As you already know, cultivating healthy cannabis plants is challenging work because many variables contribute to a successful yield. Managing environmental conditions in grow houses is critical yet tricky because each cultivar has its preferred growing conditions including temperature, humidity, airflow, soil moisture, and carbon dioxide (CO2) levels. In addition, preferred conditions change at different stages of growth. Even in controlled grow rooms, equipment can malfunction, causing conditions to change from ideal to dangerous.
Remote monitoring systems equipped with appropriate sensors can continuously keep tabs on conditions and immediately alert you when readings move above or below healthy parameters. These systems also gather and store data to help you identify patterns that indicate potential issues that you can address proactively. Cloud-based systems let you easily check real-time and trending conditions via website or app.
Here are common risks to the grow house environment and tips on how to catch them early before they damage your inventory and cost you a lot of money.
Most essential equipment used at growing facilities—heating and cooling systems, fans, lights, water wells, ventilation louvers, humidifiers and dehumidifiers, and watering systems—relies on uninterrupted electrical flow. Power outages and power fluctuations can wreak havoc on your cannabis plants.
A monitoring system with power outage detection capabilities sends designated personnel an alert as soon as the power goes out, so you can act quickly to prevent massive plant loss. These systems are equipped with a rechargeable battery backup to ensure ongoing power supply to the unit, so they can continue to monitor critical conditions and send alerts.
Grow house temperatures can reach unsafe levels when circulation or exhaust fans break down, vents fail to open to release heat, or the power goes out. Temperature fluctuations can significantly damage cannabis plants, hamper growth, and reduce yield. Using a remote monitoring system and placing temperature sensors throughout your facility will let you know when temperatures fall out of the ideal range. Position the temperature sensors at each end and in the middle of each grow room, preferably away from direct light, to account for fluctuations.
Unhealthy humidity levels upset photosynthesis and transpiration. High humidity levels slow the transpiration process and encourage mold and fungal growth. Low humidity levels cause plants to lose moisture too quickly, which interferes with photosynthesis.
A monitoring system with humidity sensors sends alerts when levels in your grow rooms fall outside of preset parameters. It also tracks and logs humidity levels over time, so you can identify ranges that work best for different cultivars and growth phases.
Faulty Air Circulation and Ventilation
Ventilation systems help control temperature and humidity and provide fresh air that is critical to plant health. These systems include fans, vented roofs, and side vents. Automatic vents open when heat builds up to allow air to escape and close when the temperature cools down. Sensors placed on these systems will send you an alert if they stop running or operate outside of preset parameters.
Airflow sensors measure the presence or absence of cool moving air and provide relative airflow as a percentage from 0 to 100. Not only do these sensors track relative airflow, but they can also help you find possible inefficiencies in your ventilation system and gather trend information to determine the need to adjust vent and fan configuration.
Vibration sensors can be mounted on the vents and fans to continuously monitor vibration velocity and detect unusual conditions. Vibration fluctuations are an early indicator of problems leading up to equipment failure.
Inadequate Soil Moisture
Improper irrigation leads to plant stress and unnecessary water use. When the soil is too wet or dry, the roots don’t receive the oxygen they need to uptake nutrients, interfering with photosynthesis and overall plant health. Soil moisture sensors determine the volumetric water content (VWC) in almost any soil or soil-less growing media. VWC measurement is the ratio of the volume of water in a sample to the volume of soil in a sample. The sensors operate in a wide range of temperatures and are highly accurate when calibrated for the growing media they support. They are connected wirelessly or hard-wired to the monitoring base unit that collects and stores sensor data. When moisture levels fall outside of the desired range, the monitoring system will send alerts to grow house staff, who can act quickly to resolve the issue before damage is done.
Insufficient CO2 Levels
To conduct photosynthesis and thrive, cannabis plants need both CO2 and light. The correct amount of CO2 for your cannabis depends on the size of your facility and the amount of light the plants require. Too little CO2 results in slower growth, while too much CO2 leads to unused and wasted CO2. Monitoring systems equipped with CO2 sensors alert you when levels drop above or below the preset parameters. These sensors should be mounted in each grow room, as needs differ for plant varieties and development stages.
Imprecise Water pH
The pH balance of the water you use to irrigate your plants alters the acid and alkaline content of the soil. Water that’s too acidic reduces the level of nutrients like calcium, potassium, and magnesium, affecting chlorophyll development and cell growth. Water that’s too alkaline blocks the flow of nutrients to the roots. Therefore, it’s important to monitor the pH level of your water. You will need a monitoring system that accommodates a pH sensor with an adapter that allows it to screw into a water supply pipe. Once installed, the sensing element samples water as it runs through the pipe.
As with any valuable inventory, when cultivating cannabis there is the risk of intruders entering your facility. You can place access control sensors on grow house and equipment room doors and windows to notify you when they open or close. Since they aren’t intended to take the place of security systems, remote monitoring systems do not alert the police. If you receive an access message, it is up to your staff to take action.
Managing Common Problems Throughout the Grow House
Remote monitoring systems track multiple environmental conditions 24/7, providing an extra level of risk management against common grow house threats. When equipped with sensors suited for improving cannabis cultivation, these systems are a cost-effective way to achieve peace of mind and healthier plants.
About the Author
Rob Fusco has been working in the remote monitoring industry for 25 years, providing application solutions and design assistance to a wide range of commercial clients. He is the Director of Business Development at Sensaphone, where he previously served as the Technical Support & Service Manager. For more information, email Rob at firstname.lastname@example.org, call 877-373-2700 or visit www.sensaphone.com.