Jessica McKeil   |   March 16, 2022

Problem Solving in Cannabis Cultivation Begins with Detailed Data

Sensors and IoT provide the complex data necessary for troubleshooting and problem-solving in a cannabis grow.
Jessica McKeil is a cannabis writer based in British Columbia, Canada. She has a passion for cannabis tech and scientific breakthroughs, which has led her to work with some of the industry's biggest brands. She is the owner and lead-writer…

It's remarkable how quickly the human brain forgets the essential details. Research tells us that we forget 50 percent of the information we've been presented with within an hour, 70 percent in 24 hours, and up to 90 percent within the week (Learning Solutions). This forgetfulness becomes incredibly problematic in the grow room, where data drives production.

Grow room data, pulled from sensors placed in the environment, feeds into the industry's obsession with perfection. Precise environmental intel makes it possible to course correct to avoid issues, optimize for specific cultivar expressions, and create a consistent final product.

Most commercial indoor cannabis growers are already collecting thousands of points of information every month on the environmental conditions in their spaces. A typical setup will have a network of integrated sensors collecting information on the following:

  •       Temperature
  •       Relative humidity (RH)
  •       Carbon dioxide (CO2)
  •       Light Intensity/ light spectrum
  •       Vapor pressure deficit (VPD)
  •       Water content in the growing media

Several smaller and affordable grow room sensors, like the PulseOne, NIWA, and Sensor Push, are perfect for home operations. But, commercial facilities require a much more extensive and integrated system, connecting each critical component into a centralized control. Big names for commercial spaces include Argys, Monnit, Wadsworth, and Priva.

Solving Issues with Cultivation Insights

Not every crop cycle is going to be perfect. AC units fail, hydroponic reservoirs flood and HPS units start to dim at the end of their life cycle. Even mild catastrophes will impact production to some degree, reducing yield, flower size, or potency.

Grow room sensors for temperature, power outages, floods, and more ensure that even an absentee grower gets timely notifications on environmental issues.

If your CO2 runs out or the temperature spikes, in-room sensors send this information to your mobile dashboard. Most controllers today have a substantial list of possible environmental parameters. When these go out of whack, you'll get an instant notification that something isn't right in your grow room and can take action immediately.

But, the value of grow room control doesn't just stop with these potential emergencies. As a cultivator, you need to capture the actual costs of these system failures, not just in the moment but post-harvest. For example, how much impact did those older HPS lights have on production? Or how did that heatwave impact flower development?

You can (and should) use the data pulled throughout the crop cycle to assess cultivation issues and their impact on profile and yield.

Data-Driven Insights to Improve Consistency

The magic of the cannabis species is its incredible phenotypic range. In response to environmental variations, cannabis can produce wildly different phytochemical profiles, even with the same genetics. It's an attractive characteristic, but one that continues to frustrate growers on their quest to repeat results and develop product consistency.

The Grow Off is a cultivation competition that demonstrates just this frustration. Unlike other competitions, The Grow Off gives every entrant the same genetics, cut from the same mother. Then, these clones are grown out by different cultivators in different environments—all striving for the best cannabinoid and terpene content.

The results demonstrate just how variable cannabis is. The 2020 analysis discovered that, among the 24 Cream Carmel submissions, there was a total phytocannabinoid range of between 15.37 to 28.57 percent and a terpene range between 0.86 to 5.32 percent—an example that proves just how much environment matters for crop consistency.

So, how do growers solve this fluctuation from one crop to the next? Data is the ultimate solution. With sensors feeding environmental conditions into a database, this intel is logged, captured, and analyzed.

Post-harvest, it's possible to see what specific conditions created the end result. And most importantly, it's possible to perfectly recreate those conditions to achieve consistency in the next round. 

Grow Room Data Makes Cannabis Cultivation Predictable and Repeatable

The data gleaned from a space full of grow room sensors is ultimately only as good as the cultivator who wields it. Without the knowledge and resources to make sense of the information, the daily logs on CO2 levels, temperatures, and VPD are left as jumbled chaos.

Thankfully, these days even controllers designed for the home grower deliver all these data points through an easy-to-navigate dashboard. Growers can parse together need-to-know information and analysis in charts, graphs, and alerts through this dashboard. With this intel, it's easy to sort through the information to pivot from repeat grow room scenarios as needed.

An experienced grower can use the information gathered from one grow to replicate it for the next. You'll also have the tools to perform A/B testing, optimize conditions for specific cultivars, and ultimately make growing much more predictable and, therefore, profitable.

 

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