If you plan to start a cannabis grow operation, you probably want to learn about the various types of greenhouses available. It’s not always an easy question to answer. What are the types of greenhouses? They often vary by size, shape, and material.
Some greenhouses have high ceilings that make them look like buildings. Others have low ceilings that make them look like extremely wide tents.
The following article will help you answer “what are the types of greenhouses?” for commercial cannabis growing operations. After a discussion of greenhouse options, you will learn about some of the systems and equipment that can make your cannabis grow operation even more successful.
Things to Consider Before You Start Exploring Greenhouses
Before you spend a lot of time comparing types of greenhouses, ask some questions that will help you choose the right greenhouse structure and material for your grow operations.
Some of the most important questions include:
- Do you plan to grow your cannabis plants in the ground, pots, flats, beds, or hydroponic troughs?
- What type of growing media do you plan to use, such as soil, compost, nutrient solutions, or soilless mixes?
- Do you want to grow cannabis during specific seasons or throughout the year?
- What is your annual production goal?
- How much investment capital do you have to spend on your cannabis greenhouse?
You may not know the answer to every question just yet. That’s okay. Schedule a meeting with an environmental services professional to talk about how your approach to cultivation will influence your decision. You may find, for example, that it makes more sense for you to grow potted plants in high-quality dirt and nutritional supplements. Then again, a hydroponic system might help you reach your goals more easily.
You can also schedule a meeting with an architect or designer to talk about the structures, materials, systems, and amount of space you need for your business plan to reach its goals.
The Basic Types of Commercial Greenhouse Structures
Hypothetically, you can hire a greenhouse company to build practically any shape or size. A small number of options, however, have stood the test of time. While you might want to explore customizations, you will probably want to choose one of the following basic types of commercial greenhouses.
Quonset (Hoop) Greenhouses
You have almost certainly seen this type of greenhouse before. Many people have miniature versions in their backyards and on hobby farms.
With a Quonset — or hoop — greenhouse, you get a long, fairly narrow structure. Hoop greenhouses have arched structures because they rely on bent poles for support. More often than not, you can expect to cover the hoops with a plastic film that captures sunlight and retains heat.
Venlo greenhouses offer excellent flexibility to meet the needs of cannabis in a variety of regions. Many cultivators choose Venlow greenhouses because they cover large areas, which means they can accommodate more plants.
Rooftop ventilation attracts a lot of cannabis entrepreneurs to this style of greenhouse. Some designs have air vents built into the roofs. You can adjust the vents to control how much air flows into your cultivation area. Controlling the air ventilation helps you maintain an appropriate temperature for your cannabis strains.
Other versions of Venlo greenhouses let you open the roof completely, which comes in handy on sunny days with near-perfect outdoor temperatures.
Greenhouse designers and builders usually let you customize your Venlo so you:
- Save money by harvesting sunlight and airflow.
- Can choose between glass, film, and polycarbonate cladding.
- Improve growing factors in hot regions.
- Get a greenhouse that’s correctly sized for the number of plants you want to grow.
Talk to a greenhouse architect or designer to get the specific features that will improve your crop yield and health while helping you control overhead costs.
Gutter-connected greenhouses look more like a row of transparent townhouses. They have triangular ceilings that collect water. When it rains, the water runs down the roofs into gutters that supply the greenhouse with the moisture necessary to grow healthy plants.
Gutter-connected greenhouses do not usually have curved designs like hoop greenhouses. They’re much more rigid. Because of this, you can expect to cover the greenhouse in panels. The panels provide similar services as transparent plastic — they collect sunlight and heat.
The Pros and Cons of Different Greenhouse Structures and Materials
All types of greenhouses have pros and cons. However, one will likely match your cultivation and propagation needs better than others.
Hoop Greenhouses Pros and Cons
Cannabis growers who choose hoop greenhouses usually want to grow plants directly in the ground, although some prefer to grow plants in pots and flats.
Pros of Hoop Greenhouses
- Hoop greenhouses usually have affordable prices because they do not rely on expensive materials and are relatively easy to install.
- Farmers can erect them to extend their growing seasons while exposing plants to natural sunlight and wind during the optimal growing time.
- You can move a hoop greenhouse if you decide to relocate to a new farm.
- Temperature control often involves little more than turning on fans or heaters that blow air through the tunnel.
