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CANNABIS SELF-CONTAINED GROWING SYSTEMS
By Gillian Ward
Health Canada has imposed rigorous controls for licensed producers (LP's) of the regulated cannabis industry, randomly testing product to ensure that growers are delivering on quality and safety. With strict limitations on pest management measures acceptable for the cannabis crop, WaterToday explores production risk, to find out what LP's are doing to ensure that quality product is delivered to market.
While Deloitte estimates the potential value of the regulated cannabis industry at over $22 billion per year, realizing this potential is dependent on LP's success in growing within the rules and delivering an acceptable product to market. WaterToday wanted to know what innovative production systems are in play to mitigate risk and deliver high quality product to the eager buyers across the country.
Delta 9 has been successfully growing cannabis inside self contained, controlled environment systems, says Kelsey Friesen, Director of POD Sales for the Winnipeg based company. As new LP's began looking for effective, turn-key growing systems, Delta 9 set to fabricating its Grow Pod units for mass distribution in 2017.
One Flowering Pod can produce 45-50kgs of cannabis per year with single level benching. The units use efficient LED grow lights, at just over 7000 kWh per ten-week growing cycle. Water may be conserved and recycled in a closed loop "fertigation" chain within the units. Organic production, which carries up to 50% premium in the market, is possible within the Grow Pods. Plants are raised in a coconut husk medium, which when managed with judicious pruning and biological controls serves for effective disease mitigation program, and delivers a quality product, according to Friesen.
The turn-key Grow Pods come equipped with all lighting, environmental controls and sensors, benching, electrical panel and set up, plumbing connections and security systems. Modifications to the electrical, plumbing and drainage may be required to set the pods up inside an existing structure, and additional concrete work may be required to support the load. As for cost, fully equipped Grow Pods run $215 per square foot, whereas a purpose-built building can run over $350 a square foot, unequipped.
The Delta 9 standard Grow Pods are designed to be installed inside a serviced building, however, the insulated version of Grow Pods can be set up independently, rated to withstand -50 C weather. The Grow Pods can be stacked, with the second level accessed by catwalks or rolling staircase. Each Grow Pod is equipped with video, security and environmental monitoring system which can be accessed by an app downloaded on a smart phone or computer. Delta 9 provides 1-year full product warranty on the Grow Pod structure, with 1-5 year manufacturer's warranty on hardware.
Rico Thorsen, Certified Horticulturalist, spoke with Water Today from Kelowna, BC on the down side of controlled environment production. He points out that when we try to control the environment, there are always unknowns. Pointing to the recent recall of salad greens from an organic, inspected production facility, he says the public needs to ask how this sort of thing can happen. There are gaps to public safety, even in the regulated food production industry. According to Thorsen, the safe way to grow a healthy, organic product is an open environment where natural soil microbial life finds its own equilibrium, taking care of the unknowns for us. More scientific study is needed to verify the safety of the controlled growing systems, claims Thorsen.
With the ability to run five production cycles in a year in controlled-climate facilities, it does not appear that LP's will be cultivating their product in open fields in Canada, but one quality crop per year may just be the tortoise that wins the race to the finish line after all, we will just have to see how it all plays out.
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