Cannabis has been a booming industry for the past few years, with legal cannabis sales reaching $6.7 billion in 2018. However, the industry faces its share of challenges, including high crop loss due to pests and disease.
The hemp processing magazine is a publication that provides information on how to avoid cannabis crop loss.
Because of the high market value of the crop, crop loss has a particularly negative effect on cannabis companies. Due to the significant potential value risk, growers must examine their operational systems, facility architecture, and best practices for their environment with great attention.
The Resource Innovation Institute is a non-profit organization dedicated to making the world a better place for everyone. Our group of members represents a cross-section of the industry, bringing together architects and engineers, growers and operators, researchers and analysts. We measure, validate, and celebrate the most efficient agricultural innovations in the world as a group. The Technical Director of RII and members of the organization’s Technical Advisory Council working groups discuss the underlying causes of crop loss and effective methods for preventing crop deterioration in this article.
Profit Loss Is Crop Loss
Crop loss in cannabis happens mainly when farmers are unable or unwilling to manage the environment in order to meet the requirements of a delicate crop. Environmental concerns may cause a slew of insect and disease problems, degrading crop quality and even resulting in crop loss.
Crop deterioration may take various forms. Plants are not reaching their full potential when days of biomass production are lost owing to poor greenhouse conditions.
Crop loss is a term used to indicate variations in productivity seen in final yields or anticipated productivity rates by farmers.
Cannabis cultivators keep a careful eye on crop quality. It may take more than a year to set up a facility, and getting to the first harvest is essential for companies to recover their expenditures. Growers that are forward-thinking guarantee that their systems can maintain the required environmental conditions for their plants to attain optimum crop quality and optimize earnings quicker.
It is suggested that companies undertake an overall study of the current hierarchical structure of their people, processes, and systems as they build facilities and strive to continually improve profitability. Overall crop loss or deterioration can usually be traced back to a deficit in one of these three categories, as we explain in this article.
Business executives must consider the following questions:
- Are we working with the appropriate people?
- Do we have all of the necessary procedures in place?
- Do we have the proper systems in place?
If any of these three make a crucial mistake, a full crop cycle may be lost – whether it’s one table, one room, or an entire greenhouse’s worth of produce.
Crop Loss: The Root Causes
Keep an eye on the following factors that contribute to crop deterioration in greenhouses:
- Examine the capacity and capabilities of your system. Many cannabis businesses utilize greenhouses that were previously used to produce other crops or use other growing methods. This implies that systems may not be scaled properly for the new configuration with a fresh crop’s environmental management. This may result in crop deterioration and loss since production rates might drop if target environmental conditions aren’t maintained because equipment isn’t up to the task. Engage a competent greenhouse design team with experience in controlled environment greenhouses and knowledge applicable to your area and climate when retrofitting greenhouses.
- Knowing when your system was last commissioned is important. Cannabis growers may begin growing before fully testing mission-critical greenhouse equipment as part of their production ramp-up. Equipment may not be performing to its maximum capacity, even though systems were correctly planned. Commissioning operations ensure that systems in facilities operate as designed as effectively as possible, lowering operating and maintenance costs. Check system design versus actual performance while commissioning greenhouse environmental controls and building envelope systems. Test your environmental control systems’ capacity to meet and sustain your goals over time. Identify and prepare methods to optimize and/or enhance output by more effectively utilizing equipment, as well as capital investments. Operators should be trained to ensure that facility personnel understand how the various modes of cooling and ventilation are staged to meet environmental control goals. Energy screens, shade cloths, vents, fans, and cooling and heating systems are only some of the environmental control systems used in greenhouses. Temperature and humidity may be controlled using specialist equipment in cannabis greenhouses. Depending on the location and infrastructure of the institution, certain systems may need to be utilized differently.
- Keep an eye on equipment performance trends. The performance of greenhouse systems may decrease with time, leading in lower crop quality and production. Equipment failures, whether minor or complete, result in poor environmental upkeep, resulting in production loss or pest/pathogen problems. Determine a solid story for how backup equipment should be staged to respond when main equipment fails during the design phase. Sensor data can identify poor performance or malfunctioning environmental control equipment in your facilities before it causes problems. Other business objectives, like as testing and reporting for regulatory compliance, may benefit from sensor data.
