You have a passion for growing high-quality cannabis that enhances the lives of consumers. That’s the first step toward building a successful business. Any cultivation experiences that you might have had, however, can’t completely prepare you for a commercial grow op setup. The following checklist will help ensure you have all the equipment, supplies, real estate, and professionals you need to cultivate cannabis products your buyers will love!
#1: A Space for Cultivating Your Cannabis Crops
You can’t start your business until you have a location where you can collect all of your supplies and equipment. Having a location could also help you get a cultivation permit from your state (more on that shortly). The question becomes, what kind of property do you need for a commercial grow op setup?
Warehouse Grow Operation Space
An existing warehouse might give you all the room you need for each stage of a plant’s development. Some people think they will get terrific results from a warehouse with one huge room. Technically, you can do that. You could set up a gigantic grow operation in an airplane hangar or similar structure. More often than not, though, successful cultivators choose warehouse grow op spaces with multiple rooms.
Why do you need multiple rooms?
The primary reason is that you don’t want to keep too many plants in the same space. If viruses or pests invade a room, they might spread to all the plants in that area.
By creating several rooms, you establish boundaries that make it difficult for viruses and insects to affect all your plants. You might lose the plants in one room (a tragedy in itself!), but you can protect hundreds of other cannabis plants.
The secondary reason is that you can establish independent spaces for each stage of a plant’s life. This makes it easy for all of your employees to know how they should treat your crops. The plants in the germination room get 16 hours of light each day. The mature plants in the flowering room get 12 hours of light. When you keep plants in designated areas, it becomes much easier for everyone on your staff — including those with limited experience — to care for the cannabis.
Obviously, buying a warehouse will cost quite a bit of money. Some warehouse and industrial spaces in green zones only cost a few hundred thousand dollars. Your business can probably afford to make that investment.
Explore the warehouse and industrial listings for sale on 420 Property to compare your options.
Maybe you’re brand new to the industry and you’re operating on a shoestring budget. In that case, you should consider leasing warehouse or industrial space. You can find plenty of green zone properties for lease on 420 Property.
#2: A Lighting System That Encourages Fast, Healthy Growth
When you grow cannabis on a farm or in a greenhouse, you don’t have to worry about lighting. The sun does the job for you. That’s not the case when it comes to a warehouse grow operation. You need an artificial source of lighting that will encourage fast, healthy growth.
Buying lights is going to cost money. Then, you need to pay for the electricity that runs the light panels or bulbs. The good news is that artificial lights give you control over the light spectrum, so you can potentially grow more cannabis flowers in your warehouse grow operation setup.
You actually want to use two types of lighting when growing cannabis indoors. That’s another reason that it makes sense to choose a warehouse with multiple rooms.
During the vegetative stage of a plant’s development, you want light that encourages the entire plant to grow. You want big leaves that absorb light easily. You want thick stems that will support big buds.
At this stage of growth, choose lights between 400 and 500 nm (scientists measure light wavelengths in nanometers, but you don’t need to worry about the details of how it all works). You won’t believe how much more quickly your cannabis plants grow under those lights than they do outside in the sunlight.
Once your plants start to flower, you want to switch to lights in the 620 to 780 nm range. This “warmer” range of the spectrum will encourage your plants to direct more of their energy to growing flowers instead of adding to their height.
(The science behind using the 620 to 780 nm light range for growing larger buds is actually pretty interesting. Typically, cannabis growing outdoors will flower during late summer. At this time of year, more sunlight gets filtered through the planet’s atmosphere. The plants have evolved to recognize this light range to mean that it’s time to reproduce before temperatures fall.)
#3: An Irrigation System for the Perfect Amount of Moisture
You have to love how much control a good commercial grow op setup gives you. Outdoor farms often have to deal with periods of too much and too little rain. Your plants are practically downing for half the time and parched the other half. A warehouse grow setup with a reliable irrigation system lets you give plants the perfect amount of moisture.
You have a few options when choosing irrigation systems. Honestly, any of them can get the job done. The one you choose depends more on how much money you can spend and how much work you want to do.
Drip Irrigation Systems
Drip irrigation systems are tubes that connect to all of your planting pots. Some of them hang above the pots, and some of them rest along the substrate. (Fickle cultivators may tell you to choose a system that’s as close to the substrate as possible. Reducing the amount of moisture on your plant might lower your risk of fungus. Sometimes a little fickleness is a good thing.)
When you want to water your plants, you connect the tube to your water supply and turn it on. When the plants have received enough moisture, you turn it off. That’s it.
Automatic Irrigation Systems
If you want to save time, give plants the perfect amount of water, and don’t mind spending more money, you can choose an automatic irrigation system. This type of system uses sensors to measure the amount of moisture in the substrate. When the level gets low enough, it delivers water to your plants. Once the levels look correct, it turns off the water. It really couldn’t get easier than that.
The Necessities of Irrigation
Regardless of what irrigation system you choose, remember that cannabis doesn’t like getting too wet. Standing water can cause mold and fungus. In extreme cases, it can also cause root rot, which will kill your plant. As long as you have moist soil without any standing water, you probably have happy plants!
#4: A Substrate Formulated Specifically for Cannabis
We mentioned substrates above but didn’t get into what it actually is. Generally speaking, the substrate is the material that your cannabis plants grow in. If you grow cannabis outside in the ground, the substrate is “dirt.”
Growers use the word “substrate” instead of dirt because it includes a wider range of options. And it sounds fancy. In all seriousness, though, the type of substrate you choose can have a big influence on your plants.
