There’s a classic Simpsons bit in ‘Treehouse of Horrors VI’ when Homer steps into another galaxy where he discovers that this theoretical ‘third dimension’ is genuine. Seeing the planet in all three directions predictably befuddles him, and hilarity ensues.
However, even just in this strange 3-D realm Homer would feel right in your own home had he happened upon one of today’s great monuments to your 2-D world: the mega-indoor cultivation facility. In here, it would appear that the thought of exploiting an entire amount of space to drive down production costs is not any match for that my-square-footage-is-bigger objective of sprawling, resource-hungry cannabis cathedrals.
Monuments to ego aside, cannabis cultivation equipment is really a cold and heartless numbers game. Regardless of how big or small your operation, those that can produce more at a discount will win. It’s time we re-imagine how indoor cultivation can remain cost-competitive; maybe it’s time and energy to Become Adults and take into account the merits of vertical cultivation.
Growing plants vertically supplies a solution with potentially several fundamental advantages for cultivators. For instance, given the same footprint it offers increased plant yields and revenue generation, while decreasing energy/water consumption by several factors, over traditional horizontal cultivation. [Vertical cultivation often uses gravity-fed hydroponic systems but may be modified for soil.]
To get clear, the word ‘vertical cultivation’ in this particular context does not necessarily mean stacking horizontal grow trays along with the other person, using the plant canopy growing towards (perpendicular) the lights. Instead, imagine having a horizontal grow and flipping it, along with its light source, 90 degrees so the plants grow upward and parallel to the light.
The idea of vertical cultivation may not be an easy one to visualize, so a basic analogy is the distinction between a magazine over a table vs. one in a bookshelf. If you think about the book’s cover its ‘canopy’ it looks like horizontal growing when lying flat, but vertical cultivation when standing upright. Although it may look like a small difference in orientation, the result of cultivating in three dimensions on overall cost efficiency is profound.
Let’s see just what the numbers look like if you decide to exploit the whole level of space with vertical cultivation, using the scenario above as our baseline comparison.
First, we take the existing grow (i.e. the ‘book’ resting) and stand it. Just by doing that one could now grow canopies on sides (think of the book’s front and back covers). Instantly, we’ve doubled our original capacity and we’re just getting started!
Next, we face LED lights (of similar PAR intensity as HPS) parallel towards the canopy and then carry out the same on the other side, just as if two flashlights were pointed in the front and back covers of the book on the shelf. Why LED over HPS? Primarily because LED allows the canopy to grow nearer to the light without damaging the plants, and does so at a lower price operating costs.
Now, assume three feet spacing in one light for the other, with all the canopies in between. Then, take the entire configuration and repeat it 4 times to fill up the area. Taken at face value, the development and efficiency features of vertical cultivation over horizontal growing are clear, even when LED produces less yield/light. The fantastic news is, the thought continues to be put gcpsfm practice as well as the real-world results hew closely for the hypothetical situation above.
In fairness, adopting LED technology currently requires substantially more capital investment than HPS. But, on balance, any additional upfront costs of LED are far outweighed as time passes by their ability to operate down operating costs while increasing production efficiency.