For those starting, the big question is: which methods is better, indoor, greenhouse, or outdoor?
For centuries, cannabis grew outdoors. But then prohibition forced growers to hide their plant indoors. Growers have come to see growing outdoor cannabis as ‘junk cannabis.’ Some think outdoor crops are only good for making low cost cannabis extracts and has no retail market potential.
But legalization has changed all of that.
“There’s no such thing as the “best” type of growing environment, it all comes down what’s right for your location and your budget,” said Francis Hebert, co-founder of Consult & Grow and master grower with more than 10 years’ experience in cultivation and quality assurance.
Hebert’s expertise with building GMP-certified cultivation facilities makes him the perfect person to ask: which is better, outdoor, indoor, or greenhouse?
Indoor Cannabis Cultivation
Indoor growing is a well-established approach to cultivating cannabis.
The main advantage is that it gives you complete control of the temperatures, lights, airflow, and humidity. Being able to control your growing environment produces some wonderful strains.
Using higher CO2 levels than in the natural environment, you can increase growth and produce higher THC levels than in the outdoors. However, this advantage can also turn against you. “If you’re not watching your CO2 levels and reading your plants, and if those plants start spitting out some toxins, this can lead to CO2 poisoning,” said Hebert.
The sun’s full spectrums of light can’t completely be replicated indoors or in a greenhouse. Indoor plants tend to be smaller and have less of a terpene profile.
The big downside is that it is the least energy-efficient method. The energy it takes to maintain your artificial lighting, heating, lighting and ventilation (HVAC) all add up.
New Frontier Data found indoor cannabis cultivations consumed 18 times more energy than outdoor growing. The energy consumed showed:
- Indoor growing consumed the highest energy (1.2705 kWh/g)
- greenhouse (0.9365 kWh/g) and
- then outdoor (0.0696 kW/g).
Higher energy costs mean higher production costs.
Outdoor Cannabis Cultivation
Every grower knows that an indoor grow can never completely imitate the incredibly complicated, natural outdoors. Indoor growers will often have to fight spider mites. By contrast, growing outdoors will over time attracts cannabis-friendly insects and organisms to help fight against these mites.
This harmony with Nature takes time to achieve, but most growers will tell you it’s worth it. The terpene profiles are often richer and the flowers’ density is usually far better.
The main advantage of outdoor growing is that it’s the most natural and least expensive way to grow cannabis. It requires no extra lighting or cooling systems, only sunlight and soil.
There’s a huge cost savings with outdoor growing. According to Hebert, outdoors can cut costs from $1 to $3 a gram for indoor grows to as low less than 25 cents a gram grown outdoors. While indoor climate control systems can cost you a small fortune (and will cause delays due to construction), growing outdoors lets you start operations right away.
“Outdoor grown flower will always enjoy a broader, more intense, more deeply penetrating spectrum of light. This advantage allows outdoor cannabis to more fully express its genetic potential,” said Hebert.
There are disadvantages to growing outdoors too.
The obvious disadvantage is that has to do with growing outside where pests and Canadian winters will limit your harvest. Hebert said, “You might be able to get one or maybe two crops if you’re lucky, whereas you can get three to four in a normal year from a greenhouse.”
Consumers also don’t like the look of scruffy buds. With indoor and greenhouse grows, seeing a few dead plant materials ending up in the packaging is a sign something went wrong – and consumers do complain.
Then there’s the problem of real estate: location. If your neighbour spays pesticides, there’s a chance it can drift into your grow area. With indoor and greenhouse, you definitely avoid this problem.
All of these negatives turn into positives when you use outdoor crops for extracts used in beverages, edibles, beauty products and vape pens. Then again, some connoisseurs might like to try your local, outdoor grown cannabis.
Greenhouse Cannabis Cultivation
Greenhouses are a good middle-ground between the best of indoor and outdoor growing. The costs associated with greenhouse growing is cheaper than indoors and produce more consistent quality than outdoor grows.
New automated greenhouse technologies can use the sun’s light with efficient-lights systems, environmental climate-control, and light deprivation to grow all year-round. Hebert is favorable to greenhouses since he sees this as an affordable approach for many growers who want to grow indoors but also want the natural sunlight.
The main disadvantage with greenhouses is they still need sunlight – just like outdoor grows – which can limit the number of harvests compared to indoor grows.
Which should you buy?
So if there’s no “best” way to grow cannabis, how do you choose? “It all comes to down what’s right for you and your budget, constructing your growing space can be the most exhausting part of starting operations,” said Hebert.
According to Hebert, the typical cost under each method is about:
You should also consider the extra labour costs, which will vary for each method.
If you choose indoor and greenhouses because they offer more harvests a year, then you will need to hire more people to get work done. “A typical outdoor micro grow will hire about four full-time staff, and add two or more workers during harvest,” said Hebert.
Looking to make sense of the legal and business needs to start a micro cannabis business?
To reach success, you’ll need the guidance of a qualified and professional consultant. Our professionals know where the delays happen, the common missed information in licenses. Like the legal cannabis industry everywhere, Canada’s industry still has many years to grow.
Consult & Grow understands the regulatory compliance needs to get you started. Unlike most cannabis consulting firms, Consult & Grow’s president is a master grower and is involved in every client application.
Francis Hebert co-founded Consult & Grow in 2017 and is a master grower with a deep appreciation of what it takes to grow cannabis in compliance with Canadian Regulations. He holds strong technical skills in GPP and GMP-compliant cannabis building designs.
As you have seen, all styles of farming offer positives and negatives. And each with their own implementation needs. If you have questions, Consult & Grow’s Francis Hebert can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.