Some common commercial substrates include mixtures of:
- Coconut fiber
- Tree bark
These ingredients create a porous mixture that helps roots grow deep.
If you want to set up a hydroponic grow operation, you will probably use expanded clay pebbles as your substrate (and water, but that goes without saying).
DIY or Buy?
At this point, you’re probably wondering where to get enough of the right materials for your grow op’s substrate. You have two options. You can either make your own substrate or buy premixed substrate from a commercial supplier.
Any substrate that you buy from a respectable supplier will work well. You just need to call the supplier and talk to the representative. They might choose a specific option for you depending on the strain you grow, the temperature of your rooms, and other factors. It’s a complicated science, and they know what they’re talking about.
As you gain experience as a cultivator, you might want to experiment with mixing your own substrates. That’s perfectly fine. The internet offers endless recipes that will tell you how much of each material to include in the mix. The DIY approach can be fun, and you might discover that you get better results from a proprietary blend. Don’t expect your homemade substrate to outperform commercial options, though, until you’ve done a lot of research and testing.
For now, just buy from a supplier with a reputation for excellent products and strong customer service.
#5: Cleaning and Sterilization Supplies
Far too many new cannabis cultivators forget to put cleaning and sterilization supplies on their grow operation setup checklists.
Disease is your enemy. It’s also cannabis’s enemy. Unfortunately, many viruses, such as cucumber mosaic virus and alfalfa mosaic virus, will quickly kill your plants. You can literally lose months of work within a couple of days. It’s a heartbreaking experience for everyone who helped grow the plants. Of course, it’s most heartbreaking for the business owner who faces significant financial loss and missed opportunities to build relationships with distributors.
Nearly all of the viruses that damage or kill cannabis get spread by contact. Giving your plants a few extra inches of space will help reduce the risk of disease. Realistically, though, that’s not how the viruses spread. They spread with help from humans.
Let’s say you use your pruning shears to snip off some leaves that a plant doesn’t need. You don’t know it, but that plant has a deadly virus. Then, you spot a cannabis plant on the other side of the room that could also use a good trim. If you don’t sterilize your pruning shears between plants, you will spread the virus to every plant you work on.
You can even spread viruses with your hands. It’s a great joy to run your hands through cannabis leaves. It’s so tempting to touch a sticky bud and get your nose as close as possible so you can breathe in the bouquet. You should enjoy the cannabis you grow. It’s a beautiful plant that enhances pleasure all over the world! After you touch a plant, though, you need to sterilize your hands. Otherwise, you could kill the very organisms that you love.
Products That Really Kill Viruses
If you hang out with friends who like to grow a few plants for personal use, you probably hear all kinds of opinions about how you should sterilize equipment to kill viruses.
For some reason, pine oil has become a trendy way to clean gardening tools. Pine oil is great for some things, but you would have to soak your tools in it for half an hour to kill pathogens. Even then, you might not kill them all. In other words, don’t use pine oil.
Cleaners that work include:
- Bleach (use one part bleach to nine parts water)
- Isopropyl alcohol (no diluting required)
These are your two best options. Each has good and bad things about it. Luckily, they’re both very inexpensive.
The problem with bleach is that you have to soak your tools for about half an hour to make sure you kill all pathogens. You can practically eliminate this problem by mixing a bucket of bleach water in the morning and placing your tools in the bucket after use. Hang them up to dry at the end of the day (or at any point of the day when you know you will not use the tools for at least half an hour).
Isopropyl alcohol is awesome because you don’t have to wait. It kills pathogens on contact. Put a spray bottle of it in each room. A couple of squirts will clean your tools within seconds, making your cultivation work more efficient.
What’s the downside to isopropyl alcohol? It has a pretty obnoxious odor. Depending on your sensitivity, it could cause a burning sensation in your nose and eyes. It works well, but it’s also annoying to work with.
#6: Racks for Your Plants
Hypothetically, you could grow your plants on the floor. Expect significant back pain by the end of your shift, though.
Realistically, you need racks that will hold your plants at a convenient height. If you want to maximize your grow operation setup, you can even use tiered racks. Take advantage of a room’s high ceiling to add more racks and grow more plants in the same room.
As you look into your racking options, you will find some high-tech designs that maximize space incredibly well. Have you ever been to a library that keeps all of its bookcases pressed against each other? You have to mechanically move the cases to find the book you want. That’s the kind of system that will really help you grow more plants in a small space. Expect to pay a premium for it, though!
#7: Safety Equipment for Workers
This is another group of items that gets left off of too many checklists. We think of cannabis as a friendly plant that eases pain and makes us feel good. Your opinion might change after you spend a few hours trimming buds.
The sticky resin that coats cannabis flowers can irritate skin terribly.
Make sure your team members have all the safety equipment they need to prevent injuries. Gloves are just the start. Since your employees probably work with fertilizers and other chemicals, you should also give them access to eye washing stations, goggles, and full-body coverings.
#8: Ventilation and Humidity Control
Cannabis likes a little humidity. It seems to love a cool breeze. You know what it hates? Chemical fumes that slowly accumulate in your grow rooms!
Ventilation and humidity control systems will solve these issues and keep your plants happy. The type you buy really depends on the size of your operation. A small room might only need a few fans. A multi-room commercial operation probably needs a full ventilation system.
Connect to Professionals on 420 Property for Grow Operation Setup Advice
At 420 Property, we do more than help you find real estate for cannabis cultivation and selling. Browse our list of professionals to find someone who can give you expert advice about setting up your commercial grow operation. Spend a little money on professional guidance so you can make more money selling your cannabis crop. It’s not a hard decision!
Find your next property today!