Commercial Grow Rooms in the Cannabis Business

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Sherry Ellen Slitts
Sherry has been active in the biotechnology industry since 2010. She is experienced in developing quality management systems and documentation for regulatory compliance under GMP guidelines. Her background in microbiology, cell biology, and aseptic processing provide a scientific context for cannabis production methods. Sherry has a passion for plant science, especially in the areas of tissue culture and bioactive compound extraction.

Whether it is pre-fabricated or custom, setting up a commercial grow room is an essential part of starting a cannabis business. Setting up a commercial grow room for cannabis can also be a very expensive add to your list of Cannabis SOPs. Because of this, commercial cannabis cultivation requires balanced sustainability and efficiency with high quality inputs like nutrients and lighting.

What is a Commercial Grow Room for Cannabis?

A commercial grow room is a manufacturing scale indoor growing area for cannabis. Commercial grow rooms are the most expensive way to cultivate cannabis compared to growing cannabis in a cannabis greenhouse, greenhouse management system, or outdoors. Some cannabis businesses opt for pre-fabricated grow rooms, but more often set up custom commercial grow rooms.

setting up a commercial grow room is a great option for medicinal cannabis producers.

How Much do Commercial Grow Rooms for Cannabis Cost?

Marijuana Business Daily estimates that average wholesale cannabis cultivation costs $42.00 per square foot of space. Broken down by type of space, they estimate indoor commercial grow room to cost the most ($75.00/sqft) compared to greenhouse cannabis production ($50.00/sqft) and economical outdoor cannabis cultivation ($17.00/sqft).

Medical marijuana needs to be produced in a highly controlled environment. While greenhouse technology is evolving, commercial grow rooms are still the gold standard for cultivating medical marijuana.

Benefits of Setting Up a Commercial Grow Room for Your Cannabis Business

Despite the high price tag, an indoor commercial grow room has many advantages. Indoor grows are known for producing top shelf cannabis flower. The plants cultivated in a commercial grow room are high quality strains and craft breeds that may be too sensitive for the outdoors.

Indoor grown cannabis also tends to be very potent. This makes cannabis from commercial grow rooms ideal for medical marijuana. Medical marijuana needs to be produced in a highly controlled environment. While greenhouse technology is evolving, commercial grow rooms are still the gold standard for cultivating medical marijuana. If this has peaked your interest in greenhouse technology, we urge you to check out our cannabis greenhouse design services.

indoor commercial grow rooms share design features with indoor personal weed grows

Personal Grow Rooms vs Setting Up a Commercial Grow Room

Many of the same principles found in personal grow rooms are scaled up to create commercial grow rooms. Commercial grow room can be set up with soil or hydroponic cannabis growing systems. They also utilize similar design features like ventilation, reflective walls (or titanium white paint), automated lighting, and avoiding porous materials.

In a commercial grow room, all of these design features need to be scaled up to work in a manufacturing setting. In increasing the scale, there is a need to conserve more resources and utilize more automation. While personal grows (where legal) often utilize grow tents like the one pictured above, commercial cannabis grow rooms need to be much more durable and energy efficient. Custom built commercial grow rooms are usually the best way to maximize the efficiency of a site.

Commercial Cannabis Grow Room Design

How you design and set up a commercial grow room is just as important as what you put inside it. Facility designs need to keep workflow in mind and have a forward moving layout. Within that layout there will need to be security features, separated spaces, and measures to reduce contamination.

Commercial Cannabis Grow Room Features

Even if you are growing the highest yielding indoor strain, you will still need to make sure it has the right indoor environment to grow in. When setting up a commercial grow room, you will have to consider the types of lighting, irrigation, and ventilation that will be used. It is also important to think about how those features can be automated to optimize efficiency and reduce labor.

The right policy and profit metric is $/μmols not $/watts.

Lighting for Setting Up a Commercial Grow Room

Double-ended high pressure sodium (HPS) lights have long been believed to be the best cannabis grow light for flowering. Researcher James Eaves and his team (The Profitability of Growing Cannabis Under High Intensity Light, 2019) estimate that 90% of Canadian cannabis growers are using HPS lights. While only 62% of growers through all of North America are using HPS, 85% of them use lights with the same or less intensity than HPS lights.

LED lights have come down in cost while increasing in quality, making them more desirable to the cannabis community. Eaves estimates that LED lights use 40% less energy than HPS lighting, making them desirable for setting up a commercial grow room.

When it comes to measuring lighting efficiency, Evans says, "The right policy and profit metric is $/μmols not $/watts." Many growers will compare the dollars per watt that cannabis lighting systems cost. This is important to know because Canadian incentive programs want to know facilities are reducing their total watts used. For financially comparing the efficiency of a light it is more effective to focus on μmols than watts though.

Double Ended HPS

  • Fixtures costs around $700 CAD (bulk)
  • Draws around 1,060 watts

General-Purpose LED

  • Light cost around $900 CAD (bulk)
  • Draws around 960 watts
    commercial grow room cannabis lighting LED vs HPS

    Surprisingly, LED lights are more efficient in the way they direct light. While the watts consumed aren't much different from an HPS, Evans found that he could produce about 0.77 grams of cannabis per watt with LED compared to just 0.35 grams per watt for the HPS.

    How is this possible?

    • LEDs direct photons so more hit the plants versus the walls and floor
    • Since LEDs emits far less heat, they can be places much closer to the plants
    • Lower cost of producing each μmol of light

      Irrigation for Setting Up a Commercial Grow Room

      There are many methods for irrigating cannabis, but for commercial grow rooms that are not using hydroponic systems, drip irrigation is generally a good choice.

      Drip lines are flexible and can easily be set up on timers. They conserve water better than hand watering and significantly reduce the need for labor. Another benefit of drip irrigation is that (when installed properly) drip irrigation will make sure cannabis plants are watered evenly.

      Managing a Cannabis Commercial Grow Room

      Cultivation software is the ideal way to enable highly efficient commercial grow room management. Cannabis cultivation software also helps cultivators meet their legal requirements for tracking plants from seed to sale.

      GrowerIQ's cannabis cultivation software also offers features that provide metrics based cultivation insights along with automation integrations. The most unique feature GrowerIQ cultivation software offers is its master grower inspired AI. This computing ability can detect cultivation trends that may not be seen where human eyes would tend to look.

      Find Out More

      Let's discuss your project and how GrowerIQ cannabis consulting services can help with your facility design. Find out more on our Seed for Success program overview.

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