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Grower vs. Facilities Manager: Who Should Decide Grow Conditions?

By Chris Whaley, PE


Should my cultivator be responsible for my daily operations? Who should determine the critical conditions to grow cannabis at an optimal rate? For many new business owners, these questions and more are left unanswered in an industry evolving as fast as it is being legalized.

Cultivators in the cannabis industry got their start living in the shadows, producing products for their local client base without the detection of the authorities and utilities companies. That underground training has served the cultivator well, bringing untold knowledge and lessons learned to the now mainstream, legal cannabis market. As the industry matures and the business opportunities become more viable, every team needs one of these people leading the charge to ensure predictable, quality crop yield.

A Natural Growth of Cultivators

Today’s cultivators have been asked to take on more and more responsibility. These Renaissance men and women not only need to know everything about the plant and how to grow it, but they are often required to know the ins and outs of facility design and critical infrastructure deployment. Cultivation facilities are demanding more from their infrastructure to meet the predictability and quality the market demands. Energy efficiency regulations are coming that will apply additional pressure and require expertise to navigate. Is it realistic to continue requiring cultivators to be experts on these complex systems? Or should we bring in specialists to assist?

To steal an example from another critical industry, we don’t ask surgeons to build their operating rooms. All we ask of them is what temperature and humidity they need in the space. That simple question sets in motion a team of individuals who specialize in design and construction. A team that is trained to evaluate, design, and install infrastructure to meet the demands of the surgeon. This team allows the surgeons to do what they do best; operate on patients.


Facilities Managers can Bring Operations into the Future

The cannabis industry needs a qualified Facilities Manager on the team in the pre-planning stages of the project. This person is a specialist in the arena of selecting and maintaining mechanical, plumbing, and electrical systems. They work alongside the cultivator to assess the requirements of the system. At what temperature and humidity should the flower room be kept? How much and what type of light do the plants need? How much water should be provided for each plant per day? Once these questions, and others like them, are answered it is the Facilities Manager’s job to go into the marketplace and find systems that can meet the cultivator’s requirements.

The goal of any cultivation facility is to grow quality plants in a predictable manner. This should be the sole focus of the cultivator. The industry is leaning too heavily on these people to know everything about the design and construction of the facility. Introducing a Facilities Manager to focus on the building and its associated systems will free the cultivator to concentrate on the plant.