Growing: Controllability – Cornerstone of Quality Part 2: Environment Optimization

As discussed in Part 1, removing easily identifiable factors impeding plant growth, or the “low hanging fruit”, will help improve quality and quantity of a harvest. Other, not as apparent, factors however are where true savings and increased harvests are found. As said in Part 1, one of the most effective and most overlooked portion of any garden is the controllability of the environment. It is difficult to control the growing environment; under normal circumstances true control is nearly impossible. What is true control? Read on.

In the market today, there is a growing group of experts trying to determine what is the best environment for cannabis. And while there are as many opinions as experts, the factor all can agree on is the environment will affect the outcome. When an organism is in less than ideal conditions, energy must be utilized for functions other than growth. In other words, eliminating less than ideal environmental issues will allow the plant to reach its full potential, which will undoubtedly increase yield per plant, and harvest as a whole.

The question then becomes: “What is the best environment for success?” While the answer is not exact, there needs to be a balance to the environment. Too much, or not enough of one of the main components will hinder growth. Too much CO2 in the environment can create airy, less potent crops. Not enough CO2 can starve the plants. Temps too high, too low, or simply too erratic will decrease the harvest, or destroy it all together. Relative Humidity, and Humid environments can cause the plant to weigh down and wilt. Not enough will stump growth, as the plant is needing to draw all of their energy through the roots. These are serious concerns for serious growers, and lighting and watering aren’t even part of the equation yet. Precision Cooling Units, instead of standard HVAC, are the best way to ensure total control of the environment, as these units actively measure all environmental conditions and make any correction needed autonomously.

So, how does a grower ensure that their environment is optimized? The key to an optimal environment is Controllability (Part 1), with a healthy dose of data collection and analyzation. Why, you might ask, would I need to write down what the temperature was, how much air is moving, how much CO2 is in the air, and the relative humidity? When you utilize clean rooms, with high level of control (such as TWK), determining the optimum levels can only be done through investigation. Slight variations at specific intervals have shown to affect growth tremendously. Unfortunately, if your room has saturation or permeation issues or there is no controlled access, the ability to effectively control your environment are nearly impossible. Only with tight, measurable parameters can plants reach their full potential. Only in completely controlled environments can these parameters be, not only measured, but also repeated and ultimately predicted. It is at this time, that true optimization can be realized.

Manipulating the environment under strict control will remove all stress from the plant. When the plant is not expending energy to battle the environment, that energy is redirected to growth and prosperity. Determining the parameters takes time and effort, and will be slightly different for each grower, strain and room. However, removing the variables related to the environment will allow the grower to focus their energy on their crop, not the environment.

Peace, Steve

Next: Part 3 – Determining Parameters

HVAC units are not all the same

We all agree that the health of your crop is number one. Unfortunately, we've seen countless examples of growers dropping in low-cost HVAC units to control their environments. This is usually a bad idea. Many of your decisions can be "fixed in editing," but you do not want to be exposed in this area. 

What you need is: Precision Cooling Control for Indoor Cultivation

All the models used for The White Knight utilize a robust air handling unit designed for precision cooling.  Our air handlers have traditional been used in systems where downtime is not an option such as data centers.  Like data centers, indoor cultivation facilities require precise cooling controls 24/7/365.

All of the our air handlers provide consistent temperature, dehumidification, and CO2 levels for your flower rooms.  Integral CO2 distribution also allows the user both monitoring and control capabilities, Precision cooling and dehumidification offers energy saving from the hot gas reheat capability. 

As an added feature to help ease the cultivator's peace of mind, a web based controls for both remote monitoring and adjustment for the items described above is offered.

True, it's not the cheapest option. But why would you want to risk it? If your air sucks, or you have a worst case scenario of losing your HVAC unit, you lose your crop. Not worth it. You should opt to go high end - where its most needed.

If you have questions about your air, hit up right now!

The White Knight is always built to suit your needs

It is true that The White Knight comes in two versions. TWK480 is a 40 ft version with 640 sq.ft. of cultivation space. TWK312 is a 26 ft. version with 400 sq.ft of grow room - essentially the same unit with a smaller HVAC unit and a bit less space.

Both versions come standard with two floors and, of course, travels collapsed into one floor to meet DMW regulations. The technology template is the same, but we know your cultivation requirements are not. Therefore, each unit is always built to suit. 

