Discusses Growing Medicinal Cannabis using precision growing
Since February 2015 Sonny has been working for Grodan as a crop consultant. He has supported activities in many countries including New Zealand. In 2018 Sonny moved into a new role at Grodan. He is now responsible for the roll out of Grodan’s business in Medicinal Cannabis (MC).
Sonny has spent the last year formulating a plan to make sure that Grodan are able to provide products and a service precision growing of Medicinal Cannabis requires. Sonny presented his project in six parts;
- Playing a part in sustainable horticulture
- Precision Growing
- Medicinal cannabis is a different industry
- Stone-wool benefits for medicinal crops
- Grodan Solutions
- Scientific growing trials
Medicinal cannabis is a different industry:
Sonny has the challenge of dealing with a new type of customer, these are investors and multinational companies. These customers probably have limited experience in cultivation. Understanding pharmaceutical production standards will be required as MC is Pharma not food. There are higher quality demands and quality assurance will play a key role.
Sonny understands that Grodan will need to have rigorous production and logistical requirements to meet strict criteria that will be set out. Compliance is vital and more scientific research will be carried out.
Regulations for growing medicinal cannabis are vigorous. Grodan is working on implementation of Good Agricultural and Collection Practice (GACP) and Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) to adhere to these strict regulations. The major advantage that Grodan have is the product they supply is clean and inert, furthermore it does not lock up or release any substances.
Another benefit of GMP is it will mitigate risks as their products meet strict quality and compliance standards. Grodan has international credibility and they can conduct their business across borders as they are able to export.
The Growing System:
Medicinal Cannabis is grown in a greenhouse either traditionally, in row systems (standard tomato systems), or in ebb and flood systems or tables with drippers. From my understanding, depending on the cultivar, and what the growing facilities expectations are, they could grow between 3-5 crops grown per year. This requires total understanding of what you are growing and will make your setup/infrastructure critical. Growing can take place in either greenhouses or indoor factories. Whatever the situation, you will require artificial lighting and total darkness for set periods each day, during the different growth phases. Temperature and humidity control are important as well as precision irrigation including accurate fertilizer balance.
Grodan, in conjunction with Wageningen University and Research (WUR) in the Netherlands, have been carrying out scientific cultivation trials with the following goals:
- Generate knowledge to improve growing and irrigation strategies.
- Develop methods to quantify product performance.
- Determine performance of different product lines
- Product development: make selection between different prototypes
Every phase of the growing cycle is crucial. The plug and rooting in phase are important for the spread of roots, into the block, early plant growth and development (or vegetative phase). The flowering phase is significant, as are the climate and irrigation strategies, specifically the effect on EC and WC steering during this time is critical.
Labour techniques are being developed, to assist growers with tasks that need to be carried out during the growth and harvest phase. Grodan have trialled multiple cultivars at different spacing (heads per m2 etc.), they are covering all bases to ensure the best possible advice is provided to their clients.
Sonny’s work, including the energy, climate, labour and root zone requirements for growing MC, is going to make the transition for existing growers and non-growers seamless. As they build up more and more knowledge (A blueprint for growing different MC cultivars) their service will become highly valuable for growing success. As compliance is key for a company such as Grodan, they conduct full legal studies in order to ensure compliance in every country before they start up business.
It is pleasing to see that no stone is being left unturned and that the end goal is for maximum yield returns, using modern technology and high-quality products. In the future, as with any product purchased, supply and demand will determine the returns. Therefore, making sure you are producing the highest-grade product at maximum production returns is a no brainer. Well done Sonny and the team at Grodan for recognising this and investing into what will be of major benefit in the near future.
Article Written by Stefan Vogrincic, Consultant, Grower2Grower
Article Edited by Marie Vogrincic, Editor, Grower2Grower