Vertical Growing Increases Efficiency and Yield at Colorado Cannabis Operation

By investing in a mobile vertical growing system, a legal cannabis growing operation found a way to increase yields with less space.

Legal Marijuana – A Growing Trend

Many states have now legalized marijuana use in some form, and the trend seems to be spreading. Reports show that if the trend continues and all 50 states legalized marijuana for recreational use, marijuana could become a bigger industry than organic food.

“In one of our smaller rooms, the canopy was 320 square feet, so we had 20 small lights. After installing the Spacesaver system, we have over 1600 square feet of canopy, so we’re talking basically a 500% increase in canopy size.”

– Colorado Cannabis Grower

Space at a Premium

With such rapid growth in the states where marijuana is legal, warehouse space used to grow marijuana indoors is at a premium. Although other growing options like greenhouses exist, warehouses are typically the most popular due to zoning laws, security, and the difficulty of obtaining loans to build new structures. The heavy demand has nearly doubled – and at times even quadrupled – the cost of leasing warehouse space in the past three years. The average cost of industrial space in Denver, CO has risen from about $4.00 per square foot to up to $18.00 per square foot for prime locations. There are many other expenses involved, including the cost of energy needed to maintain the warm temperatures and specialized lights required for cultivation of cannabis.

3% Energy Consumption

Cannabis growing accounts for 3% of total energy consumption in California, the state with the largest legal marijuana market.

To create better yields, all the plants need uniform access to the lights, but spreading them out increases the number of lights and amount of space needed, creating an immensely inefficient use of space and electricity. As the legal marijuana market matures, increased competition and outside investment is pushing cannabis growers to make their operations more efficient than ever.

New options

These costs and concerns were what drove one new grower to look for new options. After hearing about the “green rush” in Colorado, an entrepreneur moved to Colorado in 2010 to get a start in the budding industry. He and the group of cofounders heard about a different way to utilize the expensive, climate-controlled warehouse environment more efficiently. “Some friends back on the East Coast were doing vertical growing with baker’s racks,” he said. “They would take two racks and put them back-to-back with a bulb between them and they were getting really amazing results – and they were doing it because of course on the East Coast, space is an issue, power consumption is an issue.”

The founding team already had a growing operation in a warehouse space, but with its horizontal layout, there was a large amount of wasted space – and money. This expensive space was already being heated and ventilated, but not fully utilized due to growing constraints. He brought the idea of vertical growing back to the group. It wasn’t long before they discovered Spacesaver and reached out to a nearby authorized Spacesaver distributor in Denver.

“It’s an amazing increase in production and efficiency.”

– Colorado Cannabis Grower

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Better use of Space

Spacesaver representatives visited the facility, assessed their storage needs, and showed them other applications of the ActivRAC mobile racking system.

Grow lights were added top to bottom to optimize growth on the mobile vertical growing system. The racks utilized the height of the warehouse growing space in a way that traditional horizontal growing could not – and made for a more efficient use of the heated air that was once wasted. “In one of our smaller rooms, the canopy was 320 square feet, so we had 20 small lights. After installing the Spacesaver system, we have over 1600 square feet of canopy, so we’re talking basically a 500% increase in canopy size,” said the grower.

The company avoided the need for capital-intensive construction, which is especially important in an industry that still faces difficulties getting bank loans due to federal regulations.

The increased yield and efficiency created by the mobile vertical growing system has helped the business expand to meet demand and stay competitive in an ever-changing industry. “It’s an amazing increase in production and efficiency,” the grower said.

$44 Million

The amount of tax revenue generated in Colorado through the sale of cannabis in 2014.

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