I attended the CannaGrow Expo in Portland, Oregon, the 28-29th of August, and it was packed with valuable information for cannabis growers of all levels. Held at the Red Lion Jantzen Beach Hotel, there were two days of informational sessions, and a packed Expo Hall showcasing cutting edge products and services for growers in the burgeoning cannabis community. There were 18 educational sessions, with industry leaders like Jay Kitchen, of Uptown GrowLab, and Kyle Kushman, winner of 13 Medical Cannabis Cups, all won using Kyle’s Vegamatrix nutrient line, winner of the 2014 High Times STASH Award. Many local businesses were also present, including Cascadia Labs, CannaGuard Security, and Cascade Botanicals, and my friends from Portland Chapter Women Grow.
One of the main themes of this Expo was the need for marijuana cultivators to start looking for more ways to reduce energy consumption and impact on the environment. Commercial cannabis grows require intense amounts of water usage, and energy expenditure to produce enough light, and then cool the area because of the heat those lights produce.
LED lighting companies like Illumitex were there to educate attendees on cutting edge technology that has come out, which sounds like it will drastically reduce the amount of energy necessary to power industrial marijuana grows. While LED lights are more of an initial monetary investment than the lighting setups that many growers use these days, High Power Sodium bulbs for instance, they are better for the environment. Because they do not disperse heat in the same way that traditional lighting setups do, it sounds like LEDS will also save growers money in the long run by cutting down the amount of cooling necessary, and the amount of energy needed to power the light. Although these benefits make LED lights seem like an obvious choice, many growers are hesitant to switch to the new technology when the equipment they are used to using still produces reliably. The main concern I heard people voice was whether they would be able to get the same yields using this LED lights as the more common lighting options.
Another important step that marijuana growers can take to lessen energy consumption is to move toward greenhouse and hybrid greenhouse grow models. While growing outdoors and using the power of the sun to harvest multiple pounds per plant is almost every cannabis growers dream, there are too many parts of the country where this is just not an option due to weather, or security risks. Companies like Gro-Tech Systems, TriQ, and others are building greenhouse setups that use state of the art light deprivation curtains to mitigate the need for complete darkness 12 hours at a time when plants are in flowering.
The Oregon Liquor Control Commission will start accepting licenses for businesses planning to grow and sell recreational marijuana in Oregon, and there will be an increasing need for events like the CannaGrow Expo. Small recreational gardens will also be popping up in households all over, and it is an invaluable experience for beginning growers to have all these resources in one location. The final educational session on the second day, an open Q&A with Kyle Kushman on Advanced Cultivation Techniques brought up a lively conversation on whether there is a responsibility for industry leaders, such as Kushman, to be more vocal about promoting methods which lessen the environmental impact of growing marijuana. No one was able to come to a definitive answer to that debate, but the fact that it is taking place is a hopeful sign for the future.
I had a great time at the CannaGrow Expo, and I learned a lot about emerging technology that may change the paradigm of cannabis growing. Someday in the near future, growers may not be forced to hide in basements and garages, consuming massive amounts of power in order to light, heat, cool, vent and hide their gardens. When this change takes place, we will more fully be able to research and look into different methods of lessening our footprint on the planet, while also continuing to find ways to maximize yields.