Growing Weed the Greenhouse Way

Designated grower farm 

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Ask anyone in the burgeoning marijuana industry and they will certainly tell you how challenging it is to navigate its waters. The conflict with the federal law is perhaps the root of all problems, including the massive amounts of energy and money being used by indoor weed growers.

Research shows that at least one percent of the United States’ total power usage are consumed by indoor weed grows. Industrial grower Medicine Man, for instance, has an electricity bill of $40,000 per month.

This is why business owners are turning to greenhouses – a more efficient alternative to indoor growing. Pot used to be grown outside until the Drug Enforcement Authority (DEA) started raiding pot farms in the 1980s. This pushed growers to operate indoors, as many outdoor growers could not take care of their plants with the DEA’s helicopters flying above.

“Denver has 300 days of sunlight a year. Why don’t we harness that?” asked Jamie Perino, co-founder of Denver-based Euflora. She said that her company used to spend $15,000 per month for utilities alone, until they moved to a 7,200-square foot greenhouse that cut their bills by two-thirds.

Although traditional greenhouses cannot accommodate the requirements for growing cannabis plants, Jonathan Valdman of California’s Forever Flowering Greenhouses changed all that. In 2006, he created a light deprivation system using retractable blackout curtains in order to provide cannabis plants with 12 hours of light followed by 12 hours of complete darkness—the ideal balance to produce buds. This system has enabled four to six harvests per year, with cannabis greenhouses producing a pound of weed for $50 rather than $300 to $500 if grown indoors. Aside from that, greenhouses are eco-friendly and prevent molds, diseases, and pests from ravaging plants.

If greenhouses offer an affordable solution for weed growers, pot businesses have also provided a much-needed revenue source for greenhouse manufacturers who have struggled since the recession.

“Our industry is a little stagnant and it is influenced by the real estate market,” said Craig Humphrey, vice president of engineering of Nexus Greenhouse Systems. “We went through a long flat stage for five years until cannabis, which has given us a nice growth stage.” In fact, Nexus has built more than 400,000 square feet of structures for cannabis clients, who bring in 15 percent of the company’s revenue.

Similarly, Conley’s Greenhouse Manufacturing started serving the marijuana industry in 2012 after both Colorado and Washington legalized recreational marijuana. Now, cannabis greenhouses are responsible for 10 percent of the company’s revenue. Co-owner Josh Conley believes that this is just the start.

“It’s not a matter of if the industry moves to greenhouses, it’s when,” he said.

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