An Engineered Advantage

Custom-built light deprivation systems offer a higher level of efficiency than lower cost alternatives

As more money becomes available to growers through legal sales and investors, cannabis companies are investing in the equipment and techniques to not only maximize their growing potential, but also their profitability.

Perhaps no single piece of equipment sums this up better than an engineered light deprivation system, which can make cultivation a smoother process, work better within the grower’s specific greenhouse setup and provide a quick return on investment. For these reasons, engineered light deprivation — previously used only by the most well-capitalized grow ops — is quickly becoming the standard for greenhouse grows compared to manual blackout tarps or turnkey systems.

Many growers use hoop houses that require workers to deploy large blackout tarps over the hoops and then take them off when the time comes. This process is tedious and takes time, therefore costing money. Operations with an engineered system completely eliminate this process and the labor that it requires, while also ensuring precision photoperiod control.

Automated control over the photoperiod reduces the potential for mistakes, and since it’s combined with the controlled climate of a greenhouse, operations can grow and harvest year-round. Growers can also take advantage of natural lighting, allowing them to cut their dependence on expensive artificial lighting by a large margin.

While hoop houses come at a lower initial cost, the labor required to handle blackout tarps can be significant.

Despite the cultivation advantages provided by an engineered system, there are still a number of growers using turnkey blackout systems that are not tailored to a specific growing space. Even if a grower can overlook the fact that they typically don’t provide complete darkness, it’s hard to ignore the potential environmental control issues they present.

“What you miss when using a manual system is the capability to integrate and work together with your other systems,” says Tent Moeller, a greenhouse project manager for GrowSpan Greenhouse Structures.

Danielle Will, who works in research and development for GrowSpan, adds that sunny but cold conditions are one example of a situation in which turnkey setups might be less effective than a custom-built system.

“If the light deprivation was closed during the night, when the sun rises there would be heat in the gable above the blackout,” Will says. “Without integration between the light dep and climate control systems, condensation could form above the curtain. By integrating the systems, gable ventilation could kick on to eliminate the condensation.”

Growers who opt for a cheaper, non-engineered system can also experience conflicts between their light deprivation and other greenhouse systems. For example, growers utilizing a light deprivation system that has been mass produced for a number of different greenhouses risk having vents or exhaust fans being completely blocked by the blackout curtain. This means that growers either have to reimagine their HVAC setup or scrap their non-engineered light dep system.

Engineered systems have also become the go-to option because of their longevity. Having to deal with a malfunctioning system can affect the plants’ grow cycle, but if growers choose the right system and greenhouse, they can feel confident that their light deprivation is there for the long haul.

“If installed correctly and maintained, the system will be extremely reliable and built for repetition,” Moeller explains. “This is the primary benefit of having a greenhouse manufacturer not only design the system, but also install the system. We have to do our due diligence to constantly review and improve the systems. Installing the system correctly will ensure maximum performance.”

When you combine the benefits engineered light deprivation can have on cultivation with the superior functionality, you have a system that can provide a quick return on investment. Depending on the size of the grow space and the greenhouse systems in place, some operations can get a 9:1 return on investment in the first year.

This highlights why engineered light deprivation is becoming the standard. The ability to regain the initial investment, while also cutting cultivation costs, makes these systems appealing to growers and investors. An engineered system is a key tool to reaching the lowest cost per gram and provides an operation with the potential to dictate the market. Because of these factors, engineered light deprivation systems aren’t just gaining popularity, they’re becoming a necessity to compete in challenging markets.

Christopher Machnich is a digital marketing manager for GrowSpan Greenhouse Structures (www.GrowSpan.com). He is a cannabis industry enthusiast who loves reading and providing content for many industry publications. His points of interest are greenhouse and hydroponic production, as well as the cultural and economic impact of cannabis legalization.

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