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.

Entrepreneurs 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.”

10 comments on “Greenhouse Technology Shakes Up Economics of Cannabis Cultivation
  1. Like Water on

    Wow another industry, trying to suck the big money out of our pockets. Do as much of the work as you can by yourself. This is how our four fathers farmed there land, off the sweat from there own backs. Be American, work hard, be loyal and live lavishly. Rastafari!

    Reply
  2. FONZ on

    In my meetings with cultivators, greenhouses are identified as a next level innovation for reasons of lower power consumption. A 25-50% reduction in electricity cost should give pause to any commercial real estate developer with an eye on the cannabis industry boom.

    Reply
  3. Clark_G on

    Don’t forget to cost for supplemental HID or LED lighting for cloudy days and low winter sun! We’re growing cannabis not orchids. How hot does a blacked out greenhouse get during the day? As hot as my insulated warehouse with the lights on is my guess. Any grow space with condensation dripping off the ceiling and walls has got to be a bud mold threat, count on massive de-humidification efforts for peace of mind with a greenhouse. Indoor growers looking to reduce costs can look at solar panels on the roof; a consultant in Seattle told me current tech produces 1,600 watts per thousand square feet of panel at our latitude (47 degrees). That output would offset or maybe cover my HVAC running costs while preserving exacting climate control and consistent year round crop quality.

    Reply
  4. Bonnie Griffin Kaake on

    Commercial real estate agents are struggling to finalize leases and sales of warehouse space due to limitations on power consumption for growing operations. We consult with RE agents and prospective tenants/owners. There are options available that not only reduce energy consumption and expedite warehouse leases and sales but also increase yield.

    Reply
  5. Martha Gonzales on

    It seems greenhouse cultivation of cannabis is going to bring in a new era of cannabis cultivation, finally meeting the need. However, implementation of ‘Blackout System’ in the greenhouse cultivation process may shoot up the cost factor, which may drive away entrepreneurial advantage. Therefore, I think government must help the entrepreneurs to get more affordable high-end technology in Green House cannabis plantation such as ‘Blackout System’.

    Reply
  6. Rob on

    Why am I already hearing about Government Subsidizing?
    The only way that will happen, is if the government can control the people that get subsidized.
    The government owns most Americans already with student debt. Since when did it become fashionable the ask for government handouts? Which is really just stealing money from taxpayers.

    Reply
  7. MMJ Specialist on

    This is a joke, right? The only reason growers are flush with cash right now is because supply & demand is way out of balance. That will change. Instead of $20-$25/sq ft, how about $3-$5/sq ft. Do your research, go get a part-time job at a local nursery (they are always hiring), and do your own building. I have almost a half-acre enclosed and have been “smoking” the indoor growers for years now. Equal or better quality, organic and grown green. Best marketing angle out there.

    Reply
    • greenie on

      I am amused at what folks will spend…. Do a little research on greenhouse growing, put in some sweat equity and you can really be cost-effective.

      Reply

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