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Climate Batteries in Cannabis Grow Operations
Peter Cervieri

I sat down with Jordan Stanley at the Cannabis World Congress & Business Expo in Los Angeles to talk about The Stanley Brothers Charlotte’s Web (CW) Hemp 1,100 plant grow operation in Colorado.

Lighting

The Stanley Brothers started as indoor growers, using 1000W HPS lights. They’ve since moved production both outdoors and into greenhouses. All propagation, breeding and R&D is still done indoors.  Indoors, they’ve replaced all their original 1000W HPS lights with 200W LEDs that don’t throw off any heat. They are moving to LED lights for the supplemental lighting in the greenhouses as well.

Through internal side-by-side testing of LED and HPS lights, using the same genetics and conditions, the Stanley Brothers were encouraged by the results. Under LED lights, the leaves were bigger and greener. They looked like outdoor plants.

Pest Management

They are organic in their pesticides, per Colorado law regulating the use of pesticides in cannabis production. For example, they use Green Cleaner to control mites and aphids.

Water

Their next major capital expenditure will be on a water drip system from Hydro Gardens in Colorado Springs.

With a slow drip system, they will be able to grow 5 lb plants out of 20 gallon pots. A steady drip saves 15-20% on water because of no overflow or drainage coming out the bottom. The plant soil also stays slightly damp at all times, which promotes healthy microbic activity in the soil, as compared to hand-watered soil that goes back and forth between wet and dry.

According to Greg Morton of Hydro Gardens, typical flood & drain or ebb & flow systems will bring water in from the bottom up usually using the same amount of water every time they water. What can happen over time is that it will create a barrier of salts at the high point the water comes to. If your roots happen to be on the other side of that barrier, they can’t get to the nutrients. Also, the biggest issue with these types of system is that you have multiple plants being exposed to the same water especially if it is a re-circulating system as most of this type are. This means you are sharing diseases, pests and fungus and any other problems to ALL plants in that system. Also, with a re-circulating system, you don’t know exactly what you are feeding the plants after the first feeding from when you mix. It’s much harder to be sure your plants are getting exactly the nutrients they need when they need them this way.

 A system that “top sprays” doesn’t have the same problems. Firstly, all bags are separate so if there is a disease or other problem, it’s isolated to just that bag. You don’t lose the entire crop just a couple plants and you keep on going. The water all flows down through the media and doesn’t build up that salt barrier (as long as you flush with plain water now and again usually about once per week). The tubing has a wider ID (inside diameter) so it’s much less like to get clogged compared to other drip irrigation tubing. This will help in using fertilizers that aren’t 100% soluble. The system is designed to drain the water out so you feed with the same nutrient solution every time you water. If you water correctly using solar accumulation, you will waste less water and fertilizer using this system than with the waste and evaporation from re-circulating systems.

A drip system includes tubing (dripper or sprayer), stakes (dripper or sprayer), coco bags (5 gal or 3 gal), injectors, controllers etc.

For 1,100 plants, the Stanley Brothers currently use 1,800 gallons of water per day. A drip system will reduce that to about 1,100 gallons per day, or 1 gallon per plant.

Renewable Energy

Exploring solar. Capital expense.

Temperature and Humidity Control

The Stanley Brothers built one of their two greenhouses on top of a climate battery about 4 years ago.

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According to Jerome Osentowski, founder of the Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute, a climate battery is a “subterranean air-circulation system that takes the hot, moist, ambient air from the greenhouse during the day, stores it in the soil, and discharges it at night. A climate battery is a simple design that traps hot and cold air and regulates it for best possible use.”

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The climate battery cools the Stanley Brothers greenhouse during the day and turns the greenhouse pad into a heat pad at night, saving 30% on propane. Fans push air from the greenhouse down through underground pipes, where the temperature is naturally cooler. The warm air current travels under the length of the greenhouse, cools, and loses humidity. The air coming back up into the other end of the greenhouse feels like air-conditioned air. By comparison, the Stanley Brothers greenhouse that doesn’t have the climate battery is consistently about 8-10 degrees warmer all the time. The indica greenhouse, where they have the climate battery, grows indica plants that are consistently 3-4 feet taller than the sativa plants, which grow in the sativa greenhouse without the climate battery. The only cost is the price of running 4 fans.

By slowly circulating all of the hot, moist daytime air of the greenhouse down underground where it is always cooler than the greenhouse air, the climate battery forces the vapor to condense.  By doing so, the solar heat as well as the chemical heat from the plant photosynthesis that was required to evaporate the moisture in the first place is forced into the soil.  By inducing this “dewpoint” condition in the soil of the greenhouse, the plant roots are always being bathed in warm, moist conditions – the perfect balance for plants and solar greenhouses.  The space is heated by the massive amount of radiating solar heat stored in the soil under the greenhouse, and with fans to circulate cooler nighttime greenhouse air through the tubing network, adding warmth and moisture back to the greenhouse.