.”

Zev Ilovitz of EnviroTech Greenhouses Solutions said his company has worked on approximately 15 greenhouse projects specifically designed for marijuana cultivation in Colorado. The houses have ranged in size and cost.

Ilovitz provided Marijuana Business Daily with some tips for cannabis professionals who are inquiring about a greenhouse.

Do Your Permitting First

Some greenhouse companies do site evaluations and inspections to make sure a plot of land fits the criteria for construction, however many do not. Instead, they contract it out to a third party, which can be time-consuming and expensive.

, Greenhouse Technology Shakes Up Economics of Cannabis CultivationEntrepreneurs should first do their own research and be sure their site does not violate rules or laws forbidding marijuana cultivation or greenhouse cultivation. They should then work with officials to obtain permits to build on the land before speaking with a greenhouse company.

Invest in a Good Blackout System

Cannabis greenhouses require a light deprivation system, called a “blackout system,” to create the photoperiodism required to get the plants to flower. While light deprivation systems are common in greenhouses used for flowers and other plants, Ilovitz’s cannabis clients gravitate toward more thorough, high-end systems, compared to growers of flowers and other plants.

These higher-end systems use black fabric that also allows for the required circulation of air inside the structure. If there is no air passage, Ilovitz said, the systems can create condensation that drops onto the plants. The more expensive fabrics also hold up better over time; the constant use of blackout systems can cause cheaper fabrics to fray, which in turn will allow in more light.

Climate Control is Still Required

Many entrepreneurs look to greenhouses to eliminate the expensive HVAC systems that are required to keep indoor grow houses cool from the heat of lights. While greenhouses do not require these elaborate and expensive cooling and ventilation systems, they do require climate control; specifically, dehumidification systems and heating are needed to maintain a healthy growing environment within the structure.

Typically, these systems are cheaper than HVAC.

Be Prepared to Spend

Ilovitz said his company’s high-end greenhouses go for approximately $2 million for a one-acre structure. That price includes the climate control system, the light restriction panels and hydroponics.

Despite the high price, Ilovitz said the industry has been willing to spend.

“They don’t want to cut corners; they want to do it right from the beginning,” he said. “The demand is definitely there.”