Built to Suit Your Needs

We know you have different preferences so we decided, from the beginning, to engage with each of you in planning, designing, and engineering each unit to fit your special needs. Some of you want more width others want LED's and 10 ft. ceiling height vs the standard 8.3 ft. For those of you who use Gavitas vs LED's with a lower heat and energy consumption profile, you need a 5-ton HVAC unit. Done!

If you want more height or width, we can customize to your needs. As long as we stay within our room design template, we can make adjustments for you. If you want your White Knight to be 10 ft wide vs 8.5 ft, that's not a problem for us. It does mean that you'll need a "wide load" permit for the road and that will increase your transportation cost by x3 or more. As long as you're comfortable with that, we'll make it happen!

Some of you ask if we only deliver The White Knight with LumiGrow LED's. No, we deliver the White Knight to fit your needs. If you want to use HPS1000's, Spectrum Kings, or Gavita's, we'll make whatever adjustments required for your cultivation profile.

How Far Could Customization Go?

Right now, we're making explosion proof versions of TWK312 (C1D1 regulation) based on our technology platform. This version will be one floor rather than two and it will have a different, less advanced, HVAC unit, but our overall design remains similar. Of course, the components used have to meet C1D1 standards - but that is not difficult for us. Why? Because our team have 25+ years of experience designing and engineering clean rooms for pharmaceuticals and biotech. We've built many explosion proof facilities through the years and now we've transferred that knowledge to The White Knight.  

If you have customization needs, please reach out to Steve Baumgardner Thanks!

Challenges Cultivating In Florida

Gardening in Florida presents some unique challenges, including oppressive heat and humidity, shallow sandy soils and large insect populations, due to the frost free climate. As any good gardener knows, it's helpful to know your local conditions and how to work with them, rather than struggle against them.

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Image Credit:

Know your planting calendar

For gardeners in Florida, this means knowing your seasonal planting calendar. In general, Florida has a humid, subtropical climate to tropical climate, which is markedly different from many parts of the country. High heat and humidity dominate the majority of the year and the brief winter is generally mild and frost free. Gardeners in this climate are wise to research local varieties that are adapted to such an environment.

Rain and Wildfire

Florida's rainy season which lasts from May to October offers many inches of rainfall, but often without reliability. The natural environment in Florida relies on periodic wildfire to maintain healthy forests and ecosystems. These wildfires are preceded by extended periods of drought and ignited by summertime thunderstorms. Heat building up during the day causes afternoon thunderstorms to form and these storms can be sometimes be violent, with thunder and lightning and pouring rain.

The rainfall and constant humidity fuels many mildews, molds, and fungal competitors, which can be very difficult to control in the garden. Again, gardeners are advised to seek out local varieties that are suited to the high humidity and heat and to tailor planting calendars to minimize damage to crops.

Unique native insect population

Anyone who has spent any time at all in Florida is well acquainted with its native insect population. Many common North American insects can be found in Florida and some unique species as well. While the cockroach and mosquito are completely ubiquitous, gardeners are more often focused on insects that feast on the roots, stems, leaves and fruit in our gardens. Pests, such as cutworms, mole crickets, and aphids are easily seen on our plants, but there are also pests which reside in the sandy soil. Nematodes, which are a type of roundworm, can quite destructive in gardens. While some nematodes are beneficial in the garden, there are also parasitic nematodes, which feed on living plant tissues. Soil pest issues, of which Florida has many, can be difficult to diagnose.

Soil in Florida

This brings us to the very foundation of our garden, which is the soil. Since Florida is essentially hundreds of miles of sand bar, surrounded by ocean, It is common to find thin, sandy soil. Often, this soil lacks significant amounts of organic matter, which provides structure and water retention, and provides the humic catalyst for soil life. Adding organic mulches and amendments is The best way to build soil over time, but consistency is key, as the hot and humid climate breaks down the organic matter quickly and this matter must be replaced.

Gardening in Florida is certainly not without obstacles, but still provides many rewards to the wizened gardener.  And as every gardener knows, there is nothing like a homegrown, healthy crops! 

If you grow in Florida, ask us any questions in the comments below and we'll respond. Thanks for reading!

After Legalization Following The Rules Just Makes More Sense for Growers

As legal frameworks are evolving, many growers are faced with permitting rules and compliance requirements that need to be resolved under new laws. While different rules regarding licensing apply to states, counties, and cities - building, construction, and equipment regulations are somewhat standard across the US at least.

