Date: September 15, 2021 Read time: 6 minutes.
Medical marijuana patients 18 years and older will be able to grow up to 3 mature and 3 immature plants at home starting October 1, 2021, with a cap of 12 total plants per household. All adults over age 21 will be able to grow under the same rules starting July 1, 2023. Plants must be grown indoors and must not be visible from the street. People who choose to grow their own plants must do so in their primary residence and where individuals under 21 can not access the plants.
"We managed to keep our employees employed through this period, where if we had to let them go because of COVID-19 then they would have really struggled, so we're pretty pleased to be able to keep them on board," Ms Schoerie said.
"The cost of growing outdoors is significantly lower," she said.
"They just found it ridiculously expensive."
Advocates say medicinal cannabis offers effective relief when other treatments are failing. But Australian guidelines say there's limited evidence to support its use.
Once the cannabis is collected it is sent off to a drying room where humidity and moisture is tightly controlled.
Keeping jobs during pandemic.
"They do soft gel capsules and things like that. But what we're doing is really providing an active ingredient that goes into the products that we grow the cannabinoids — or the THC and the CBD."
"We planted really late … we were impacted by COVID-19," Ms Schoerie said.
"The other type of crop and the main type of crops that [we] will be growing is what they call photo period or full season planter — so traditional plants and that can go any where up to two metres, even more if we let it."
"The main reason behind us doing what we're doing [is] that we realised pretty early on, when friends were looking at using cannabis or people that were on chemotherapy, or really not well, as soon as they went through the process of getting prescriptions … they just could not afford it," she said.
"It's very much the way the global trend is going," she said.
"The crop that we just planted is what they call an auto flower, so that takes eight to 12 weeks from propagation to harvest, and they don't grow very big — about one to one-and-a-half metres.
"There are a number of medicinal cannabis facilities that are being established … but these are all what they call protective cropping or indoor growers that have large greenhouses and significant amount of infrastructure."
The Murray Meds team have been applying regenerative farming techniques to the pilot planting.
"Our seeds got stuck in Europe literally at the time that it happened. The seeds were due to come in March [but] they only arrived in the middle of April.
"So we harvest flowers, and we send them to an extractor and the extractor then extracts the cannabinoids out of the flower and then you formulate [that] into an oil or a control unit," Ms Schoerie said.
A 'more traditional crop'
Five different strains of cannabis were used in trying to create the best mix.
"It's going directly in the ground, it gets its energy from the sun, not from lighting, and we draw our water directly from the river."
"So you make sure that before you start planting the soil, the quality of the soil is really, really good and that reduces the amount of food that you need to provide."
"The typical planting season is September, October and you'd harvest in May, so you can imagine us planting in April — that's not what was supposed to happen."
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In a secret location near Swan Hill, an organic trial crop of medicinal cannabis has been growing out in the paddock in full daylight.
"We understood that it was better to get a crop in the ground and go through the process and harvest it and see how we went," she said.
Ms Schoerie said they had high hopes when it came to growing in a conventional way.
"We have solar power for energy, we're really focused on sustainable farming.
"And so it's much more of a traditional agricultural crop.
Ms Schoerie said the idea to move into medicinal cannabis rather than hemp food and fibre was to make marijuana affordable to those most in need.
It is hoped the potent plants will yield well, resulting in accelerated planting later this year.
"So we planted a small crop just to go through what we call proof of concept … but it wouldn't be a normal planting season.
And if all goes to plan, they may have already lined up potential buyers.
This approach also meant the team kept their jobs during the coronavirus pandemic.
As far as choosing which strains to sell, it’s really up to your company’s preferences and access to clones or seeds. The heavy-hitters in the cannabis market include names like Blue Dream, Girl Scout Cookies, Pineapple Express among others, so looking for more specific and unique strains to help diversify your product offerings will improve and expand your market potential going forward.
The most important consideration in evaluating a potential grow space is ensuring proper ventilation for your crops. Cannabis plants require a lot of light, which typically emit a tremendous amount of heat. Without proper ventilation and air exchange, producers risk cooking their crop or limiting yields due to excess humidity, heat, or oxygen. Greenhouse-specific HVAC systems exist for closed greenhouse schemes and help producers program hyper-accurate climate control systems to ensure the facility maintains ideal growth conditions.
Creating a cannabis business plan is slightly different from that of a traditional business or initiative. Aside from typical hurdles like financing, competitive research, marketing, operations, and structure of ownership, you’ll need to closely study the state-specific cannabis regulations and ensure your business won’t run afoul of limitations placed on growers by these new laws. We recommend you research cannabis consulting firms in your area, or contact your state’s cannabis governing agency to discuss governing laws. Furthermore, cannabis producers should consider the following:
Regular seeds are cheaper and more reliable than other types of seeds, but be aware that half of your crop will be male cannabis plants and will therefore not flower, requiring removal from your grow room before pollination.
As far as potting each individual plant goes, allow for at least a 5 gallon pot for each cannabis plant. Cannabis roots expand very quickly and require a lot of room, therefore, smaller receptacles will result in smaller yields. Grow bags are also widely used in the cannabis production industry, placing them on a permeable table with trays or tarps to collect water runoff.
Seeds or Clones to Start Your Cannabis Grow Operation?
According to the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, 20-year projections on electrical use in both Washington and Colorado throughout the indoor cannabis production industry suggest an average annual usage of 185-300 megawatts. That’s equivalent to the annual electrical use of more than 200,000 homes in the United States.
While some high-end growers are switching to permeable concrete to facilitate natural water recycling, it’s not a bad idea to use wooden pallets or plastic, grated platforms as the floor of your grow tent to help with runoff or collect for recycling.
