RTM Engineering Consultants is building expertise in this emerging market. Our team has already worked on several projects within the industry, and we have more on the horizon. RTM has designed facilities in the three major sectors of the marijuana industry:
Once materials are extracted from the plants, they will be used to make products that will go to consumers – including pills or edibles like cookies. For this process, RTM has to design a clean room environment, making sure that proper filtration and other regulations are met.
And not all analytical labs are up to the job. Roger Brauninger, biosafety programme manager at the American Association for Laboratory Accreditation (A2LA), a non-profit organization in Frederick, Maryland, says that although US states introduced requirements for external testing as medical or recreational cannabis became legalized, there was rarely any infrastructure or expertise in place to facilitate a professional testing regime. Even the most established labs, located in California, have only been around since the mid-2000s — despite the state legalizing the medical use of cannabis in 1996.
“For a product to be sold in most US states, it has to be tested externally,” says Jahan Marcu, director of experimental pharmacology and behavioral research at the International Research Center on Cannabis and Mental Health in New York City.
For years, the popular image of cannabis growers has been scruffy hippies getting high on their own supply in a disorganized underground economy, rather than shiny white industrial agriculture facilities. Even larger-scale operations involved minimal quality control or lacked formal record keeping.
“As the industry has gotten bigger, they realized they must transition to use modern horticultural science,” says Youbin Zheng, a horticulture researcher at the University of Guelph, Canada, who works with cannabis companies.
Besides the challenges of growing a sufficient amount of high-quality cannabis for a rapidly growing market, cannabis companies have to deal with something that illegal growers do not — government regulation.
A commercial medical-cannabis cultivation facility in Moncton, Canada. Credit: Organigram Inc.
To run these advanced facilities, cannabis companies need researchers who are experienced in plant science, microbiology, chemistry and other scientific disciplines — and they are turning to academia to find them. “Instead of underground growers, they are hiring lots of university-educated and trained people,” says Zheng.
Feminized seeds are widely preferred in recreational cannabis businesses due to the plants being specifically bred to only produce bountiful female plants. Feminized seeds run a bit higher than regular and autoflowering seeds, but the advantage is best seen in the producer’s ability to only grow female plants and avoid wasting time growing male plants.
In a market with an estimated worth of $61 billion as of 2021—over $30 billion more than anticipated—security and compliance with state regulations is critical to success in the recreational cannabis world. Producers need to account for a highly-prized cash crop, but also the cash-only nature of the current, state-level restricted recreational cannabis industry. Because employees are also at risk, investigating comprehensive and sophisticated cannabis security solutions is highly recommended for growers of every size. Some security and compliance firms boast growth rates over 400% since legalization in Colorado and Washington.
This is a troubling insight for those who depend on cannabis for medicinal purposes. Because individuals may not receive the intended reaction to treat their medical condition as a result of consuming improperly labelled cannabis products.
In 2021, the difference between many strains of the same name may be night and day. Recent reports post-legalization in Washington, Oregon, and Colorado have shone a brighter light on the actual genealogy – and even the classification between indica and sativa products – that may be entirely mislabeled or incorrect at the outset.
Security and Compliance for Cannabis Production
We recommend three future-proofed upgrades for cannabis production facilities of any size:
Fortunately, the climate of the Pacific Northwest lends itself very well to outdoor cannabis production. In fact, some rural areas of Washington and Oregon with agricultural backgrounds have found cannabis to be an easy to maintain, financially lucrative cash crop. Because cannabis roots can expand exponentially, outdoor growers can reap a far greater harvest by allowing their plants to grow to 10 feet tall or higher, uninhibited by artificial lighting or ceilings. Cannabis makes an excellent cover crop, allowing ample space on the surface for smaller crops like tomatoes, carrots, and lettuce to grow with an extra layer of protection above.
If you choose any aspect of your cannabis grow operation more carefully than others, let it be the soil. The grow medium is an essential aspect of growing any crop, but the quality of soil can make a tremendous difference in the outcome of the final flower. You’ll also want to carefully monitor the pH levels of your soil, as cannabis plants prefer pH environments of 5.5-6.5.
Space, Basic Infrastructure, and Soil for Cannabis Production
In the interim, private investors have filled the void where traditional funding options would usually exist. Venture capital, private equity funding, angel investors, private lenders, and cannabis business consulting firms that invest in cannabis ventures.
Some small businesses in Denver are trying a new approach to reducing carbon emissions through capturing carbon dioxide produced by beer fermentation and recycling in it for use in cannabis operations.