Starting a New Indoor Farm

Budding into a New Grow Operation

Starting a new business venture can be intimidating with all the what if’s and possibilities open to a new commercial operation. However, there is the excitement of starting fresh and exploring a new business opportunity. By knowing what to do when starting a new grow operation, an operator can be better prepared for the growing season and take stress off their shoulders. The commercial growing operations are booming with increased demand and potential for major profits that are greater than standard operations as the sector is growing exponentially. What are some ways to get into the industry and hit the ground running? What do you need supply and equipment wise? Are there tips from other growers that can help in expanding a new operation?

custom-drainage-system

A winning business plan

Just as with any new business, a plan needs to be conceived and written down that outlines everything to do with that operation. This plan is used to speak with and promote your business to partners, investors, vendors, major customers, providers of services, and any regulatory and licensing agencies. A plan that is solid in information on scores of subjects, business model, market-entry plan, products and services to be offered, market analysis, regulatory information, goals, financial strategy, and more, can really sell the new business and help in getting the supplies and resources needed to get a business off the ground. The market in this industry is big and growing every day with an estimated $591 million in 2018 to an estimated reach of $22 billion by 2022. So the projection for demand is there, but an operator must sell their idea and prove that they are capable of starting and operating the grow operation.

Information To Consider and Include in an Indoor Farm Business Plan
  1. Training and compliance standards
  2. Security and traceability
  3. Waste management
  4. Logistics for retail, packaging, and processing
  5. Testing capabilities
  6. Accurate description of all facilities, equipment, processes in production, and supplies used

indoor-rockwool-grow-cubes

The Fast Track to Getting Started:

Just like any other commercial greenhouse operation, it is important to plan not only for the present, but also the future with expansions and possible future goals. As Peter Drucher has said, “The [true] entrepreneur always searches for change, responds to it, and exploits it as an opportunity.” Planning for the here and now and the future, helps in ensuring less stress down the road from future demand for higher production within reason because it is better to have a bit too much space than not enough in the long run. Plans should encompass a multiple level approach to expansion with areas set up for specific stages of production and growth. By separating these spaces out, a grower is better able to control aspects of the operation and maintain a system of organization and routine.

Rooms to Consider
  • Mother Room/ Cloning 
  • Grow Room
  • Flowering Room
  • Drying and Curing Room
  • Trim and Packaging Room
  • Customer and Employee Rooms

**These rooms are general suggestions that may or may not be needed based on the operations needs and goals. **

Method of Growing: Traditional or Hydroponic

The next step after planning and designing, is the selection of growing styles. The top two methods of hemp production are traditional and hydroponic production. Although the selection of the system is up to the grower’s choice and preferences, each of the systems have their own positives and drawbacks that set them apart from one another.

Traditional Growing System

commercial-greenhouse-drainage-systemsThe traditional growing method is one where crops are grown in soil, either directly in the ground or in various containers. When working with soil, a grower needs to be aware that hemp is relatively picky about its soil type and quality. Hemp grows best in a soil that has excellent aeration, high in organic matter and nutrients, and has a relatively neutral pH in the rough range of 6.0-7.5. With hemp’s particular nature in a growing environment, soil grown hemp can be a successful venture thanks to the ability of indoor cultivation being controlled fully. Growing in soil is a more traditional approach that stands the test of time.

Hydroponic Growing System

cea-drip-irrigation-system-indoor-farmThe use of hydroponics on a commercial scale regardless of the crops being grown, is a new age approach to crop production that has become more commonplace. Hemp plants grown in a hydroponic system are grown similarly to tomato plants, as it falls in the larger plant category. Instead of a soil, a hydroponic system uses soilless media such as coco coir, rockwool, or stones. Hydroponic systems have the ability to apply essential plant nutrients on a continuous basis and provide excellent aeration and water supply for plants. Below is a comparison table of the two methods.

