Consistent crop yields are critical for commercial cannabis growers to maintain product profitability while also making production easier. Since cannabis thrives under certain conditions, the more control a cultivator has over those conditions, the easier it is to produce consistent harvests.
While factors like humidity, light exposure, and water may be easy enough to control in any indoor environment, other influential factors can be more difficult to control, such as mold or other contaminants. Growing cannabis in a controlled environment like a clean room makes sure that it is healthy and of high quality by reducing some threats that are harder to control. Because of these things, growing cannabis in a clean room is quickly becoming the industry standard.
A Closer Look at the Cleanroom Environment
growingmicrobes,associatedA cleanroom facility is a specially designed room or modular addition designed to support a tightly controlled growing environment for crops. The design of the cleanroom relies on several design features to deter issues with pollutants, such as insects, mold, airborne microbes, and dust. Even though cleanroom environments are often associated with cultivating certain types of crops, these facilities are also valuable in other industries, such as medicine, biology, and pharmaceuticals.
Cleanrooms can be conservatively sized or massive. They can be set up to work with different processes and built to meet the needs of a particular grower. However, several features are key, such as:
- Cleanroom-rated HEPA (high-efficiency particulate arrestor) filtration
- Contamination control mats
- Positive-pressure airflow systems
- Double-door air chambers at entry points
- Moisture-resistant wall panels
Controlling how contaminants get into a cleanroom is one of the most important things it needs to do. Contaminants can be carried into the space by the people who visit it. Therefore, cleanroom implementation must come with strict protocols when it comes to employee entry into the room. For example, air showers, special gowns, masks, and other measures may be required.
The Benefits of Cleanroom Environments for Cultivators
On the surface level, cleanrooms make it possible to achieve a well-controlled environment for cannabis cultivation. But while this is important for getting consistent crop yields and making money, cleanrooms also have a number of other benefits for both growers and customers.
Meet Laboratory Testing Guidelines and Protocols
For now, states have created product testing regulations for cannabis. Most states that have legalized medical or adult-use cannabis have created protocols for lab-testing products for pesticides and microbes. When batches of cannabis products do not meet state lab-testing standards, they can be recalled or destroyed. In 2016, Steep Hill released a scary study that showed pesticides were found in about 70% of the samples they got, and up to a third of the samples did not meet government standards. Cleanrooms reduce a grower’s reliance on pesticides.
Negate the Risk of Fungal Contamination
Cannabis is prone to certain types of fungal spores that can cause severe illness in end customers. For example, Aspergillus mold spores are common in cannabis and can lead to cases of chronic pulmonary aspergillosis. In large doses, Aspergillus mold spores may even cause liver failure due to the carcinogenic mycotoxins the spores produce in the body. Cleanrooms negate the risk of fungal contamination through proper ventilation, particulate control, and positive pressure.
Create a Safer Work Environment for Employees
Employees who work in cultivation facilities in the cannabis industry face various occupational hazards. Many of these hazards are related to being in contact with fungicides, mold spores, and chemical fertilizers. The exposure can result in issues such as allergic reactions, respiratory irritation, and other physical threats. Cleanrooms and how they function can deter many of these risks. For example, the lack of need for fungicide use automatically lowers the risks due to lack of exposure. Further, because protective gear is required to maintain the integrity of the cleanroom, there is less of a chance an employee’s skin or respiratory system is exposed to irritants.
Cleanrooms: The Potential Future of Cannabis Cultivation
As cannabis becomes a more robust industry and regulations become more clearly defined, growing standards are bound to change. As speculations about national regulations veer closer to reality, growing cannabis industrially may even require cultivation facility upgrades. Cleanroom environments give growers firm control over the health of their crops while ensuring clean products for customers. Therefore, these innovative and health-forward implementations could easily become the norm in the cannabis industry in the future.