Karhlyle Fletcher   |   October 05, 2022

Embracing Nature: Low-Tech Outdoor Cannabis

In times of financial trial, low-tech, outdoor cannabis may have a leg-up on the competition.
Detroiter Karhlyle Fletcher is the host of High Lit, a cannabis research and classic literature podcast featuring leading voices and independent music. In addition to years in written and video cannabis journalism, he is also a traditional author.

The challenges of maintaining and relying on global markets are becoming more apparent by the day, and cannabis farms also face struggles related to these tumultuous times. Fuel costs, fertilizer costs, and more threaten commercial operations.

Yet, going low-tech may provide a holistic solution to many of these issues. It's time to review outdoor farming once again as a legitimate option.

Using Nature to Complement Outdoor Cannabis Farming

Beyond automated farming systems, farming outdoors allows cultivators to collaborate with nature. Instead of having to manage a robust HVAC system, farmers can utilize sun, wind, bugs, and other pieces of the environment to balance out their farms.

As the economic pressures pinch every farmer, the cannabis farmer needs to invest in low-cost strategies. Even everyday items, like fertilizers, are rising in cost due to materials like potash becoming harder to source. Outdoor grows are compensating by investing in diverse crops on their farms. Cultivators can design a layout capable of replenishing the soil throughout the growing process by choosing complementary crops for their farms.

Companion Crops

For example, White Clover is a popular companion plant for cannabis as White Clover boosts nitrogen levels in the soil and crowds out weeds. Cannabis is an infamously nitrogen-hungry plant, so adding companion plants known to add nitrogen into the soil may empower cultivators to cut back on fertilizer costs considerably. Doing so can even lead to including other profitable plants in the grow.

An additional property of many cover crops such as White Clover is, like cannabis, a tendency to attract bees. Cultivators can assist local bee populations by building havens for them to gather pollen by being intelligent with their plant choice. Also, indoor farms can never enjoy this benefit, so it is a unique opportunity for outdoor farms to support their local ecology. There are similar strategies to encourage ladybug populations to grow, along with tactics to court other beneficial insects.

Finally, many of these ideal companion crops grow outside in easy-to-access locations. So, lucky cultivators may need only to transplant local crops around their farm and encourage their growth to create an excellent environment for cannabis and the environment. Doing so is also one of the most direct ways to support and invest in maintaining indigenous plants’ populations.

By working outdoors and with nature, domestic farmers have the opportunity to protect their businesses from the impact of local and global events.

Solar Powered Cobalt and Cannabis

While setting up an outdoor grow can be incredibly inexpensive, installing solar panels does require an upfront cost. However, cultivators can transform farms into microgrid operations by investing in solar power, hydropower, wind power, and other alternative energy options. The benefits of doing so are innumerable.

By running a microgrid, operators do not need to rely on their city or state to supply them with energy. The independence gained from a microgrid insulates farms from power grid failures, hostile municipalities, and fluctuations in the cost of energy.

It's certainly complex and challenging to produce the entirety of the energy required for a farm, but outdoor operations also prevent lighting and ventilation needs from racking up steep electricity bills. Considering that the typical indoor farm must imitate both the sun and the wind, it's much more intimidating to set up a microgrid for an entirely indoor operation. Instead, starting the growing phase indoors and moving outdoors allows for minimal electricity use.

While microgrids may be expensive to set up, they're less so for outdoor farms as the electrical needs are much lower. Additionally, electricity costs are essentially nothing after a microgrid is established, and the security from external events is immeasurably valuable.

Further Reliance on Local Means Leads to Profitable Yields

By using local sources, such as their property, to produce the materials which their farms require, cultivators can future-proof their operations. Whenever a business relies on external factors to supply essential materials, they are at the supplier's mercy.

Of course, the local environment may run out of certain materials, or local suppliers may change their prices. Yet it's unlikely that local suppliers will suddenly become unavailable - a pattern observed for many goods over the last few years. So, if maintaining a microgrid is unrealistic for an operation, sourcing materials through the local market should be the next choice. Communities that take care of each other are typically the communities that thrive.

Thinking simple may be the solution for many things, such as light and HVAC. As cannabis markets see a decrease in cannabis prices, outdoor operations become more attractive. Meanwhile, industrial farms are more at risk of financial implosion with thinner margins. Yet, lightweight, independent, and outdoor farms are likely to weather whatever comes their way.

Further still, it's paramount to acknowledge that outdoor cannabis is in no way budget cannabis. Several artisanal consumer demographics prefer outdoor cannabis, believing that indoor cannabis is stifled and separated from its natural cycles, resulting in poorer terpene, flavonoid, and even cannabinoid expression. While outdoor farming may help with a budget, it is not the second strategy in quality to indoor farming, but instead its own technique with unique pros and cons.

 

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