©FatCamera | iStockphoto.com; © Startdesign | Dreamstime.com

It’s hard to know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been. The ability to compare and reflect on data from your worst crop to your best crop is paramount. You must record every aspect of your cultivation facility, whether indoor, outdoor, greenhouse, all organic or anything in between. Having the ability to compare data from past harvests is priceless. It allows you to analyze the nuances and differences between varying results and attempt to explain any disparity. Record every possible aspect of the facility, even if it’s just hand-written on paper.

Many times, when I ask facility owners if they have an explanation for a given situation, my question is met with a blank stare. When this happens, it’s because a head grower made changes to his crop-production processes without tracking them. Had the data been recorded, the owner would have been able to review all incremental adjustments to determine the cause of a given problem. Most changes in a cultivation environment have cause and effect, both of which could be measured in one form or another by data comparison.

Here is a basic explanation of some of the collectible data you should record and why it’s important.

1. Installation Date of All Light Bulbs: You must determine the point of diminishing returns for all lightbulbs, which have a given life expectancy (number of light hours).

2. Light Intensity: Light intensity levels (which you can check using a light meter) must also be recorded as part of your work schedule. By recording light intensity, you can decide exactly when to replace lightbulbs to ensure maximum intensity and minimize potential yield losses.

3. Periodic Water Analysis: At least two times a year, have your water source analyzed. Both municipal and well-water supplies can slightly deviate from season to season (winter/summer). Record all changes to your water supply.

4. Write A To-Do List: Make goals and plan to achieve them. If you plan to expand, ask yourself how you will achieve the goal realistically, and plan your strategy accordingly. By writing the plan with a target date to accomplish it, you can better see where you want to position yourself and get an overall perspective on what you are trying to conceptualize and achieve.

5. Cost of Goods: Record every possible cost of cultivation and business. This allows you to see exactly where you are spending money. You can then make decisions that are more conducive to minimizing unnecessary expenditure and/or waste.

6. Inventory and Tracking Materials Lists: It’s much more efficient to know exactly how much of a given item is on hand and to order more before it’s needed, rather than be forced at the last minute to source whatever is necessary for day-to-day operations. Have all department managers record inventory, and make the purchasing department aware when inventory of any item is close to depletion.

Photo by Blue Rose Designs

7. Workstation Lists: Department managers should have lists of all materials required to properly maintain their department and to fulfill their given responsibilities. They should be required to submit their list weekly to the purchasing department to ensure seamless workflow.

8. Power Usage—Peak Versus Off-Peak: By determining exactly when you are utilizing the most expensive rates, you may be able to slightly alter some operations or aspects that could ultimately save capital. Preferably, you may choose to use a battery storage system that allows you to offset energy costs by charging during off-peak hours so you can use stored energy during peak-demand (higher-cost) hours.

9. Water Temperature: Record temperature of water given to any plant. Neither too cold nor too hot is best, in that both excesses hold less oxygen. At 62°F, water holds maximum oxygen, but 62°F is slightly cooler than plants prefer. Yet, very hot temperatures are not preferred either. In addition to holding less oxygen, water that is too warm promotes bacterial, fungal and viral growth. Therefore, a water temperature between 65°F and 70°F is preferred. Recording water temperatures simply gives you another piece to the cultivation puzzle.

10. Potential of Hydrogen (pH): Keep accurate records of water before and after any nutrient or amendment is applied, as well as any adjustment of pH up or down to reach the desired level. As a water source changes, the adjustments require change as well.

11. Water Parts Per Million (ppm): Record ppm of water before and after any nutrient or amendment application for all stages of growth.

12. Nutrient Log: Document every aspect of nutrient application. How much, of what, the day it was applied, etc. This goes for every stage of growth for every amendment, whether it be organic or salt-based, indoor, outdoor, greenhouse or even compost teas and foliar feeds. Record/log every possible variable.

13. Daily Activity Log: Record daily activities of every aspect of each of your departments and growth environments, from work performed, to the number of hours it took to accomplish each task. Within such accumulated data, you can see exactly where the most time is being spent and all associated costs of performing a specific task. Often, this can lead to streamlining certain aspects of your production.

