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Why It's So Hard to Cultivate Indoor Premium Cannabis on a Large Scale

Lack of experienced cultivators and the complexities of growing large crops has become a problem in the industry.

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There is considerable demand for cannabis in the 36 states in which it is now legal. But the success of crops largely rests on how they are cultivated, requiring the utmost attention to detail and transparency in the production process. And while many cultivators consider themselves experts, not everyone is a master at the craft. This lack of cultivating experience has led to many complications when growing cannabis on a large scale. 

Related: 3 Simple Ways Cultivators Can Shrink Their Carbon Footprint

How cannabis cultivation works

To understand the complexity of growing cannabis at scale, you must understand how cultivation works. The cannabis plant is not true to seed, meaning you can't plant cannabis seeds of a certain cultivar and expect similar results. It's this stipulation that keeps the industry exciting and profitable for growers willing to germinate thousands of seeds to possibly find that one phenotype that is both premium and unique. The only way to get that same phenotype is from a clone or tissue culture taken from a branch. This does not often happen since it takes a cultivator a year of testing, and sometimes more, to finally put a phenotype into production for the consumer.

Cultivators then vs now

A small percentage of cultivators have been successfully growing on a massive scale for 20 plus years. Before cannabis was accepted like it is today, the growers risked it all to grow illegally. Today, most cultivators have only a few years of experience. Investors have poured millions of dollars in converting industrial warehouse spaces into state-licensed cultivation facilities, only to face challenges resulting from hiring inexperienced cultivators.

Most cultivators have been (illegally) growing in a bedroom or workshop with maybe upwards of 20 grow lights and a couple of hundred plants, and they are doing well. In this case, an opportunity presents itself from word-of-mouth. Investors then bring these inexperienced cultivators to tackle 50 to 100 light rooms in large-scale facilities, all at different stages of growth and needs. In realizing that cannabis cultivation is difficult, even on a large scale, the slightest error can cost quality or, worse, a complete loss. Perhaps, one might conclude, this is why individuals often grow illegally.

Cultivation environments

To further support why cultivating indoor premium cannabis on a large scale can be challenging, state regulations adhere to the strictest guidelines when testing cannabis for safety. You can't just spray harmful pesticides and fungicides to combat pests and molds. After all, a pest or mold outbreak can destroy an entire facility. The environment needs to be tightly controlled 24 hours a day, all at different variances depending on a plant's stage of life. Factors that need to be carefully managed include temperature, humidity, airflow, nutrient concentrations, irrigation, and so much more.

The demand for premium indoor-grown cannabis is at an all-time high and will continue this way for years to come. Cultivating cannabis on a large scale is very tough and demanding, and it's just as challenging to find experienced cultivators to grow in large-scale facilities, sometimes an astounding 100,000 square feet. The ones that risked it all are now dominating the marketplace and with no end in sight. Their challenge then isn't growing premium cannabis; it's growing enough.