Cons of Hoop Greenhouses
- The plastic used to cover hoop greenhouses can get damaged rather easily by strong storms, so you might find yourself repairing or replacing parts every few years.
- The hoop structure can minimize the amount of room you have on the sides of your greenhouse, which can feel like a waste of cultivation space.
- Plastic coverings don’t offer as much protection from animals, pests, and disease as greenhouse panels (although they certainly work better than nothing!).
Gutter-Connected Greenhouses Pros and Cons
If you have visited recent cannabis greenhouses, you have probably seen gutter-connected designs that look like large, semi-transparent buildings. Large cannabis companies tend to prefer gutter-connected greenhouses, especially when they operate in urban or suburban green zones.
Pros of Gutter-Connected Greenhouses
- The panels you choose for your greenhouse can capture specific light spectrums to improve cannabis growth.
- The panels tend to last longer than plastic coverings, although an intense hail storm could damage them enough that they need replacement.
- The gutters capture water, which you can potentially use on your crops.
- You gain more control over the interior environment, but you will have to invest in systems for temperature, humidity, and other factors.
- Gutter-connected greenhouses provide increased security and better protection from pests that want to nibble your plants.
Cons of Gutter-Connected Greenhouses
- You will pay more for the design, materials, and construction of a gutter-connected greenhouse.
- Gutter-connected greenhouses are stationary, so don’t expect to move them.
- Panels don’t break often, but they cost a lot to replace when it happens.
Features and Systems You Should Look for When Comparing Cannabis Greenhouses
Whether you choose a hoop greenhouse or a gutter-connected greenhouse, the option will probably work well for your adult cannabis plants. As long as the plants get enough water and light, they will grow.
You will, however, probably need more than water and sunlight to take your cannabis from a seed to a product consumers want to buy. That’s why you need to look for other features and systems when choosing a greenhouse.
You might not find all of the below features necessary for your cannabis greenhouse. Still, you should know about their benefits. Whether you decide to use them is up to you.
You can germinate your cannabis seeds inside your greenhouse. You will get better results, though, by germinating seeds in a controlled environment. A germination room or chamber should have the heating and fog system you need to get every seed started right. By controlling all of the variables, you should see faster germination times and healthier seedlings that will eventually grow wonderful flowers.
A greenhouse can only do its job well when your area has abundant sunlight. What happens when you experience a prolonged period of cloudiness or storms? Even a few days of cloudy weather could stunt your plants’ growth and throw off your schedule.
Supplemental lighting ensures that you always have the appropriate amount of light to keep your plants on track. You don’t need nearly as many lights as someone with a warehouse grow operation, but you should — at the very least — have some LED lights for days when the sun can’t energize your cannabis plants.
Obviously, your plants need water to thrive. Too much water, however, is just as deadly as too little water. A drip irrigation system should deliver the appropriate amount of moisture to your cannabis plants. In most cases, that’s a third of a gallon per square foot per day. Factors like temperature and soil can affect how much water your crops need, though, so make sure you check your system frequently for optimum delivery.
The quality of your greenhouse’s water can also affect your crops. Hire a professional to test your location’s water before you start your grow operation. Have them pay particular attention to pH levels, suspended sediments, hardness, electrical conductivity, and dissolved solids.
All water supplies contain some impurities, so you need to take this seriously if you harvest and use rainwater. Municipal water supplies can also contain chemicals that have adverse effects on plant growth. You wouldn’t mind using your municipal water to grow tomatoes in your backyard, but you might not want to rely on it to water your cannabis crops.
If the test reveals any concerns, invest in a water purification system that will help deliver clean water to your plants.
All plants need nutrients to grow and flower. Current research shows that cannabis plants likely benefit from soil — or hydroponic water sources — rich in the macronutrients phosphorus, nitrogen, and potassium.
Studies also show that some micronutrients might also improve cannabis health and flowering. Critical micronutrients include calcium, magnesium, and sulfur.
When exploring fertilizers, look for options that include these nutrients. While there isn’t definitive research showing the benefits of boron, copper, iron, chlorine, zinc, molybdenum, and manganese, anecdotal evidence encourages using them.
When in doubt, talk to a horticulturist who specializes in cannabis plants.
