Cultivating Repeatability in Cannabis Operations POST
Cannabis Cultivation Software

Cultivating Repeatability in Cannabis Operations

By: Philip Petrini
Table of Contents:
  • Problem: The Variability of Cultivar Yields/Quality from Cycle to Cycle
    • Factors that Determine Yields/Quality
  • Reaction: Maintaining Control When Issues Arise
  • Solution: Know Your Grow
    • Identify the Impacts on Your Crop (When, Where, Why, How)
    • Maintain Your Climate (VPD)
    • A Clear Understanding of the Grow Methodology
    • Checks and Balances: Chain of Command, Employee Accountability and Ownership
    • Analysis of the Harvest Data
    • How FolioGrow Can Help

Cultivating repeatability in cannabis operations ensures success for cultivators seeking to plant themselves within the cannabis space long term. However, companies that can’t cultivate repeatability will likely fail. Achieving consistent repeatability in Cannabis Cultivation operations is a daunting task. And, without a clear understanding of the Grow Methodology and solid training, it’s impossible. As with any organization, there must be a clearly defined Problem-Reaction-Solution strategy to understand what steps an organization needs to take to achieve repeatability. Below, we will break down each of these.

Problem: The Variability of Cultivar Yields/Quality from Cycle to Cycle

First, let’s look at the problem. Many factors go into determining the yields and quality of a given life cycle of cannabis. Companies need to track and record many variables for analysis post-harvest. If you don’t perform this step performed in a calculated and detailed fashion, data is lost. Organizing harvest data and determining the root cause of loss, in plant yields or quality, is vital when determining what corrective actions an organization should make moving forward. Without this, money is left on the table and issues will continue to be a problem within your grow. It can affect your company’s reputation and, ultimately, your bottom line.

Factors that Determine Yields/Quality:

  • Environmental Conditions
  • Light Intensity, Light Type
  • Plant Density (Plant Spacing)
  • Pests, Fungus, Plant Diseases
  • Pollination/Seed Production in Flowers
  • Grow Media, Fertilizer, Irrigation Method
  • Cultivator Expertise

A group out of Canada studied cannabis yield data and published a great study in the “Frontiers of Plant Science.” You can read it here: Closing the Yield Gap for Cannabis: A Meta-Analysis of Factors Determining Cannabis Yield

Reaction: Maintaining Control When Issues Arise 

Secondly, let’s consider the reaction and how that impacts cultivating repeatability in your cannabis grow. Every cannabis grow cycle presents many challenges that force the cultivation staff to react on the fly. These issues, if caught early and with proper procedures in place, won’t cause major loss or a reduction of the final product quality or yield. Anything like HVAC malfunctions, irrigation issues, pests, or overwatering can pose a major problem to a crop if not properly handled at the onset of the issue. Without proper training of staff and constant monitoring of the garden, these problems can become catastrophic. 

To ensure the success of your crop and, in turn, your business, you need to have the proper procedures in place to combat any issue that may arise. Putting out fires that pop up is crucial. Everyone working in the grow should understand what steps to take if and when a problem is discovered. Plus, identifying the ownership over these actions builds trust, confidence, teamwork, and ultimately the Culture of the Business.

First, the team needs a clear understanding of the grow methodology the organization will use. Without it, Cannabis Cultivation staff is left in the trenches without clearly defined marching orders. As a result, problems will be missed, misidentified, or left to progress unchecked causing a snowball effect over the crop. Yields and Product Quality take the hit. The organization scrambles with what to do next. Eventually, employees become ambiguous, morale decreases, and panic sets in within the organization. But the good news is, there are ways to ensure this never happens!

Solution: Know Your Grow

Finally, let’s look at the solution for cultivating repeatability in cannabis operations. In this section, I will outline a few key elements that can assist an organization in maintaining control and setting the foundation for Cultivating Repeatability.

Identify the Impacts on Your Crop (When, Where, Why, How)

1. When

After harvest, the analysis of the data will allow an organization to identify key points in the life cycle where issues may have affected the yield or quality of the final product. Understanding WHEN an issue arose in the life cycle will help you identify the impact in addition to what procedures can be put in place to mitigate the issue in future crops. Also, you can identify how long the issue was left unresolved.

2. Where

Secondly, knowing exactly WHERE the issue took place is key in determining if there’s an underlying issue in a room or in the building. This could be things like pest infestation, irrigation issues, airflow problems, etc. Rectifying a problem in the room or building will prevent further problems from occurring in future crops. There may be an opportunity for additional training for the employee(s) who may have worked in the area. Plus, this training helps build trust and employee accountability moving forward. 

3. Why

Often, there are underlying issues within a room, the building itself, or procedures that foster the environment for problems to arise. So, understanding WHY the problem arose in the first place will guide the organization to fix underlying issues or create protocols moving forward to head off problems at the onset. Was the problem related to a procedural gap? Could the problem be faulty equipment? Or was the problem caused by some other issue? Knowing the root cause is vital in addressing how to prevent the problem in the future.

4. How

Organizations should take a proactive approach to review all aspects of the operation before resetting for the next crop. This includes a comprehensive review of the equipment, hardware, standard work, IPM scouting procedures, and chain of command for information to pass from cultivators to management. Then, the organization can implement maintenance schedules, fix faulty or broken equipment, offer additional training, and create necessary procedural changes or adjustments. As a result, the organization and crops are set up for future success. HOW organizations can prevent problems, is by detailed analysis of the operation and the harvest data.

