Stages and Approaches to Cannabis Cultivation
The variety of ways marijuana plants can be grown indoors is too numerous to document. Every grow room I’ve ever seen has its own style. Watering can be done by hand or with automated systems, with both methods have their pros and cons. Different media are used that vary from completely inert, like rockwool, to completely organic, like soil, to the use of no media at all in a water culture situation. The choice very much depends on the preferences and personalities of the growers.
Water culture systems are complex in terms of managing timers, drippers, and avoiding algae buildup, but they are simple in terms of managing nutrients. And of course they avoid the whole problem of obtaining and disposing of media like soil, which is heavy, costly, and voluminous.
Dirt and soil systems are more forgiving than water culture systems. This means your plants won’t die as fast if watering is somehow unaddressed for a while, and nutrient imbalances won’t show up overnight. With investors in the legal marijuana game now, hand watered coco-fiber based systems are common because they guarantee a financial return of some kind, even with an inexperienced workforce.
Whatever system is chosen, nutrient quantities and pH must be very regularly monitored to maintain optimal levels. During the vegetative stage of growth, imbalances will delay growth, but otherwise have no negative long-term effect. With flowering plants, however, a single day of imbalance will irrevocably damage the potential of the final product due to the fact that the flowering process is on its own countdown clock that continues to tick regardless of the condition of the plants. Put another way, one single minute of imbalance during the flowering process is a minute when the ideal amount of unbridled flowering has been interrupted and cannot be reclaimed.
Cloning marijuana is its own special niche in the industry and requires a more scientific approach to monitoring environmental factors than most flower growers are not accustomed to maintaining. In mechanical terms, the tolerances are tighter for cloning than for flowering. Temperatures and moisture levels of incubating clones must be maintained within very narrow ranges to keep unrooted plants happy while they are switching gears to form new roots.
Mother plants are maintained in a vegetative state that can also serve as the space to get plants ready for flowering. With 18-24 hours a day of light, they will never flower and can be used to provide cuttings as part of the process to prune them into ideal plants for flowering. Some marijuana cultivation businesses divide their clone mothers from their vegetative plants, while other integrate them. At the very least, they can share the same room since they need the same nutrients and lighting conditions.
How to cut the plants for clone production or SCROG flowering systems is a topic almost worthy of its own book because of the complexity involved. Each cut taken from the plant affects the structure and yield of the plant into the following days and weeks. Clone producers must take care to find the ideal number of branches that will fill the canopy without blocking light from lower parts of the plant. This varies wildly from one strain to the next. Indica type plants need time to stretch out before being cut, whereas lanky OG hybrids and Sativas need to be cut back very quickly and intensely in order to encourage a more bushy structure, which is ultimately higher yielding in both cloning and flowering.
Seed production, again, has its own set of rules. This is mainly due to the concern over cross pollination. Unless you are only reproducing one kind of seed, you will need to spend a lot of extra money setting up tents and exhaust fans in order to avoid spreading pollen to the wrong plants. The important point is to have powerful exhaust fans pulling air out of each tent or room, such that loose pollen cannot go anywhere but out of the building. Workers should only work with one variety per day and wash their clothes in between days. Disreputable seed producers are mainly criticized for having inconsistent stock. They are careless both about cross pollination and about stabilizing their varieties.
Stabilizing new seed strains requires time and patience, which is why clones are as popular as they are. It takes a special breed of person to invest into seed production because, although it pays off nicely in the long run when a new strain is created, it is a painstaking process all along the way. Not only does pollen need to be steadfastly contained, but backcrossing of progeny with original parents must happen in order to standardize the traits of the new strain, which can take a year or two. You know you’ve gotten a good package of seeds when they all sprout around the same time, and all the baby plants look and act about the same as they are growing.
Documentation - Business Plans, SOPs, Tracking Systems, R&D
Site Design - Floor plans, Room Subdivisions, Ease of Access and Use
Security - Internal and External Controls to Minimize Theft
HVAC - Air Quality, Monitoring, Clearance, Temperate and Humidity Control, Co2, Ozone, Fumigation, Fire Safety
Electricity & Gas - Power Usage & Energy Efficiency
Water - Input and Waste Management & Analysis
Equipment - Ensuring the Purchase of Energy-Saving High Performance Equipment & Supplies
Staffing Plans - Workflow Simplification & Error Minimization
Worker Safety, Satisfaction & Professional Development
Pest Management Plans - Quarantines, Visitor & Worker Restrictions, Protocols for Each Pest Type
Plant Material Disposal Plans, Hazardous Waste Management
Site Sanitation Plans
Nutrient Regimens - Standard Protocols, Lab Testing, Modification & Results Tracking
Harvesting, Trimming, Curing, and Storage
Supply & Demand Production Management
Quality Control - Lab Testing Finished Materials and Standardizing Systems
Ongoing ROI Analyses