There’s a classic Simpsons bit in ‘Treehouse of Horrors VI’ when Homer steps into an alternate galaxy where he learns the theoretical ‘third dimension’ is genuine. Seeing the planet in all 3 directions predictably befuddles him, and hilarity ensues.
However, even during this strange 3-D realm Homer would feel right at home had he happened upon among today’s great monuments to some 2-D world: the mega-indoor cultivation facility. In here, it would appear that the thought of exploiting an entire amount of space to operate 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 a cold and heartless numbers game. Regardless of how big or small your operation, people who can produce more at a lower price will win. It’s time we re-imagine how indoor cultivation can remain cost-competitive; maybe it’s time to Mature and think about the merits of vertical cultivation.
Growing plants vertically provides a solution with potentially several fundamental advantages for cultivators. For instance, given the same footprint it offers 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 can be modified for soil.]
To get clear, the term ‘vertical cultivation’ in this particular context does not necessarily mean stacking horizontal grow trays along with each other, with all the plant canopy growing towards (perpendicular) the lights. Instead, imagine getting a horizontal grow and flipping it, and its light source, 90 degrees in order that the plants grow upward and parallel towards the light.
The idea of vertical cultivation might not be a simple anyone to visualize, so a simple analogy will be the distinction between a novel on the table vs. one in a bookshelf. If you think about the book’s cover its ‘canopy’ then it appears like horizontal growing when lying flat, but vertical cultivation when standing upright. Although it might appear such as a small difference in orientation, the impact of cultivating in three dimensions on overall cost efficiency is profound.
Let’s see what the numbers appear to be if you decide to exploit the entire amount of space with vertical cultivation, using the scenario above as our baseline comparison.
First, we take the existing grow (i.e. the ‘book’ laying) and stand it. Simply by doing that you could now grow canopies on both sides (think about the book’s front and back covers). Instantly, we’ve doubled our original capacity and we’re just starting out!
Next, we face LED lights (of comparable PAR intensity as HPS) parallel towards the canopy and after that do the same on the other part, just as if two flashlights were pointed in the front and back covers of a book on the shelf. Why LED over HPS? Primarily because LED allows the canopy to cultivate even closer to the light without damaging the plants, and does so at a discount operating costs.
Now, assume three feet spacing from a single light towards the other, using the canopies between. Then, go ahead and take entire configuration and repeat it 4x to fill the room. Taken at face value, the development and efficiency benefits of vertical cultivation over horizontal growing are clear, even though LED produces less yield/light. The great news is, the thought has become 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, any additional upfront costs of LED are far outweighed with time by their ability to get down operating costs while increasing production efficiency.