If it looks like this, it's probably not to code

Sure, that's probably a bit extreme, but even minor issues can trip up your permitting process. When you want to do it right, there are generally three areas to watch out for:

Land use

We talk to growers every day who have land use permits that will expire under new regulation. This is happening in Oregon, for example, right now. Growers who previously could grow under Medicinal permits on their land will now be out of compliance as of December 31 2016. Many of these growers have invested in real estate and tenant improvements - sunk cost which will be hard or impossible to recoup.

Building permits and regulation

As more dispensaries want to ensure they are compliant with state and local rules, they no longer buy product from unlicensed growers. For growers, this means your overall distribution channels narrow and you have two options: (1) Make sure your grow operation is fully compliant, or (2) serve the black market. Smart growers chose the better long term option - compliance. 

For growers, maximizing legal market access is critical and that means growers should comply with building regulation, invest in proper equipment, safety, and quality control. Running your grow operation out of a shed or barn is no longer a viable option. As a grower, to minimize your own risk, you probably want to hire quality designers and engineers who can ensure that you won't have serious permitting and compliance issues. When the fire department goes through your facility to approve your certificate of occupancy, you want to make sure you pass the inspection!

Equipment standards

Does your equipment meet the permitting standards for the new or current legal framework in your state and county? If not, you may need to invest in new and better equipment and materials. Before you do, you'll want to ensure that the equipment or materials for your facility meets the requirements from your local permitting office.

What's next?

The bottom line is this: What worked yesterday may not work tomorrow. If you want your product in the hands of buyers, you'll need to ensure that you can sell to the most successful retailers. Those retail outlets will be professional, clean, and fully compliant with State law. They will require that you, the grower, also is running a tight and professional operation. 

Digital vs. Magnetic for HID Lighting

Selecting the right lighting equipment for your grow operations can be tricky. Therefore, we're starting a series of posts on lighting and related equipment. We start by looking at ballast. 

What is a ballast?

A ballast is the power supply for your grow lamp.  It takes outlet voltage, boosts it for start up, then regulates that voltage to maintain the arc inside your grow lamp.  Both HPS and MH lamps require the use of a ballast.

Magnetic ballast

Magnetic ballasts are constructed of steel sheets wrapped in a spool of wire. These components make a magnetic ballast considerable in weight, up to 50lbs. They are considered “tried and true” technology and have been around for many years.  They are very durable easily serviced and last for years, even in adverse conditions.  

The cost of magnetic ballasts is also about half that of a digital ballast.  The down side of a magnetic ballast is they are lamp and wattage specific. A 600w HPS ballast cannot run a 400w bulb nor can it run a MH bulb, although there are some switchable ballasts that can run either HPS or MH, but even these are still wattage specific.  Another drawback of these ballasts is the production of significant heat and an audible hum both of which increase as the ballast ages.

Digital  ballast

A digital ballast contains small semiconductors and microprocessors to start and regulate voltage to the lamp.  The advantages of a digital ballast are many. They are much lighter weighing in around 10lbs.

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Most  can run a HPS or MH lamp in a range of wattages.  Digital ballasts do not hum and produce significantly less heat.  They regulate voltage to the lamp more precisely and eliminate flicker. Many also use soft start technology that is much easier  on the lamp and extends the life of the bulb.  They have the ability to fully fire the lamp producing as much as 30 percent more light from the same bulb as compared to a magnetic ballast. These ballasts can also sense that a bulb is bad and will not try to fire it.  They will also not try to ignite a bulb after a power blip until the bulb has cooled enough to do so, preventing damage to the bulb.

The biggest disadvantage to the digital ballast is cost, which is at least double that of a magnetic ballast and varies widely by brand.  One last consideration is some digital ballasts cause RF interference and disrupt radio and TV reception.

If you have questions on what might be best for you, hit us up anytime!

Growing? Controllability – the Cornerstone of Quality

PART 1 - Insulation

The key to any good harvest is delivering quality on several factors. Some are easily identifiable. Others are not so apparent. In fact, one of the most effective and most overlooked portions of any garden is the controllability of the environment. While it is difficult to control the growing environment, it is the single most impactful element to a consistent and high quality crop.

