Karhlyle Fletcher   |   May 18, 2022

Energy Efficient Cannabis Grows and How They Do It

For Theory Wellness, energy efficiency is only the tip of the iceberg.
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 promise of lower overheads, in-house waste disposal, and reduced labor needs through natural means sounds too good to be true, but naturally focused cannabis farms already deliver these benefits and more. Additionally, as governments push for environmentally conscious procedures throughout all industries, several cannabis farms are already a step ahead.  

Outdoor Farms Lead the Way

While technology such as LED lighting introduced more efficient and safe ways to grow cannabis plants, growing outdoors removes the need for lighting technology almost entirely. As laws allow cannabis farmers to go outdoors, their crops can be entirely sun-grown and thus spare cultivators the lighting bill and help to reduce the total carbon footprint.

Moreover, plants have developed over eons to respond to sunlight. Thus, the relationship between the plant and this light source has already been maximized. Rather than requiring additional research, cultivators are wise to outsource such needs to nature herself.

Indoor cultivation is taxing on an already stressed ecosystem. Heating, ventilation, and cooling, or HVAC, is also a feature required only in indoor grows. By going outside, farms can use the environment to balance their operation. An example of one of the key features of nature indoor grows must mimic is wind. Typically, fans are installed to imitate the natural motion of the breeze.

Theory Wellness in Massachusetts is an exemplary example of outdoor farms which utilize the benefits of outdoor cannabis cultivation. Not only do their outdoor cannabis plants enjoy swaying in the breeze, but Theory Wellness employs a multitude of nature-enhancing methods to benefit their farm and the surrounding environment. In addition to following the best possible outdoor practices, the company also purchases electricity created via sustainable wind energy to power their indoor grow.

One of the other benefits of outdoor farms in particular, which requires a little bit of work, is access to local beneficial insects. Lead farmer, Lauren Fortier, spoke to Cannabis Tech and explained, "We are doing our due diligence to ensure that we are building the soil and contributing to the native local ecology. A huge part of our cultivation process is in our Integrated Pest Management practices.”

She continued, “In Massachusetts specifically, we're not allowed to use any pesticides. Our entire pest management program is based on creating a beneficial environment where all of our native insects can come and live and work for us. We try to create an oasis for them. Our entire pest management system relies on creating that environment for all our native bugs to help us out, so we have a huge program dedicated to raising other beneficial plants."

From Seed to Sale, Innovation Can Be Implemented

There's more to running a farm than simply growing plants. Packaging, soil remediation, and managing the ecological footprint are all crucial responsibilities for any cultivator. At Theory Wellness, they employ a few solutions: recyclable packaging, straw in place of traditional mulch, and hybrid vehicles for all deliveries.

Using straw instead of mulch to enrich their soil, Theory Wellness doesn't have to rely on plastic mulch. Instead, their straw breaks down into their soil, whereas those using plastic mulch have to buy more of that product every year. Further, Theory Wellness only uses reusable plastic, such as pots, in which their crops start off growing. After the plants are transplanted into the soil, the pots are reused for the next batch of crops.

Composting on-site allows Theory Wellness to reduce its waste profile to almost nothing. Instead, they are left with rich compost that can go right back into their farm and keep things local.

"We're trying to go beyond organic - beyond what's required under organic certification," Fortier explained. "Every year, we're working on lowering the amount of outside input we have to bring onto our farms, including fertilizer and compost. Particularly fertilizer, we're trying to lessen the amount that we use every year, and that's by using regenerative systems to build our soil, so we don't have to add much if anything to grow right in the ground with our soil."

Theory Wellness embraced Korean Natural Farming techniques due to their passion for sustainability and organic farming. However, that passion isn't universal, so one of the most pressing threats to their operation will actually be the runoff from other farms.

Spending Money Today May Save Millions Tomorrow

While getting involved in ecologically responsible and sustainable technologies does have a high price tag associated with it, that's money well spent. Rather than repeating the costs, once a farm is sustainable, especially if the resources it consumes are created onsite, it will be hard to calculate how much cultivators save through achieving independence.

 

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