Sarah Ratliff   |   May 04, 2020

High-Efficiency Gas Piping for Cannabis Cultivation

Michigan company provides advanced air, inert gas, and vacuum aluminum piping systems for cultivation operations.
Following 20 years in the corporate world—culminating with biotech giant Amgen in Southern California, where she worked in health outcomes—Sarah Ratliff and her husband bought an organic farm on the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico. Today…

On March 10, Exotic Automation & Supply announced it would sponsor a display at the 2020 Cannabis Industrial Marketplace Summit and Expo. This event, which is currently scheduled for the weekend of July 9-10 (quarantine conditions permitting), will be held at the Frankenmuth Expo Center in Birch Run, Michigan. The Expo is the state’s largest gathering of cannabis industry suppliers. It will feature a range of exhibits from companies that design, sell, and install cannabis production technology.

Exotic Automation & Supply is a newcomer to the Expo and the cannabis industry in general. Since 1972, they have been an officially licensed Parker-Hannifin distributor, selling and installing advanced motion and control systems designed to suit the diverse technology needs of their industrial and aerospace clients.

Michigan officially legalized cannabis for recreational purposes in 2018, with sales beginning in December 2019. Until the state’s voters approved this change in policy, cannabis was not really on the Exotic Automation & Supply radar. But the company was determined to seize the moment.

“Since legalization in 2018, we’ve been committed to supporting this emerging market,” proclaimed Mike Chapman, Exotic’s Business Unit Manager, in announcing the company’s decision to attend the Michigan Expo. “Our air handling systems save time and money and deliver a much cleaner solution, both cosmetically and at the point of use over traditional solutions.”

Introducing Parker’s Transair Technology

Parker-Hannifin has created a scalable aluminum piping system called Transair, which it markets through dealers like Exotic Automation & Supply. The company advertises Transair as “the most advanced air, inert gas, and vacuum aluminum air piping system available on the market.”  

It is this innovative and highly efficient air transportation system that is arousing the interest of cannabis growers and cultivators in Michigan and elsewhere. Transair piping can be used to bathe growing rooms with generous supplies of plant-supporting carbon dioxide, which can boost cannabis production by a measurable percentage. The Transair piping system can also be used to transport inert nitrogen gas to drying rooms, as a way to speed the cannabis drying process.

Since no two buildings are alike, each Transair installation is a customized project. Carbon dioxide and nitrogen tanks are placed outside, and the aluminum piping system is then attached and run into the building, on branching pathways that end in the required locations.

Before they begin an installation, Exotic crew members must survey the premises carefully.

“We look at the room, we look at the building, and where the tank will be placed outside,” Mike Chapman explained to Cannabis Tech.  “How can we convey those gases into their particular flower rooms or vegetation rooms, whatever it is they need? That is what our installers must determine.”

Thankfully, the Transair aluminum piping system is so flexible and easy to install that Exotic technicians seldom encounter insurmountable difficulties.

Transair piping is incredibly lightweight and can be cut to any length quickly and easily. The connectors manufactured by Parker-Hannifin slide onto the end of the pipes that need joining, creating a snug, leak-proof seal that requires no threading, soldering, or welding. Both straight and elbow-shaped connectors are available, which allows technicians to install Transair piping over, under, or around any obstacles they might encounter as they lay piping throughout a particular facility.

The system can interface with existing copper or stainless steel piping systems, eliminating the need to remove existing hardware if an extension is required. Once installed, Transair’s performance is monitored by Exotic’s trademarked wireless “Voice of the Machine” monitoring system, which keeps track of pressure, humidity, temperature, and rate of gas flow.

Transair is a state-of-the-art product in its niche. Its characteristics fortuitously coincide with the needs of cannabis growers and cultivators, who seek to maximize production with affordable and cost-efficient inputs.

Leveraging the Cost Advantages of Aluminum

As Mike Chapman explains, the Transair aluminum piping system offers notable cost advantages over traditional piping systems.

“Aluminum versus stainless steel, [the cost is] five times less, and aluminum versus copper, it’s probably along the same lines, about five times less,” Chapman estimates. “We’re talking materials and labor costs.”

It is the labor category in particular, where the Transair system offers the most significant benefits. Stainless steel and copper are durable materials, but they must be prepared for installation with specialized equipment and/or welded or soldered together to forge impenetrable links. Steel and copper are also about three times as heavy as aluminum, which causes a whole new set of challenges that technicians must strive to overcome.

When stainless steel and copper piping systems are installed, the work is slow and meticulous. On a typical job, labor will cover about 80 percent of the total cost of installation, which is a hefty price from the standpoint of the customer.

The contrast with Transair couldn’t be more striking. Work that requires several hours to complete when using stainless steel or copper may be accomplished in less than an hour with this superior product from Parker-Hannifin.

Most of the labor costs associated with a Transair installation will derive from the assessment of the property and the sizing, designing, and layout of the piping system, not from the physical installation itself. Exotic customers who purchase the Transair system will accrue labor costs that comprise only 20 percent of the total cost of the project, which is a significant cost reduction in comparison to steel or copper.

For cannabis producers, the installation costs of a Transair system will rapidly be offset by added productivity. Based on feedback from clients, Chapman estimates that cannabis growers who pipe carbon dioxide into their grow rooms can expect yield increases of between five and 10 percent if they maintain the practice continually.  

Combine the benefits of carbon dioxide and nitrogen with the cost savings of a Transair system, and it creates a quality investment opportunity that cannabis growers would be wise not to overlook.

Transair and Cannabis: A Perfect Match

Fortunately for cannabis growers, Parker-Hannifin is a highly successful company with a strong national presence. Parker dealerships that sell and install Transair systems can be found in virtually every state and most large municipalities. Cannabis entrepreneurs must rely on the application of advanced technology and sound scientific principles to boost profit margins, and forward-thinking companies like Exotic Automation & Supply can help them accomplish this all-important task.

Exotic Automation & Supply is headquartered in New Hudson, Michigan, but has 11 more service centers in Michigan and the greater Indianapolis, Indiana, area. While it is new to cannabis, Exotic is one of the largest distributors of Parker-Hannifin products in the country. Exotic was founded in 1963, and it carries a reputation for excellence that should be attractive for cannabis growers looking for reliable equipment and service.

Exotic is one of the pioneers in applying Transair technology to the needs of cannabis producers. But if their efforts are successful (and the early feedback is highly encouraging), word will quickly spread, and other Parker-Hannifin dealers are likely to want in on the action. For cannabis growers and Transair retailers across the nation, mutually beneficial relationships may proliferate in the years to come.

 

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