Maintain Your Climate (VPD) to Cultivate Repeatability in Your Cannabis Grow

The conditions your plants are growing in are one of the biggest factors in driving yields for cannabis. Fluctuations or “spikes” in temperature and humidity over long periods of time in the life cycle will cause problems for your plants. Also, these spikes allow your crops to be vulnerable to things like Powdery Mildew (PM). Hourly checks of each room’s environmental data are critical in catching problems at their onset.

In addition, a cannabis cultivation facility should have redundancy for things like thermostats, HVAC, and power backups. VPD (Vapor Pressure Deficit) is the difference between the amount of moisture in the air and the amount of moisture the air can hold. It’s more accurate than just tracking relative humidity alone. Below is a great link to understanding VPD in your indoor cannabis grow.

VPD: How it Affects your Indoor Grow

A Clear Understanding of the Grow Methodology to Create Repeatability in Your Cannabis Grow

If your cultivation staff doesn’t understand the methodology being used to grow your cannabis, how can you expect repeatability with your crops? They don’t need to be expert growers. But their understanding of how to interact with the plants in each phase of the plant’s life cycle is important (transplanting, pruning, scouting, etc.).

Steps with human to plant interaction should be consistent throughout your entire garden. Every time a crop moves through the building it should be touched the same way every single plant. If employees aren’t sure, or worse, if the grow manager doesn’t clearly define his or her methodology, plants will suffer, morale goes down, and the business suffers as a result. Repeatability for an organization running this way is impossible. Sometimes this happens due to a lack of experience or leadership. Have methodology in writing, with visual aids and one-point-lessons, available at any time for every employee in the organization. You need consistency from plant to plant.

Checks and Balances: Chain of Command, Employee Accountability, Ownership

In every organization and industry, there’s typically a clearly defined Org Chart or Chain of Command. Employees at all levels should understand this. They should know who to go to when they identify a problem. Without it, information gets distorted, or worse, lost altogether. Everyone within the organization should have a visual representation of the proper channels each employee must run information through.

Clearly defining tasks and roles in a cannabis organization is vital for the success of the business. Each employee should understand what his or her role is and what they need to do every day they are on site. Plus, employee accountability builds trust with the team and helps foster a positive culture within the organization. However, if employees aren’t sure of their role, or the duties they’re responsible for, chaos ensues. This opens Pandora’s box for problems to set in. The quality of the product will suffer, and yields will be inconsistent. 

When an organization takes the necessary steps by implementing procedures and standard work for employees, they must assign ownership to an individual. This allows the operator to act cohesively and hold those accountable should a problem arise. Also, it will build the individual’s confidence and give them a sense of pride in their work. The business runs smoothly with clear channels of information passing throughout the organization. You can quickly identify problems and put solutions into action. And the team acts in unison for the benefit of the plants and the business. Ownership is one of the building blocks of the organization’s culture.

Analysis of the Harvest Data

After a harvest is complete and all necessary information is gathered (yields, potency, etc.), the post-harvest analysis can begin. This comprehensive overview of the crop data and head grower’s notes should identify the key points in the life cycle where issues may have arisen and what effect they may have had on the final numbers. Over time, you should compare harvest data side by side with previous harvests. The organization can do this at the strain level, room level, or both. Also, the organization can determine what strains or phenotypes to grow more often, or what to implement on an operational level to tighten up the ship. 

As time goes on, the Cultivation Operation will run more efficiently. Strains and phenotypes will be grown with a purpose, and the organization will have fail-safes in place to ensure crop viability. Anyone entering the building will feel the culture of the organization. Yields and final product quality will be more consistent, and the business will thrive! Businesses survive by creating repeatability. The Cannabis Industry needs more of it. Happy Growing!

How FolioGrow Can Help You Cultivate Repeatability in Your Cannabis Operations

Below you will see some of the benefits of utilizing FolioGrow, the Industry Leader in Cannabis Cultivation Software.

Some of the Benefits of FolioGrow Include:

  • Reduce the time spent in Seed-to-Sale Platforms like METRC with our API Integrations
  • Track your environmentals via API Integration 
  • Manage your crops
  • Replace whiteboards and spreadsheets for managing your people and plants
  • Build your grow methodology into the platform
  • Task management for employees
  • Reduce risk
  • Employee accountability:
    • SOP/SWIs
    • Team Building
    • Performance Reviews
    • Just-in-Time Training
  • Control Spending on Consumable Materials
  • Refine Strain Selection / Pheno Hunting
  • Product Pipeline / Demand Planning
  • Operational and Budget Planning
  • Facility Preventative Maintenance Schedules
  • Fostering Repeatability
  • Built in A/B Testing
  • Forecasting

Request your FREE 30 Day Trial of FolioGrow Today to see how we can help you in cultivating repeatability in your cannabis operations and much more.

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About FolioGrow

FolioGrow is cannabis cultivation software that helps you make the right decisions to increase your yields and profits. If you are using whiteboards to manage your cannabis grow, you’re losing valuable KPIs as well as data.