What goes into building a state-of-the-art cannabis cultivation facility?

By Laura Kuhl

Ongoing trends in the cannabis industry are leaning towards outdoor cultivation, with cannabis companies in both Canada and the United States competing for space and licenses to grow. Cultivation licenses are among the most competitive to receive, especially in America where individual states can put limitations on how many licenses are granted and how much square footage can be used to grow. For example, the state of Florida only issued seven cultivation licenses while New York just extended their limit from five to ten.

In states like these, with populations of over twenty million people, cultivation competition is fierce. The cannabis stocks lucky enough to receive a cultivation license (or two) will have the best chances of sweeping the market, when and if the federal ban on marijuana is lifted. In the meantime, the construction of state-of-the-art facilities for cultivation and processing is a top priority for many licensed producers.

What to consider when constructing a state-of-the-art cultivation facility:

There is more to a cannabis cultivation facility than just a greenhouse. Like most real estate investments, construction is all about location. When it comes to outdoor grows, climate plays a major role in the healthy development of the hypersensitive marijuana plants. Things like wind, sunlight, even natural disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes, all need to be considered.

With location also comes zoning laws and licensing applications. As these vary state-to-state, enlisting a general contractor to manage the construction of any type of cannabis facility is recommended. They can navigate the different state regulations and ensure that the facilities are built to code with all of the necessary AC, heating, and CO2 airflow systems in place.

Biosecurity is another variable that can influence the design of these facilities. Protecting marijuana plants, cuttings, and seeds from pests and pathogens can mean building special quarantine spaces for employees to clean off street clothes before heading to work. Other architectural designs will include specialized soil or built-in equipment to regulate and protect cannabis growth without the use of pesticides or other harmful chemicals.

With so many different variables at play, it is almost impossible for cannabis companies to manage the construction of their facilities all on their own. Contractors are hired to design, build, and manage the construction of these 100,000+ square foot facilities, which is no easy feat. There is a lot that goes into the construction of these facilities, and different contractors offer different design incentives to meet the ever-evolving needs of our industry’s very eclectic group of cannabis producers.

Who is helping American cannabis companies build state-of-the-art cultivation facilities?

Contractors specializing in cannabis development are popping up all across the United States. In Illinois, local construction company Mosaic Construction created their own cannabis division called Cannabis Facility Construction. These contractors specialize in retrofitting old and abandoned buildings for the medical cannabis market, designing full-service cultivation facilities, medical dispensaries, and processing facilities across their home state as well as in Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. So far the company has developed 28 facilities spanning over 328,000 square feet.

Design firm Fuss & O’Neill also expanded their land development expertise to include the cannabis industry. With locations in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, and California, among others, this firm is bringing their experience with civil, facility, and water engineering to licensed producers across the country. The firm helps LPs manage their energy and their water consumption with construction designs that can include efficient HVAC systems, alternative energy consultations, and advanced wastewater treatment and purification technologies.

The Colorado-based American Cannabis Company is another consulting firm that provides design and buildout services to cannabis producers as well as branding, marketing, and industrial hemp solutions. But their facility design and construction services come with one unique caveat—a Geoponic Methodology. This method involves a soil-based cultivation process that improves the genetics of the marijuana plants by providing them with living soil that requires no pH balancing or additional nutrients. ACC just secured a cultivation design deal with a company in Macedonia to a build a 13,000 square foot facility.

“This project is to take place 5,864 miles from our headquarters in Denver, Colorado, a large step across the pond, marking the furthest distance that the company has had to work remotely. The footprints of ACC’s work are becoming more and more prevalent on a global scale, and we look forward to continuing this outward growth,” said Terry Buffalo, ACC’s principal executive officer, in the company’s press release earlier this month.

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