14. Air Temperatures: Record the highs and lows of outside ambient temperatures, as well as the highs and lows in any given 24 hours for all cultivation environments. Monitoring and recording the nighttime environment is just as important as monitoring the daytime environment. You must always understand what is taking place at night so you can adjust accordingly.

15. Humidity: Log the humidity highs and lows of the outside environment as well as the highs and lows of any given 24 hours for all cultivation environments. Record both daytime and nighttime highs and lows. Again, monitoring the nighttime environment is just as important as monitoring daytime levels. Plants transpire and release moisture at night, as well as during the day, so humidity levels may become elevated and promote conditions conducive to fungal or mildew growth and proliferation.

16. Air Content: Record and log all possible air-quality levels. CO2 and oxygen levels must be constantly monitored and recorded. Ethylene gas can build up, and be detrimental and counterproductive in many stages of plant growth. You must have proper airflow and accurately monitor air quality. Proper airflow will also aid in air-moisture-buildup prevention.

17. Dissolved Oxygen (DO) Levels of Water and Oxygen Content: Record and constantly monitor oxygen levels in all water that will be used on plants. Factors such as water temperature will affect DO levels in water. Companies exist that manufacture and sell equipment that provides perfect oxygen levels on demand.

18. Yield Per Square Foot of Plant Canopy: The only way to know if your facility is improving or not is to record the amount of usable cannabis produced in each area. Each individual room, plot or greenhouse is a separate entity with its own unique nuances. Therefore, all rooms and environments are not exactly the same. A small degree of variation always exists. Each environment is separate and should be recorded and logged as such.

In the end, you will have accumulated a lot of data, and the data’s value is limited only by a grower’s ability to interpret that combined data and to implement any required refinements. Ideally, the data should be automatically recorded on a computer platform that would allow you to compare the best harvest to the worst harvest, which gives a true perspective on why one crop did better than another.

This also can be invaluable when there is a problem or when something goes wrong. When a problem arises, you must have recorded data to reflect upon and hopefully find the cause. The goal is to give the plant exactly what it wants exactly when it wants it. Nothing more, nothing less and precisely on time. Why give the plant an element in the nutrient mix when the plant is not going to utilize it? Applying nutrients the plant won’t use in any given growth stage is a poor use of your resources and, basically, is wasteful. You would be paying for an element that wasn’t utilized. On a large scale, small expenses compound rapidly and contribute to your overall cost of production. For as much as we know about the mineral requirements of a given cultivar of the cannabis plant grown in a given environment, there is much more to be learned when laws allow for the true study of exact requirements.

Considering Anomalies

An anomaly is defined as something that deviates from what is standard. I have seen many anomalies regarding cannabis cultivation in my 35 years of commercial production. I have data tracked consistently for 10 years.

One specific incident I can’t get out of my head is a time before I began my extensive documentation, when a friend had 63 plants that were ready to begin flowering, about 15 years ago. He could not keep the plants, and called to ask if I would take them and finish them. By the time I took possession, they were neglected. They had been in his van for three days with nothing more than a single, 100W incandescent bulb as a light source. The growing media had dried out, and the plants desperately needed water.

When the plants finished flowering approximately eight weeks later in my facility, 15 of them had performed exceptionally well. All the same cultivar, all the same growth conditions—the same everything (as far as I knew without data to support it)—yet these 15 were amazing standouts. Not that there was any perceivable negative to any of the other plants. It’s just that these in particular had twice the bud weight, twice everything. But why?

This is the question I often ask myself. Although that situation took place years and years ago, it is still in the forefront of my mind. The experience taught me that for all that is known regarding cannabis production, there is so much more we can discover if we take the time to carefully analyze our production methods.

Kenneth Morrow has been writing cannabis-related articles and books for more than 20 years. He owns Trichome Technologies, a cannabis R&D company. Morrow also is an award-winning grower and breeder. Has made contributions to many of today’s extraction methodologies and holds multiple patents. He consults on all cannabis-related subjects. Find him on Facebook at: Trichome Technologies or Instagram: TrichomeTechnologies.