Hydroponic Traditional
  • Must install equipment if not already owned
  • May have a higher start up cost, but long term costs are lower than traditional methods
  • Lighter materials
  • pH needs regular testing and control
  • Water based solutions for nutrients and fertilizers
  • More crops in the same space (vertical growing capabilities)
  • Soilless media has longer use times (less breakdown and wear)
  • Higher aeration and moisture control
  • Customizable
  • Use of materials traditionally used in greenhouse production
  • Possible lower start-up cost
  • Can be easily converted from one crop to another
  • May need to implement soil amendments if not ideal
  • May take up more space
  • Heavier material

commercial-greenhouse-services

Lighting Requirements

Multi-Spectrum LED Grow LightLighting is one of the most important decisions in a commercial indoor farm or greenhouse operation because of the higher need for quality light in the growing areas. If light is not controlled to the ideal length and intensity, the plants will not be the desired quality and will not grow to their full potential. In hemp productions, there are three available lighting types HID, CFL, and LED. Of these three LED are the most commonly used because of their ability to produce higher quality hemp crops on average than HID and CFL lighting. LED lights are known for their energy saving abilities because they use less energy without sacrificing lighting quality. In general it is recommended that lighting be 1000W+ and have the ability to be changed in height for all stages of hemp’s growing cycle. Typically lights should be placed roughly 30-50 cm for HID lights, 10-50 cm for CFL lights, and 15-50 cm for LED grow lights. It is important to check the specific growing requirements for the plant variety being grown before installing grow lights to get the correct spacing.

Hemp Plant Nutrient Needs

RedFlag-Blends-organic plant nutrientsWith the expansion of the hemp growing industry in the United States, extensive research has been conducted to find the ideal nutrients and fertilizers hemp needs throughout the growing season. A huge myth in the commercial hemp industry is that soil and media does not need additional nutrients added. This is very far from the truth. For quality and best growing potential, plant nutrients and fertilizers should be applied throughout the growing season. Traditionally hemp plants need nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium, and sulfur. As a good reference point, hemp production is similar in nutrient requirements to high yielding corn and wheat.

Should Automation in the Indoor Farm or Greenhouse be implemented?

Automation in a commercial greenhouse is truly an ace up a grower’s sleeve. The use of automation assists in making manual labor and tasks much easier with less hassle and overall burden on the operation. Any degree of automation can be a positive to an operation. Depending on grower goals, abilities, and overall budget a greenhouse can be automated to differing degrees. From an irrigation system on a water timer, to full control over HVAC and related systems, a grower can truly customize the degree of automation to meet and exceed desired goals of the operation in terms of automated crop production and crop management.

Make sure to check out RF Agriculture’s selection of completely automated commercial crop management and production systems, automated drip irrigation systems, automated dosing systems for fertigation and nutrigation here- www.rfagriculture.com/watering-irrigation/fertilizer-injectors

RF Agriculture Services

rf-agricultureRegardless of an operator’s general experience and knowledge of the hemp industry, having the baking and extra set of eyes from experienced professionals is a smart choice. Starting or expanding a current commercial operation can be quite the daunting task. With making sure goals and all needs are met easily, while also running a major commercial business can cause major stress for making decisions. This is where a connection with a certified and knowledgeable business that specializes in all things greenhouse is important. Having decades of experience in the field combined and full understanding of how a commercial greenhouse operates and functions behind a new operation is a set up for success and the ability to hit the ground running. RF Agriculture has new AG services offered for commercial indoor farms, greenhouse operations, and in-field operations. These services are consultation and design services, construction and installation, and operations and maintenance services. Each of these services assist an operation from concept to overall maintenance of an existing operation. With specialists that have decades of combined experience in the field of commercial horticulture, teaming up seems like an easy decision.

About RF Agriculture-

RF Agriculture is a wholesale commercial agriculture distributor for planting, growing, and farming located in Los Angeles, CA. RF Agriculture supplies top of the line wholesale commercial hydroponic systems, commercial grow systems, a wide selection of grow lights and automated control systems, nutrient rich soils and growing media, a large selection of specialized advanced plant nutrients for different plant life cycles, dosing and drip irrigation systems, high tech environmental meters and automated systems, fans, filters, plant pesticides, plant fungicides, automated crop management systems, general commercial grow facility supplies and services, plus much more!
www.RFAgriculture.com

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