With cannabis going legal in Canada as of October 2018, many cannabis enthusiasts expected a dwindling supply. That makes sense; it’s cold up north! Cannabis needs a lot of good light, something not always associated with higher latitudes, but over one hundred licenses have been doled out to Canadian growers. Additionally, the fact that Canadians spent a billion dollars on Cannabis in 2018 demonstrates that the strong demand doesn’t dwindle as winter arrives. But how can a cultivator stay profitable through the winter? Like most dynamic industries, adaptation is key. In cannabis that means indoor facilities with environmental controls that allow cultivators to grow (and harvest) through the winter.
Indoor cultivation isn’t cheap. Any experienced grower is going to know that there are a number of additional expenses when cultivating indoors and a cold environment presents many of its own challenges. No matter what the weather is doing outside, an indoor facility is going to need to control for temperature and humidity throughout the year, and this requires the right equipment to maintain consistent yields. However, if the system is properly designed, cultivators can utilize those cold temperatures to improve their climate control efficiency. How? By utilizing dry fluid coolers in these facilities, growers can use ambient outdoor temperatures without the worry of bringing in contaminated air from outside.
The advantages of a chilled water climate control system include flexibility and overall savings in costs, but another major advantage to cold climate growing is the ability to integrate dry fluid coolers. To cool a grow facility, the cultivator doesn’t add cold, but rather removes heat and this is how chilled water is used - it allows for heat exchange, in which the cold water absorbs the heat from the air and is then shunted outside via a chiller or chiller bank and refrigeration circuit.
The biggest energy drain in nearly every cooling system are the compressors. It doesn’t matter how energy efficient your facility is, compressors will be the number one consumers of energy, and this is where cold environments can work to the grower’s advantage. A dry fluid cooler allows growers to bypass the compressors all together as long as temperatures are low enough (35 degrees F/1.67 degrees C). If this is the case, cultivators can take advantage of the free cooling they get by using ambient temperatures to remove heat via a chilled water circuit. There’s also the added benefit of using this setup for humidity control. This system operates within a closed loop, meaning the water isn’t exposed to the air or being consumed (hence “dry fluid”), and often in these cases the refrigeration equipment doesn’t need to be able to operate optimally in low temperatures since the dry cooler is doing most of the cooling work. This can significantly reduce equipment and maintenance costs.
In colder climates like those experienced in Canada and the northern US, indoor facilities have allowed cultivators to grow and sell their product all year long. In these types of applications, dry coolers reduce energy costs and can pay for themselves in half a year’s time. This is a major advantage to cultivators who are not only trying to grow the best plants they can, but trying to do it year-round, no matter what the weather.
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About the Author
Brandy Keen is the Co-Founder and Senior Technical Advisor for Surna