The Promise Of Vertical Farming & LED Lights For Cannabis — The Marijuana Industry Is "Growing Up"
What would you do if you've got a growing population and a limited amount of space? In the case of most cities, the answer is clear: build up, not out. Interestingly, this principle of modern urban design also applies to plants—especially pot. As the demand for cannabis continues to soar, cultivators have had to get crafty in how they increase their indoor yields. Interestingly, as weed sales rise, more farmers are literally "raising" their plants.
Vertical farming is a new technique that promises to help cannabis cultivators sustainably scale their grow operations. However, there are pros & cons farmers need to consider before "going vertical." In addition, one should know the reasons why LED grow lights bring economic returns in this farming solution.
Wait A Second, What Is Vertical Farming?
In a nutshell, vertical farming is an indoor cultivation strategy that "stacks" plants on top of each other. The aim of this technique is to make the most use of limited indoor space. Rather than creating costly horizontal grow space, vertical farmers squeeze more cannabis plants on top of each other to increase their yearly output.
Most often, vertical farms rely on hydroponics units, but aeroponic and aquaponic units are also becoming fashionable. Whichever growing medium farmers use, they must supply their vertically-grown plants with sufficient artificial light.
As the global population grows and land area decreases, there has never been a greater need for close access to high quantities of food year-round. For this reason, you will often find that urban agriculture solutions such as vertical farms can help address the growing demand for food without putting a strain on the environment.
What Are The Benefits Of Vertical Farming?
The key reason farmers get into vertical agriculture is pretty simple: scalability. By stacking cannabis plants on top of each other, cultivators can multiply their harvest without building out their grow room. If you have the demand, capital, and extra space, it makes sense to increase your output with vertical plants.
Speaking of yearly output, another benefit of vertical farms is that you can grow plants no matter the weather conditions. Since vertical agriculture is done indoors, you control the climate, humidity, and light intensity. Even if you live in a dark region with chilly winters, you can produce top-tier cannabis year-round. Plus, there's far less risk of pest or mold exposure in a well-sanitized indoor grow space.
Another positive of growing cannabis indoors is that it simplifies compliance and maintenance. Vertical agriculture was designed to be modular, which makes it easier for employees to move plants around and input crucial seed-to-sale data. Not only does this simplify state-regulated cannabis tracking, it helps farmers address potential problems ASAP. Since most hydroponics units are lightweight, employees could easily remove any affected plants to avoid cross-contamination.
As a final pro, vertical agriculture is one of the most eco-conscious options available to urban cannabis cultivators. While vertical farms require artificial light and ventilation, they are the best way to produce high yields near a target market area. Indeed, since most vertical farms are so close to their final market, you will cut down on transport-related CO2 emissions.
Does Vertical Farming Have Any Drawbacks?
Although vertical farming has many attractive features, that doesn't mean it's without its drawbacks.
Higher Upfront Cost
Arguably, the key reason farmers hesitate to get into vertical farming is the steep initial cost. Vertical farming could dramatically boost your harvest, but you need to ensure the demand for your cannabis merits the additional cost. Vertical farming requires more equipment, lighting, and ventilation, all of which will increase your total operating costs. Farmers should weigh the expenses for new units and more electricity before jumping into vertical farming.
Related to the last point, vertical farms tend to have ventilation issues. Since plants are stacked on top of each other, airflow isn't as natural as a traditional horizontal grow space. Newcomers to vertical farming often run into issues with heat control and humidity, which could affect the quality of your crops. Anyone getting into vertical farming has to be extra vigilant about airflow to produce the highest quality cannabis.
Little Skilled Labor
Another cost-related issue with vertical farms has to do with hiring the right employees. Contractors with experience growing cannabis in vertical farms are hard to come by. Also, since you're increasing the number of plants in your space, you'll have to pay for extra employees. Cultivators must factor in the additional costs related to hiring and training a larger staff.
Could LED Grow Lights Enhance Vertical Farming?
The easiest way to ease many of the burdens associated with vertical farming is to integrate LEDs rather than traditional HIDs. Although LED light farming costs more upfront, it's far better at delivering plants photosynthetically available light without dramatically increasing heat.
Easier Thermal Control
Remember, heat distribution is one of the core issues with vertical farming. Since LEDs have little thermal dissipation, you won't have to spend as much on ventilation costs. Most LED grow lights also have a dimming feature. When cultivators couple their LED system controller with a PAR meter, they can dim their lights to maintain moment-to-moment light levels for plants in different stages, which allows you to better control your energy costs and heat output.
Better Lighting Capability
Not only will you save on ventilation, LEDs constantly have higher light output per wattage compared with HIDs. In fact, most commercial LED grow lights can produce between 2.7-3.8 µmol of photons per joule. Not only will your energy expenses go down, you'll get more photosynthetically available light for your money.
As a bonus, LED grow lights always produce a broad spectrum of light wavelengths that are efficiently spectrally designed and tuned to provide plants with large amounts of photosynthetic energy or light information that induces specific responses (such as flowering).
More Uniform PPID
However, providing light in excess of a crop’s saturation threshold is wasteful and potentially damaging. Special designed LED grow lights (like multi-bar grow lights) offer a uniform PPID(photosynthetic photon intensity distribution) which prevents excessive heating in the center, thus able to be installed at the bottom of each shelf to illuminate the plants on the next shelf.
Mars Hydro LEDs & Vertical Farms — A Match Made In MJ Heaven!
It's almost as if multi-bar styled LED grow lights were born to be vertical grow lights. The combination of these two innovations is set to revolutionize the future of sustainable cannabis cultivation. While vertical farming helps cultivators make the most use of their space, LED grow lights reduce total energy costs while providing exceptional coverage and harvest.
Of course, for the best results in your vertical farming endeavors, you need to go with a trusted brand. Mars Hydro has been committed to supplying cannabis growers with the highest-quality LEDs without charging exorbitant fees. If you're interested in using Mars Hydro's LEDs in your vertical farming ventures, please don't hesitate to contact Mars Hydro's staff.
Thanks for reading.
Mars Hydro Team