April 20, 2017

5 Things to Know about Canada's Marijuana Legislation

Last week, Canada finally released its much-anticipated marijuana legislation, making it the second country in the world after Uruguay to legalize marijuana for recreational usage. This is an important moment in the development of cannabis as a global industry and we are all watching Canada take on this new challenge. At Surna, we like to stay up to date on everything cannabis-related and have been watching these developments carefully. Now that legislation has been presented, we’ve put together 5 things you should know about how Canada got here and what recreational marijuana will look like for the nation.

5. They did the Research
Canada began this process in 2001 when it legalized medical marijuana. But in 2015, now Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made adult use legalization a mainstay of his bid for office. Once he was elected, he promptly ordered a task force to investigate the industry and make recommendations for Canada’s legalization. The task force was exhaustive, surveying 30,000 people, meeting with territorial and provincial governments, interviewing experts and medical patients and investigating regulations in places like Uruguay, Colorado and Washington. After five months of research and consultation, the task force presented a 106-page report that detailed recommendations in December 2016. These recommendations focused heavily on safety and keeping legislation flexible and fluid. For the most part, recommendations have been followed in the legislation presented last week.

4. Temperance over prohibition
The first thing to understand about Canada’s legalization efforts are that they are aimed at keeping cannabis boring. After decades of dealing with black markets, Canada has come to realize that prohibition simply does not work and has focused instead on temperance, which allows marijuana to be used safely and responsibly by adults. This is in stark contrast to the glamorous American cannabis market. In states that have legalized in the US, loud and flashy packaging and innovative products are the norm, creating excitement and intrigue into the budding industry. In Canada, they intend to approach this differently.  Bill Blair, former Toronto Police Chief and current advisor to Trudeau on Marijuana Policy, explains that the real goal of this legalization is to take the mystery and excitement out of the product and ensure responsible usage among adults. As of now, edibles are prohibited and there is still some question about concentrates.  The intent of the legislation is to create tight restrictions now that can be relaxed later if needed. Blair explains that a temperance approach allows the country to regulate the supply and allocate law enforcement efforts towards more important goals.

3. The goal is safety first and foremost
In the US, one of the major drivers for states that have legalized cannabis has been economic. Colorado alone made $200 million in tax revenues in 2016, providing much needed funds for education. While that is impressive, Canada has a different motivation. They hope to regulate an existing illegal market with the goal of keeping it away from children and ensuring safety standards. A study in 2013 by UNICEF found that Canada leads the developed world in usage of cannabis among teens. For this reason, dispensaries will have to strictly enforce age requirements, packaging will have to be kept simple and products that could appeal to children will be prohibited. Marijuana will be marketed like cigarettes, with a heavy focus on educating consumers of the effects rather than enticing them to buy.

In addition, the regulation of the market means that consumers can ensure they’re ingesting safe products. In an illegal market, it is difficult for consumers to be sure they are not consuming pesticides or mold when consuming marijuana. With regulation, testing protocols will be mandated, ensuring only safe and healthy products are available to consumers.

2. Legislation has been introduced but nothing is legal yet
While legislation was presented to Parliament for approval last week, there is still much work to be done. Now the bill goes to Parliament for changes and, ultimately, approval. It looks promising for the bill as Trudeau’s Liberal Party controls a majority of the House of Commons and they are also supported by an even more liberal New Democratic Party.

However, there is still the very real possibility of changes to the law before it is adopted. In particular, regulations around licensing types and processes have yet to be created and must be decided before legalization. Regardless, the government intends to have legalized adult-use cannabis by July 2018 which gives them some time to finalize the details but means they will be working hard on this for the next year. This means Canadians and visitors alike should be able to consume cannabis legally in time for Canada Day (July 1) 2018.

1. It will be a team effort
The legislation released last week details which governing bodies will have control over the different aspects of regulation. While the Federal government will be tasked with designing regulations concerning cultivation and licensing cultivation facilities, individual provinces and territories will have to determine how retail sale and distribution will be managed. The government will also have to collaborate to develop a system for testing impaired drivers. Different bodies from all over federal, provincial, and local government must come together to create an overall regulatory structure that runs smoothly and efficiently. This is no small undertaking. The world will be watching Canada, taking note of its trials and successes in the movement toward cannabis legalization

At Surna, we stay up to date on all legislation and regulation concerning cannabis cultivation. Understanding the environment our customers must navigate is important to our role as experts in the industry. If you’re considering starting a cultivation facility in Canada or anywhere else,
reach out to us for advice and guidance.

April 10, 2017

Biosecurity Risks in the Garden

Biosecurity is quickly becoming one of the most important topics in the cannabis industry. Testing standards are getting stricter and rates of tainted crops are sky rocketing, causing supply shortages and significant financial blows to cultivators all over the continent. Crops with mold or fungus can be deadly to consumers—especially those with lower immune systems, like many medical users. The alternative for many cultivators is to use chemicals like pesticides and fungicides to combat mold but unfortunately, these still pose a threat to consumers, placing cultivators in a catch-22 situation. Should you risk mold and fungus by avoiding chemicals? Or should you introduce potentially harmful chemicals to your plants to ensure against mold and fungus? Neither is a good option. Not only do these options put consumers at risk but, with increased regulation, they also put cultivators at risk of losing significant profits from having to dispose of sub-par harvests.

