With 15 years’ experience in the construction industry, Jay Trulove knew quite a bit about the building process before drawing up plans for his family-owned operation, Osage Creek Cultivation. He also knew how to manage a farm, with more than 30 years’ experience raising chickens, cattle, and crops. Plus, as a pilot who has been flying for a major airline for 37 years, Trulove understood the importance of starting with a solid plan and being prepared to navigate change along the way.
When his family received one of Arkansas’ first four cultivation licenses in July 2018, Trulove didn’t fathom just how vital climate control would be to his operation. When he realized that his 92,000-square-foot indoor facility offered enough space to double his intended plant capacity, his original HVAC plans quickly fell short. That’s when he turned to the experts at Surna to refine his facility design to maximize his efficiency.
“When you double the number of plants per room, you have to make adjustments, and Surna’s been pretty good at that,” says Trulove, COO, who owns Osage Creek Cultivation with his wife and CEO, Mary, and their sons. “Even though we’ve thrown them a few curve balls, Surna has been instrumental to helping us accommodate the additional load.”
While designing Osage Creek, Trulove spent time touring other facilities, particularly around Denver. “I learned quite a bit, but mostly what not to do,” Trulove says. “A lot of these were existing buildings that had been modified, so they were cramped, and space was a big issue.”
After squeezing through these crowded grow rooms, Trulove wanted to make sure he had plenty of room to grow. “We built with expansion in mind, because I saw so many facilities that needed more space and had nowhere to go,” he says.
Trulove started with several key pieces of growing equipment—like 6-foot rolling benches and HPS lighting systems—and designed the facility around those. He ended up with six grow rooms measuring 40 feet by 110 feet. Following the recommendations of an industry consultant, Trulove calculated that this space could accommodate 600 plants.
But once cultivation began, Trulove realized that they’d significantly underestimated their growing capacity—which meant that their HVAC design needed to be ramped up, as well.
“When you double your plants from 600 to 1,300 and increase your feeding, which is increasing water, it changes the humidity,” Trulove says. “As we upped our plant count, Surna helped us make modifications to keep up with the temperature and humidity changes.”
To accommodate the increased plant capacity, Surna installed two additional boilers and converted several fan systems from cooling only to dual-purpose heating/cooling units. They also helped Trulove’s growers adjust the climate control settings to account for the extra crops. Later, when Osage Creek switched from HPS to LED lighting, which made the grow rooms noticeably cooler, Surna helped Trulove navigate the changing conditions again.
“The most valuable lesson we learned was not to underestimate the importance of maintaining the most precise temperature and humidity control,” Trulove says.
Equipped for Expansion
To control the environment in Osage Creek’s grow rooms, Trulove relies on a four-pipe chilled water system from Surna that uses hot and cold water coils to adjust the air temperature. Each grow room contains 24 fan coil units that control the distribution of airflow to manage temperature and humidity levels.
“I like this system because the airflow is very even, so we have a consistent temperature,” Trulove says. “It hardly varies a degree from the front to the back.”
So, whether the temperatures outside are below 0 or above 100—which, depending on the season, are both likely in Arkansas—Trulove’s growers can control the growing conditions with precision.
When Osage Creek recently expanded, adding five more 40-foot-by-110-foot grow rooms and a 40-foot-by-50-foot R&D room, Trulove “didn’t hesitate to call Surna first,” he says.
With limited electrical ampacity (the maximum current in amps) available in rural Berryville, Trulove didn’t have the bandwidth to power any more chillers. Instead, Surna helped him compare several other options to find energy-conserving units to efficiently control humidity in the new rooms.
Through these solutions and support, Surna helps Osage Creek maximize growing efficiency while maintaining cost control, keeping Trulove’s monthly water bills under $400 for the entire facility.
“We’re very happy with the results,” Trulove says. “We’ve reached (yield) goals we were shooting for, and now we’re just raising the bar. We’re always looking to produce the highest quality cannabis we can by focusing on efficiency and maintaining cost control, and Surna has done a good job helping us.”