In cannabis-laden Boulder, Colorado, the city has implemented a licensing solution that requires growers to use energy monitoring devices as well as paying a fee for carbon emissions, adopting renewable energy sources, or purchasing energy credits.
Running a successful commercial cannabis grow operation is an expensive challenge. While growers can maintain a higher level of control over humidity, available light, and pests in an indoor environment, maintaining proper light levels and staying as energy-efficient as possible are top priorities for commercial cannabis production operations.
According to Confluence Denver, producers who opt for an energy efficient greenhouse facility pay about half the costs of those who grow in a warehouse. The importance in selecting a functional, sustainable grow facility early in the life of your recreational or medical cannabis business is monumental. Recent investigations show a direct correlation between sustainable building and operations standard and profit margins on large-scale facilities, meaning larger producers and distributors may be in a more strategically beneficial market position should federal legalization occur.
Seeds allow a grower complete control over the entire growth cycle, but the process takes longer as a result. Getting clones from another grower will speed up the process, but leaves the plants susceptible to mold, disease, or shock if replanting is required.
Costs of electricity is the number one expense facing producers and often matches or exceeds total lease costs per month during production.
There are plenty of ways to legally acquire high quality cannabis seeds, you’ll want to carefully consider what strains to select and how your products will match up with what’s already available on the market.
Some small businesses in Denver are trying a new approach to reducing carbon emissions through capturing carbon dioxide produced by beer fermentation and recycling in it for use in cannabis operations.
With total sales in Washington State reaching $2 billion since recreational cannabis was legalized in 2014, entrepreneurs from all around the world are considering an investment in American recreational cannabis production. From first-time business owners looking to capitalize on a new market to larger institutions and established organizations establishing a foothold pre-federal legalization, there’s plenty of opportunity for intrepid business ventures within the recreational cannabis market going forward. This is your guide to starting a commercial cannabis grow operation.
Can I add my own grow lights and horizontal air flow fans (HAF fans), wet wall system, etc?
In Washington State, outdoor cannabis production facilities must be established in an open expanse enclosed by a physical barrier or a sight obscure wall at least eight feet high. In Colorado, producers are prohibited from growing cannabis outside of a secured, enclosed location – including high fences and semi-permeable roofing.
There’s much debate in the world of artificial lighting for cannabis greenhouses, but studies have shown HPS – or High Pressure Sodium – lights provide a more consistent form of lighting for indoor grow facilities.
We have compiled a list of frequently asked questions to better help guide inquiries for starting a commercial cannabis grow operation. We recommend reading the answers to our FAQs before proceeding to read the guide below.
Artificial lighting, dehumidification, ventilation, air conditioning, and irrigation control systems all require immense amounts of electricity, leading some growers to investigate energy-efficiency options like the following:
In 2021, the difference between many strains of the same name may be night and day. Recent reports post-legalization in Washington, Oregon, and Colorado have shone a brighter light on the actual genealogy – and even the classification between indica and sativa products – that may be entirely mislabeled or incorrect at the outset.
Choosing to invest in a cannabis production facility over a retail storefront makes getting things off the ground a bit easier – prospective producers are able to utilize more remote, out-of-the-way locations with greater benefits to security, logistics, and future expansions. There are restrictions under current state laws that keep producers from opening grow facilities away from public schools, parks, transit centers, libraries, or arcades that cater to minors.
Fortunately, the climate of the Pacific Northwest lends itself very well to outdoor cannabis production. In fact, some rural areas of Washington and Oregon with agricultural backgrounds have found cannabis to be an easy to maintain, financially lucrative cash crop. Because cannabis roots can expand exponentially, outdoor growers can reap a far greater harvest by allowing their plants to grow to 10 feet tall or higher, uninhibited by artificial lighting or ceilings. Cannabis makes an excellent cover crop, allowing ample space on the surface for smaller crops like tomatoes, carrots, and lettuce to grow with an extra layer of protection above.
Do you provide consulting services if I want to start a commercial cannabis business?
Already considered a success in achieving water-saving status in the UK brewing industry, some cannabis producers are investing in closed-circuit desalination (CCD), reverse osmosis water systems. At the same time as purifying incoming municipal water sources, these CCD systems can recover as much as 97% of wastewater, therefore reducing water demand and saving in disposal fees.
There are already private projects invested in researching the most affordable methods of growing and distributing recreational cannabis in the U.S. An effort to evaluate the cannabis industry’s LED lighting requirements and help improve efficiency estimates the best and most valuable techniques for optimization are not yet public – thanks largely to the “behind closed doors” nature of the industry from a historical perspective. But early reports from first-generation growers in Colorado and Washington suggest that those invested in sustainable energy solutions benefited most from sales in the first fiscal year of legalization, whereas those growing in indoor warehouses made up about one-third of the industry’s first year of legal energy consumption.
That said, no forward-thinking cannabis entrepreneur should overlook energy-efficiency standards in initial constructions. An estimated 4% of Denver’s annual energy usage went toward cannabis production facilities in 2020; projections for energy usage among states nearing legalization (including California, Nevada, and Maine) are unquestionably unsustainable.
Indoor cannabis grow facilities must be in an enclosed and secured facility with functional windows, doors, rigid or semi-rigid walls and a roof.
There are three types of cannabis seeds a first-time producer can purchase: feminized seeds, regular seeds, and autoflower seeds.
We recommend three future-proofed upgrades for cannabis production facilities of any size:
In Washington, state laws require the following minimum security solutions for all cannabis licensees:
Smaller producers in rainy climates such as Oregon and Washington are investing in rainwater collection and storage capabilities to save on irrigation costs. Because a single cannabis plant can use as much as 22.7 liters of water per day and many cannabis outdoor growing seasons conflict with periods of low-precipitation, outdoor growers and those who rely on rainwater capture without long-term storage solutions won’t find much benefit in a recyclable water investment.