During some parts of the year, your greenhouse may become too chilly to grow cannabis. Install a heating system to control the temperature. Most experts recommend hot water heating systems that provide ambient heat throughout the greenhouse. Heaters that radiate heat from a specific point may not heat the entire greenhouse. They could also burn plants near their heat sources.
Excessive heat can stunt cannabis growth, so greenhouses in many areas should have cooling systems installed. Often, this just means installing fans that can circulate the air and maintain an even temperature throughout the interior. Many experts recommend horizontal airflow systems that circulate air from the floor to the ceiling.
High winds outside the greenhouse can affect the greenhouse’s interior environment. Areas that might experience high winds should use shelterbelts that slow the air’s movement.
Your grow operation will need storage space that serves a variety of tasks, including storing chemicals and equipment, curing cannabis flowers, and separating dangerous items from agricultural items.
Storage often exists as a building separate from the greenhouse. This makes sense because it typically costs less money to construct one or more small buildings than to add storage space to a greenhouse. Ideally, every square foot of your greenhouse should serve a role in cannabis production.
You need a place to conduct business and store records, such as your license to cultivate cannabis. Again, you do not want to waste space inside your greenhouse for office areas. You can either construct a separate building or use the same building where you store equipment.
A decently sized parking lot might not sound like an important part of your greenhouse. Just wait until you need to accept numerous shipments of soil, fertilizer, and equipment on the same day.
Build your greenhouse in a location that lets you add a parking lot where you can load and unload items easily. You also need to provide a place for your employees to park.
Outdoor Production Areas
Keeping in line with the idea that you should devote greenhouse space to growing cannabis, it makes sense to build outdoor production areas where employees can trim, package, weigh, and label cannabis products before shipping them to retailers.
Why Would You Choose a Greenhouse Over a Farm or Warehouse Growing Operation?
A greenhouse lets you extend your growing season, but you can do the same with a warehouse-based indoor grow operation. Why would a cannabis cultivator choose a greenhouse over a farm or warehouse operation?
Cannabis Greenhouse vs. Cannabis Farms
In some cases, cannabis greenhouses exist alongside cannabis farms. A greenhouse, however, has some advantages that you don’t get from farmland. Some of the reasons businesses choose greenhouses over standard farmland include:
- Extended growing seasons that let them germinate seeds earlier and keep growing plants later — depending on your location, a greenhouse may even let you grow cannabis throughout the year.
- More control over the growing environment. Standard farming works well for most crops, but you wouldn’t take the same risk when growing cannabis as you would when growing soybeans or corn. A greenhouse gives you more control over your growing environment’s temperature, humidity, moisture, lighting, and soil to help ensure a healthy crop.
- Better security. You can erect a heavy-duty fence around a farm, but that will cost a lot of money and you still won’t keep out all the pests that want to eat your crops. You might not even keep out the deer. A greenhouse gives you greater security from harm done by insects, animals, and criminals.
Cannabis Greenhouse vs. Warehouse Grow Operations
You can potentially save a lot of money by choosing a greenhouse over a warehouse grow operation. A greenhouse lets your plants get nutrients and energy directly from the sun. You might need to spend money on irrigation, but sunlight doesn’t cost anything.
In a warehouse, you need to supply every aspect of your plant’s needs, including water, nutrients, and artificial sunlight. You can easily spend $1,000 on commercial lighting for just a few plants. Then, you have to pay for the energy it takes to run the commercial lighting. The costs add up quickly.
If the costs were equal, most people would prefer warehouse grow operations since warehouses provide greater control and security. A warehouse costs so much more, though, that it often makes sense for businesses to build greenhouses.
How Much Should You Expect to Spend on a Commercial Greenhouse?
Given how many decisions you can make before having someone build your greenhouse, it’s not surprising that costs vary considerably. The amount of money you spend relies heavily on things like:
- What type of greenhouse you prefer for growing your cannabis
- Whether you purchase or lease land for your cannabis greenhouse
- The location of the land you buy or lease
- The types of systems you install for watering and feeding plants (manual systems cost much less than automated systems, but they also require much more work on your part)
- The size of your greenhouse
- Whether you plan to hire a horticulturist and other professionals to manage your plants
While it’s impossible to say how much you will spend, most experts say that cannabis entrepreneurs should expect to spend $40 to $50 per square foot on a greenhouse.
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