A grow and cultivation facility typically employs a grower who directs how the plants are cared for. The grower gives us the strict requirements for temperature and humidity that must be maintained. Some also have filtration requirements, depending on the facility’s location. If it is near other buildings, it may need different types of filtration to prevent the release of dust or odors. Some growers use carbon dioxide injections to help plants grow faster, and in those facilities, we need to install systems to protect occupants if CO2 levels become too high.
Brian Clark, Senior Project Manager at RTM Engineering Consultants, answers the questions: What types of facilities is RTM designing in the emerging marijuana market? What are the main design challenges of each?
When designing each type of facility, we must research and follow different codes, regulations, and laws, based on the locality. And the three facility categories also pose unique engineering challenges.
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.
In 2012, Colorado became the first U.S. state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Now recreational marijuana is legal in eleven states and Washington, D.C., and medical marijuana is legal in 33 states. As public opinion on the issue is evolving – a 2018 Gallup poll found that 66% of Americans support legalization – and as more states are changing their laws, the marijuana market will only continue to grow.
Extraction facilities use specialized equipment to pull out oils and other materials from marijuana plants. They contain high-hazard rooms – called C1D1 rooms by the NFPA 70 – because they often use natural gas or propane to heat up products to release oils. When designing extraction facilities, we need to be aware of which rooms have to meet the fire protection requirements for C1D1 use.
He said that the indoor cultivation facility in Evart has around 28,000 plants, and the yield has been increasing steadily and there are two reasons for that – genetics and environment.
“Our field is prepared with drainage, and we do everything we can when we are getting our crop ready to mitigate any risk that the weather can produce,” he said. “We have approximately 20,500 plants outside. We will start harvesting in the next week or two and it will be about a three or four week process.
Attitude Wellness/Lume Cannabis Company, led by Douglas Hellyar, is one of the largest growers with five grow licenses, an indoor cultivation facility and a recently established outdoor grow farm.
Cannabis growers usually begin harvesting their crop in early to mid-October and some areas of the state are seeing a robust crop this season.
The Lume Cannabis Company cultivation facility in Evart continues to experience increasing yield from their 20,000 plants, providing product to as many as 25 marijuana dispensaries throughout Michigan. (Photo courtesy of Lume Cannabis Co.)
EVART — The fall harvest season in Michigan typically means apples, pumpkins and other gourds, and maybe some wild mushrooms, but the newest fall crop around the state is cannabis.
Marijuana plants thrive inside the Lume Cannabis Company cultivation facility in Evart. Product yields continue to increase with the newest technological advances in cultivation. (Photo courtesy of Lume Cannabis Co.)
“Most of the crops and licenses in Michigan are for indoor facilities, which are probably improving yield as well,” he added.
Kuethe said at the Lume outdoor farm they endured a couple of serious storms with 70 mile an hour winds and tons of rain, but the field is prepared to recover quickly from such weather.
“Cannabis is just another crop,” he says. “The commercial flower and vegetable industries have been working on the same problems for many years, and they have the technology already.”
A student inspects a cannabis plant at Niagara College Canada’s teaching laboratory in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada. Credit: Niagara College
“Because of the federal strictures, there weren’t any standardized methods. Labs had to validate everything themselves,” Brauninger says. “It’s difficult to bring in expertise when there isn’t a wealth of information available, and no trade association to help share techniques.”
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