Consider Your Options With Greenhouse Cannabis Production

Laura Drotleff I’ve been thinking a lot about Cannabis.

But wait, there’s more!

All jokes aside, Cannabis is certainly a crop that comes fraught with controversy. Over the past few months, while we have been learning and reporting about the federal legality issues, financial risks and considerations and even the work and expense that goes into the application process to obtain a license to produce this crop, we have tried to remain as objective as possible.

We’re not advocating that you produce Cannabis, nor are we opposing your choice to consider this crop as a future direction for your operation. Our goal in publishing eNewsletters and the print report found in the pages of the October issue of Greenhouse Grower, is simply to inform you of what production of this crop would include, from the challenges and risks to the opportunities.

And no matter how you feel about the issue, as a business person involved in a market that continues to fluctuate, it’s smart to consider your options. In Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 State Of The Industry survey, 78 percent of growers said they did not plan to pursue growing Cannabis, while 20 percent said they would watch what happens and consider growing it over the next few years and 2 percent said they would go after certification this year.

There’s still a lot we don’t know about the Cannabis space, including whether it’s even possible for greenhouse growers to realistically take it on as a crop, especially considering what will happen when or if federal legalization occurs and large corporations throw their proverbial hats into the ring. Here are some other considerations.

Financing and legalities. Solstice, a Cannabis grower in Washington state, is among the 0.5 percent of businesses that have a bank willing to offer deposit services to the Cannabis industry. Consider, on top of that uncertainty, that Cannabis is an uninsurable crop, and the owners are still subject to federal laws, despite producing in a state where Cannabis is legalized.

Crop protection challenges. No federal support means no federal approval for crop protection agents, so growers are approaching Cannabis in their own way, with integrated pest management. But that’s not always the case, according to a June report on NPR.cannabis

“In the absence of any direction, the subject of pesticide use on the crop has just devolved to whatever people think is working or they think is appropriate,” said Colorado State University Entomologist Whitney Cranshaw in the NPR report. “Sometimes they’ve used some things that are appropriate, sometimes unsafe.”

Greenhouse versus warehouse. The debate rages on over whether greenhouses or warehouses are the best-suited structures in which to grow Cannabis crops. Proponents of greenhouse production say the natural light and environmental controls that greenhouses afford provide cost savings and improved plant quality. Meanwhile some cultivators, who have grown used to producing in private warehouses due to security and legality issues, maintain that warehouses are ideal for Cannabis production.

Traceability and security. What level of regulation will you be subjected to and how measured will the trace-back be, from the plant to processed goods, and everything in between? Cannabis production will likely require investment in traceability technology that’s a blend of growing and production ERP systems and pharmaceutical tracking software.

Production versus processing. Will growers be required to also be Cannabis retailers and processors, or can they leave out that part of the equation to focus on production?

In the end, Cannabis is just another crop — a plant is a plant is a plant, growers have told us. It’s not about production but how to get there that’s in the realm of the unknown. Read our Cannabis Decisions report in the October issue for analysis of the legal and financial issues, grower profiles and more. Meanwhile, we’ll continue to communicate with you and others to report what we find as we learn more about the Cannabis market, together.

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