- Set standard operational best practices for environmental management and stick to them. Provide explicit procedures to your employees to help them avoid crop damage. Here are a few examples:
- Biological control methods, such as cleaning tables after harvest
- Personnel protocols, such as decontaminating before entering or exiting growing areas and shutting doors to prevent pests and diseases from entering.
- Hygiene protocols to produce clean rooms, clean floors, and clean hands
- Protocols for sticking to timetables, such as processes that must be performed at certain times or on a regular basis.
Keeping Productivity Up
How your business evaluates production, establishes objectives, and monitors progress may help you take action to prevent crop loss. Determine your desired production level and what constitutes a reasonable departure from it. Crop deterioration caused by poor growth conditions may result in a loss of 0.5 to 1 gram per square foot per day for certain commercial cannabis producers (varies depending on facility setup).
Revenue is lost when production is lost. When productivity drops, your staff will have to work longer hours to get the same results, resulting in reduced profits. The amount of time your people spend with plants determines the bottom line for cannabis production. Streamline your operations by optimizing your systems and processes:
- System and equipment maintenance should be done on a regular basis to keep your facility operating properly.
- Regular process improvement efforts will guarantee that you are not just correcting course as necessary, but that your procedures stay relevant and up to date over time.
- Regular reviews of staff performance metrics and occasional check-ins with teams may offer management piece of mind that their operations are operating well and that crop loss and degradation risks are minimized.
Treat greenhouses as if they were operating systems. Make forecasts, gather data, and build feedback loops throughout the beginning phase. Tuning the whole system during the initial operations phase is a part of the horticulture commissioning procedure. As the facility fills with plants, keep a close eye on the plant environment and environmental control systems as they are put to the test with actual plants. Making changes long before the crop is damaged pays off.
Check fan settings at various periods throughout the crop cycle, for example. The size and form of the canopy in many greenhouse operations is very variable. At various crop heights, this results in varied airflow patterns. Instead of allowing plants in one location to become deficient over time, use widespread climate sensors to detect airflow, trend and monitor data, and adjust microclimates within the first few cycles of operations.
Using Data to Prove Performance
Create benchmarks using historical data to successfully reduce agricultural deterioration and prevent crop loss. Isolate times of good system performance to create a picture of a healthy facility that may be used for troubleshooting later. If the system is functioning well, this information may be utilized to assist identify trends and issues that may arise later. Consider using RII’s Cannabis PowerScore resource benchmarking tool to obtain free and private comparative performance rankings of your facility’s key performance indicators (KPIs) for energy, water, and emissions, including as solid waste and CO2e emissions (measuring carbon associated with energy use).
Energy efficiency is one of the KPIs evaluated by PowerScore: energy consumption per unit of canopy area (for example, kBtu per square foot of flowering canopy). Consult historical benchmarks if evidence indicates that energy-consuming systems are utilizing more power than you believe they should. You may compare present energy consumption to that of your benchmark dataset, limited to a time in the past with comparable climatic and operating circumstances, by looking back at a batch of effective performance data.
Using the data your team can successfully collect, analyze data to meet desired production objectives. To evaluate the effects of changes in productivity rates, link yield statistics to resource consumption or quality attributes. For example, although yield may have risen, inputs have often increased as well. The Resource Productivity PowerScore KPI evaluates the amount of biomass generated per unit of resource (for example, grams of dry cannabis flower per gallon of energy). Recognize the inputs required to get the desired results. Electricity, gas, water, and fertilizers must all be considered in the context of the farm’s overall economic requirements. Benchmarking allows you to separate cause and effect in a complicated agricultural system.
In a market that is always changing while simultaneously getting more saturated, it is more important than ever to optimize our output via farm system improvements. Everything from the plants to the environment to the people and procedures created is included in the farm systems. The farm system is not functioning properly if no one knows how much an input contributes to a particular output.
The mjbizdaily is a blog from MJBizDaily that discusses how to avoid cannabis crop loss in cultivation.
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