 Cross section of wall material

Cross section of wall material

Despite efforts, unless your environment is completely controlled and isolated, consistency in production and quality will vary wildly. Imagine working in an environment completely controlled and determined by you. All the environmental factors you wish to control - Temperature, humidity, Air-flow, pressure, and CO2 may be high on your list.

The White Knight is able to give you the ability to control all of these conditions from anywhere you can work your mobile phone. But just having the ability to adjust these variables isn't enough – not without the proper facility designed to contain the environment inside and stop contaminants from entering.  The fact is, no warehouse or storage container is going to be able to prevent mold, mildew, spider-mites and any other contaminant from entering, as there are too many points of entrance.  

The White Knight (TWK) doesn’t have this issue.  TWK is designed and manufactured to the stringent standards of laboratory environments.  The first way TWK delivers this, is the structure itself.  The structure is manufactured out of materials utilized in food & beverage as well as pharmaceutical industries and is proved to stop microbial organisms, mold and mildew, and any traditional pest from entering.

Utilizing a tongue-and-groove locking system, there are no gaps or spaces for contaminants to enter through. Made from aluminum skin with poly-styrene chemically bonded interior, no pest is able to chew burrow through. The interior is wash down acceptable, and is coated with a bonded paint known as Plastisol.  Plastisol will not come off and is mold and mildew proof.  

In addition to expertly stopping contaminants from entering, the wall panels are an excellent insulator.  The insulation has an efficiency rating of R-60.  In simple terms, this means that there is roughly 60 TIMES the insulation factor over standard building materials.  In other words, the outside will not affect the inside. Whether if the TWK was in Desert Hot Springs, CA or Fairbanks, AK the TWK operates the same.

Controlling your environment is on the cutting edge of the industry.  For beginners, a controlled environment can be the difference between success and wild fluctuations in production and quality.  For experts already involved in commercial cultivation, removal of contaminants and a controlled environment allows for the farmer to focus all your energy on the art of cultivation.  For everyone, a controlled environment will increase production, dramatically reduce spoilage, and deliver a consistent, and quality crop every time.

Next time, in PART 2, we'll cover - Climate Control: Optimizing environment for maximum output.

Achieve your production goals with The White Knight

Tired of struggling to meet your production goals? Don't settle for a container retrofit or warehouse build out. Neither of which were originally designed with growing in mind.

The White Knight provides the best controlled environment grow unit on the market today. It was designed and built by engineers and horticulturalists to be used for growing. TWK utilizes a positive pressure environment to prevent pests and diseases entering the growing environment.

Precise temperature control suppresses excessive plant stretch during flowering and promotes low plant stress levels. Consistent relative humidity levels are precisely maintained, accelerating growth during the vegetative cycle, and are easily dropped during flowering to increase trichome and resin production. Low humidity levels also make the environment inhospitable to fungi such as powdery mildew and bud rot.

The White Knight also delivers unsurpassed CO2 injection through the HVAC system and regulated in ppm. Meanwhile, CO2 levels are maintained consistently throughout the growing space maximizing plant health and growth rate. We designed The White Knight to give you, the grower, the best opportunity to achieve your goals and maximize your yield.

The White Knight is not a container

We know, The White Knight looks like a container. But, for many reasons, it is very different from a container. This is a container:  

A shipping container, no matter how drastically modified, is still licensed as a shipping container. For operations where no structure is utilized, a shipping container must be placed on property where commercial storage is allowed. The White Knight has no such constraints as it is a machine. 

That's right. The White Knight is a licensed and stamped piece of equipment, manufactured by Premises Labs - an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM). Our customers love this because it allows for tax friendly depreciation to be utilized by you, the owner.

A container, with its steel walls, was built to transport things, not for cultivation or processing. Our engineering team designed The White Knight products from ground up - specifically for cultivation and processing. Our completely closed system, coupled with unparalleled mobile control, ensures the absolute best in environmental and atmospherical conditions.  This creates the most energy efficient and transportable lab grade cultivation and processing system in the world today.

With superior insulation and materials, all built custom, The White Knight will reduce spoilage by 40%, eliminate pests and molds, reduce energy costs by 50%, and reduce water usage by up to 97%**

The White Knight is now available

We're excited to announce that The White Knight is now available! It's been a long journey getting here, but we made it. Now, we want to hear from you. 

We talked to growers in California, Oregon, Washington, and Colorado. You told us what would work for you and we went off and built The White Knight. We hope you like it! 

Let me know what you think. Send us an email.