There’s a classic Simpsons bit in ‘Treehouse of Horrors VI’ when Homer steps into an alternate world where he finds out the theoretical ‘third dimension’ is genuine. Seeing the world in all 3 directions predictably befuddles him, and hilarity ensues.
However, even in this strange 3-D realm Homer would feel right in your own home had he happened upon among today’s great monuments to a 2-D world: the mega-indoor cultivation facility. In here, it appears that the idea of exploiting a whole amount of space to drive down production costs is not any match for that my-square-footage-is-bigger objective of sprawling, resource-hungry cannabis cathedrals.
Monuments to ego aside, cannabis cultivation equipment is really a cold and heartless numbers game. Regardless how big or small your operation, people who can produce more for less will win. It’s time we re-imagine how indoor cultivation can remain cost-competitive; maybe it’s time to Mature and take into account the merits of vertical cultivation.
Growing plants vertically offers a solution with potentially several fundamental advantages for cultivators. For instance, due to the same footprint it provides increased plant yields and revenue generation, while decreasing energy/water consumption by a few factors, over traditional horizontal cultivation. [Vertical cultivation often uses gravity-fed hydroponic systems but may be modified for soil.]
To get clear, the term ‘vertical cultivation’ in this context does not always mean stacking horizontal grow trays on top of the other person, with all the plant canopy growing towards (perpendicular) the lights. Instead, imagine getting a horizontal grow and flipping it, along with its light source, 90 degrees so the plants grow upward and parallel towards the light.
The idea of vertical cultivation will not be a simple one to visualize, so a basic analogy would be the difference between a magazine over a table vs. one in a bookshelf. In the event you take into account the book’s cover its ‘canopy’ this looks like horizontal growing when lying flat, but vertical cultivation when standing up. Although it may look like a small difference in orientation, the impact of cultivating in three dimensions on overall cost efficiency is profound.
Let’s see exactly what the numbers look like should you exploit the whole amount of space with vertical cultivation, utilizing the scenario above as our baseline comparison.
First, we go ahead and take existing grow (i.e. the ‘book’ laying) and stand it up. Just by doing that one could now grow canopies for both sides (think of the book’s front and back covers). Instantly, we’ve doubled our original capacity and we’re just how to get started!
Next, we face LED lights (of comparable PAR intensity as HPS) parallel to the canopy then carry out the same on the other side, just as if two flashlights were pointed in the front and back covers of any book over a shelf. Why LED over HPS? Primarily because LED allows the canopy to develop closer to the light without damaging the plants, and does so for less operating costs.
Now, assume three feet spacing from a single light for the other, using the canopies between. Then, consider the entire configuration and repeat it 4x to top off the area. Taken at face value, the production and efficiency benefits of vertical cultivation over horizontal growing are clear, even if LED produces less yield/light. The great news is, the idea continues to be put gcpsfm practice and the real-world results hew closely for the hypothetical situation above.
In fairness, adopting LED technology currently requires substantially more capital investment than HPS. But, on balance, the extra upfront costs of LED are far outweighed as time passes by remarkable ability to get down operating costs while increasing production efficiency.