Take Your Cannabis Operation to the Next Level
When you take a long-term approach to planning, budgeting and equipping an indoor growing operation, you build more efficiency – and profits – into it.
by Michael Kovalycsik, National Sales & Marketing Director, Delta T Solutions
Cannabis is a unique product, but successfully and profitably growing it is very much a business. To succeed and achieve maximum profitability, the operation has to be efficient. To be efficient, the owners need to plan carefully, budget appropriately and rely on experts for guidance. This is especially true for growing cannabis indoors.
“Professional growers need to realize that growing in a 20,000-square-foot warehouse is not the same as growing in your father’s basement,” advises Ron Berkhout, Sales, VRE Systems, Grassie, Ontario, Canada. “I advise growers who are starting out take a long-term, rather than short-term approach. This means talking to experts – lots of them!”
He recommends growers carefully consider the following steps to develop a sound business plan and make sure their indoor growing operation gets off on the right foot.
1. Select the right strain to grow for your market — then specialize
“Depending on where your operation is located, there are different regulations on growing,” he says. “For instance, some states may regulate the operation by plant count or canopy space. This affects the operation.”
Berkhout also stresses that different cannabis strains require different growing techniques and equipment. “The best operations bridge the gap between cannabis and horticultural growing. I recommend you find a good cannabis growing expert, as well as an experienced horticultural grower who knows how to grow the crop efficiently.”
Then, he advises, “Look around and find a good niche market that will set your product apart. That’s where the real money is.”
2. Expect the unexpected in budgeting
“Many people think they can start out on a shoestring budget, but in my experience over 20 years, that never seems to work out,” notes Berkhout. “It takes more money than you may expect for a startup. If you’re growing 20,000 square feet, you have to be willing to spend a couple million dollars. To do something properly always costs more up front, but it saves money in the long run.”
Consider the use of automated equipment vs. manual labor, he says. Many people think it is cheaper at first to pay for manual labor, but labor is a constant, ongoing cost (and usually the most expensive cost) in the operation. “If you’re in it for the long haul, you’ll realize that while the up-front cost of automated equipment is more, you’ll save money over time when you don’t need as many workers.”
Similarly, he has seen cannabis operations purchase cheap equipment, and then have to spend even more shortly after on more dependable, professional-grade replacements.
3. Find a location that works
Not all locations are created equal. Many areas have numerous regulations regarding cannabis production, security, utility use, renovations and more. It’s imperative to understand how these can affect your operation.
“When you look long-term, you need to ensure you will have enough power, gas, water rights, etc. when you are ready to expand,” he says.
Selecting the right building can be complicated, and Berkhout recommends talking to appropriate local real estate and regulation experts. “If you’re looking into an existing building, you may want to have a structural engineer check it out, and also an electrical engineer (to ensure you get the amperage needed).”
4. Talk to experts, experts, and more experts!
Berkhout explains that his company provides turnkey facilities that are developed by a very experienced team. “When I work with new growers, I ask them if they want a Honda Civic operation, a Porsche operation or a Maserati operation, because each has different options depending on the budget. I tell them to be open-minded and talk to as many experts and vendors as possible so they know what they want and what they can get for their money.”
“The best thing a grower can do is find good experts they can trust: Electrical and structural engineers, horticultural growers, lighting experts, control experts, benching experts and management experts,” he adds.
5. Professionalize your operation
Good equipment is the key to an efficient and profitable growing operation, and it requires investment. Berkhout notes that some equipment can be leased. Efficient growing means faster crop turns and that means more money.
“Equipment is like Legos – you can buy basic and add on from there when you’re ready,” he says. Berkhout recommends basic equipment investments like these will get an indoor growing operation off to a good start:
Retrofitting and renovating for improvements
If you’ve already been growing indoors, you are probably looking for ways to make the operation more efficient and profitable. Retrofitting existing systems and renovating the growing area are two investments that make a huge difference.
Typical retrofits might include adding automated equipment like rolling benches or updating systems like lighting for better performance.
Berkhout recommends that growers focus on key areas of need, then talk with several vendors for ideas, new information and quotes. “Most vendors like us are looking for a long-term partnership and are interested in helping growers move to the next level over time,” he says. “Serious growers learn and think long-term.”
For more information, contact Ron Berkhout at email@example.com or 800-499-4873.
To learn more about creating an environment with proper humidity for cannabis growing, contact Delta T Solutions at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800-552-5058. Delta T Solutions is an expert in high-efficiency heating and cooling for horticulture, cannabis and agriculture applications.
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