Grower uses aquifer below greenhouse for water-cooled LEDs

The old story about the cannabis industry goes that many basement cannabis growers struggled with the complexities of commercial cannabis cultivation, as going from small scale to large scale without proper expertise has proven to be extremely difficult. Yet, some cannabis growers were very much aware of what commercial horticulture means, and they leveraged their knowledge and experience to show what a mature cannabis industry would look like. Organic Remedies out of Pennsylvania is one of those growers.

Before Organic Remedies set up their 1.6 hectares of five flower rooms, the greenhouse was utilized for organic tomato cultivation, and it was known as Toigo Organic Farms. Subsequently, Mark Toigo, CEO and owner of the farm, teamed up with a group of early investors who saw the potential of medical cannabis, and in 2018, Organic Remedies was born.

A different league

Unlike most of the early cannabis operators in the US northeast, Organic Remedies opted for a greenhouse rather than an indoor facility. Toigo Farms was an ultra-modern greenhouse with good bones. Most Canadian and California facilities opted for greenhouse operations. "I don't believe that indoor cultivation will expand or dominate in the long run," said Terry Lattimer, Director of Cultivation. "Energy costs are too high, and why wouldn't you use the free sun?"

Terry Lattimer is a horticulture veteran who has been growing for 45 years. "Our grower, Diego Perez, has also been in the industry for 25 years," he points out. "Between the owners, Diego, our team leaders, and myself, we have over 150 years of horticultural experience. This meant that prepping the greenhouse for cannabis was well planned and executed. To me, cannabis is a crop with its own peculiarities. Each crop has its unique cultivation considerations. I find it is a lot like growing poinsettias."

The greenhouse conversion started in 2020, and perpetual harvests began in the fall of 2021. Every 2 weeks, a flower room is harvested and planted. The crop cycle amounts to 2 weeks of cloning, 2 weeks in the veg room, 2 weeks of veg time in the flower room, and 7 weeks to harvest after a flip.

Listening to cannabis

Throughout the project, the on-site project management team worked closely with Westland Greenhouse Solutions, BOM, PB Tech, and numerous local contractors who were instrumental in meeting the grower completion dates. "We had very constructive partnerships with our team of owners, installers, and designers. We were fortunate that we started the project just before supply issues started throughout the industry." 

Variations in outside conditions when operating a greenhouse for medical cannabis cultivation can be more complicated than growing indoors. Outside climates can increase pests and pathogens in a greenhouse equipped with open-air vents. "Following the principles of Plant Empowerment has aided our operations a great deal," said Terry. "We have a cultivation plan from beginning to end which mediates issues and increases quality yields. Cannabis is a very quick crop, and that is an advantage for insect and pest control."

Pioneers in water-cooled LEDs use

While many companies were going for indoor farms, Organic Remedies decided on greenhouse production, and while many were opting for HPS lights, Organic Remedies looked to Westland Greenhouse Solutions for Oreon's water-cooled LEDs. "We decided to go for LEDs because of the savings in capex and opex. We are using water-cooled 1000w LED fixtures – there are 5 lights per truss on an 8m bay times 4.5m post spacing. This configuration results in 450 umol." Terry pointed out. Installation costs are reduced as there are no C-profiles needed and, in truss mounting, with the small size of the fixtures, there is up to 5 times less shading than air-cooled LED or HPS fixtures. But, from an ROI perspective, the true selling point for Oreon LEDs is the water-cooling feature. "The efficiency and lifespan were most convincing. These water-cooled LEDs at 3.5 umol/J are 2 times as efficient as HPS, which results in 50% lower operational costs."

Grower uses aquifer below greenhouse for water-cooled LEDs
Grower uses aquifer below greenhouse for water-cooled LEDs
Grower uses aquifer below greenhouse for water-cooled LEDs