Jessica McKeil   |   February 01, 2022

Resolving Environmental Fluctuations with Environmental Control Technologies

Maintaining consistent conditions in cannabis cultivation is critical for optimizing the crop.
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…

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Indoor cannabis cultivation promises total control over the growing environment. That means no weather disruptions, no surprises from a changing climate, and all-year growing. However, as many indoor cultivators have discovered, controlled environment agriculture (CEA) is still prone to fluctuations.

Pockets of stagnant air develop underneath the canopy in a large flower room. Outdoor seasonal changes still impact the indoor temperature and relative humidity. In another example, relative humidity spikes in response to changes in the plants themselves.

These ongoing fluctuations are why cultivators, both large and small, turn to automation and advanced grow room controls.

The Problem: No Facility is Immune from Environmental Fluctuations

When designing a cultivation room from the ground up, whether a home grow room or an industrial-scale facility, it becomes clear that every piece of the puzzle is intricately interconnected. It turns out that playing God for the indoor environment isn't as easy as one would have hoped.

Growing cannabis indoors requires a mastery over the necessities of life, from lighting schedule to nutrients to airflow. What's more, every addition to the room tends to impact the other components.

For example, every lighting fixture added will increase the air temperature. No matter if it's LED or HID, lighting fixtures all release a certain amount of heat when they are in operation (although HID more so than others).

The number of lights in a space also feeds into HVAC calculations. Lighting considerations change throughout the course of the grow, from veg to flower, meaning the HVAC settings need to adjust.

All this explains how every component and plant within a closed system plays into one another. No wonder even high-tech facilities with the most advanced equipment still see unpredictable microclimates and environmental fluctuations.

The Solution: Controlling Fluctuations with Automation and Control Technology

The answer to environmental fluctuations within an indoor grow facility is better controls and faster reactions, which all boils down to data. The more timely intel you can gather about the environment in and around each plant, the more refined you can get with the environmental parameters. It's possible to catch even minor fluctuations in order to adjust.

Firstly, while no farm is immune from subtle shifts in temperature and atmosphere, outdoor farms are impossible to control. The weather, seasons, region, and climate change will all have an immense impact on the harvest, for better or worse.

Indoor cultivation achieves the highest level of CEA because it's possible to micromanage the lighting, atmosphere, temperature, humidity, fertilizers, and other essential inputs.

Micromanagement requires timely data. That means environmental sensors from the likes of Growlink, Pulse One, and Grow Sensor. These grow room sensors get strategically placed above and below the canopy and elsewhere within a facility.

These remote grow room sensors collect data about one or more of the following:

  • Temperature
  • Humidity
  • PPFD/PAR
  • CO2
  • Air circulation
  • Vapor Pressure Deficit

Yet, this is just the beginning. There are also sensors for soil moisture levels, pollen, and facility security. There are also products specifically for hydroponic producers, monitoring pH, conductivity, and even nutrient levels.

Taking this one step further, many sensors connect to a remote dashboard. The simplest grow room sensors supply the information into easy-to-digest graphics and spreadsheets. Many also allow you to set pre-established environmental parameters. Should the system move outside of these settings, an alarm goes off.

Today's most advanced facilities are taking environmental controls to an entirely new level with automation. For example, Agrify produces completely controlled and stackable enclosures that automate lighting, hydroponics, fertigation, and CO2 delivery. Agdaptive is another modular CEA solution. These solutions represent the highest end of what CEA is capable of.

For the home grower, smaller-scale versions of this are already widely popular. The Super Closet, Oregon Grow Cabinets, and Hello Grower are only a few examples.

While still a premium option for the home grower, they control all aspects of the environment within an enclosed closet-sized space. They range in features but typically incorporate some automation or semi-automation, including hydroponics/irrigation, LED lighting, microscale HVAC system, and possibly CO2, air, and water filtration systems as enhancements.

To Perfect Cannabis is to Reduce Environmental Fluctuations

The modern-day cultivator is well aware that cannabis phenotypic expression remains frustratingly difficult to manage. Even in facilities practicing the highest levels of CEA, some phytochemical variation is always expected.

The perfect indoor environment for cannabis doesn't exist yet, but advances in automation and cultivation technologies are getting us closer. By combining better environmental controls and improved data analysis, repeatable inter- and intra-crop profiles are possible.

 

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