Surna is a company built by growers and so we are always thinking about the challenges cultivators face and how to solve them. This is why biosecurity has become somewhat of an obsession for us. We’ve spent a lot of time thinking and researching ways to address this issue. So, this week, we want to highlight some of the major biosecurity risks we see cultivators doing every day that can be easily avoided or corrected.

Dropping your Nighttime Temperatures Too Low

There are many competing opinions about the ideal temperature range for cannabis. Many cultivators drop their nighttime temperature as much as 10°F either because they feel it is their secret to delicious crops or because they lack the right equipment for maintaining a consistent environment. And while there is some evidence that temperature swings near the end of the flowering cycle can cause the buds to “purple”, this practice actually puts plants at risk.

Humidity and temperature have a complex relationship that can be hard to grasp even with years of experience. But, the basics are that when your temperature drops, so too does your dew point, or the temperature at which moisture condenses onto surfaces, resulting in higher relative humidity levels. To make matters worse, any dehumidifier--regardless of brand--becomes less effective at lower temperatures. For example, a 300-pint per day dehumidifier at 80°F could quickly become a 200- or 150-pint per day dehumidifier at a lower temperature, making it difficult to control humidity when you need it most. Cultivators can combat this by enabling a re-heat in their gardens to keep temperatures from dropping too significantly during the lights-off photoperiod, or adding additional dehumidification.

At Surna, we understand this issue. We work with our customers to find solutions that will keep temperatures stable throughout the day while not compromising preferred cultivation practices—all while protecting against relative humidity spikes and mold/fungus growth. Our products keep temperatures stable, offering superior cooling when lights are on and heating options when lights are off.

Lacking Humidity Control

Sometimes, humidity is more difficult to control than just keeping temperatures stable. In fact, humidity control is one of the hardest and most complex pieces of the environmental control puzzle. Because it depends so much on temperatures and cooling systems, it can be a bit of a moving target. And, as we know, keeping humidity under control can be the key to staving off mold and fungus without resorting to toxic chemicals.

Surna has been in cultivation for a decade and has worked on hundreds of cultivation facilities around the continent. We are humidity experts. We are also cultivation experts and understand the water-intensive nature of growing cannabis indoors. We’ve developed our equipment with that in mind. Our fan coils are designed with a greater capacity for dehumidification, offering cultivators more of what they need. In fact, they can act as the primary source of dehumidification during the day. For nighttime, or for extra help, we have developed a 300-pint per day dehumidifier which offers more dehumidification per dollar than anything else on the market. We also size your system correctly the first time and take your temperature and relative humidity targets into account when suggesting equipment to ensure you have the right equipment for your particular needs.

Not Controlling Inputs

While humidity control is extremely important, the first line of defense is always keeping the garden clean and free of any contaminants like spores. The easiest way to do this is to completely seal the cultivation environment. Many cultivators opt to vent cultivation areas to offset heat created by lighting, pulling air from outside into the cultivation space and often bringing pests, bacteria, spores and humidity with it. What they inevitably realize is that trying to keep a facility clean while venting is virtually impossible. It’s a moving target that is never really under control.

To combat this, we recommend using a chilled water system for cooling cultivation spaces. A system like this uses a chiller and pump to circulate cool water to in-room fan coils, cooling and recirculating existing air without exposing plants to external inputs and allowing for complete control. And unlike many traditional cooling options, these systems also eliminate the need for ductwork which can be a breeding ground for mold as well as difficult to clean. Instead, water pipes are easy to maintain and leave little surface area on which bacteria can grow.

Not Setting up Sanitation Processes

Another way to ensure cultivation areas stay clean is to develop, and stick to, strict cleaning processes. Monitoring and cleaning air and surfaces is critical and requires setting up standard operating procedures which can be overwhelming to cultivators. At Surna, we understand this which is why we’ve developed a comprehensive biosecurity program. The program offers testing and assesses specific facility needs and risks, suggesting mitigation processes, services and products, like Surna’s AiroClean device.

Biosecurity is a major concern for many cultivators due to the impact that moldy or tainted crops can have on both patients and operations’ bottom line. Unfortunately, it is a complex issue—constantly moving from one input to another—making it hard to get right. At Surna we understand how to get the cultivation environment just right and we’re always happy to share what we’ve learned. Reach out to us to learn more about how we can help you safeguard your crops against failure.

March 11, 2017

Correctly Sizing a Cooling System for your Indoor Garden

Designing an indoor garden can be complicated. Cannabis is a new industry and though growers can pull best practices from similar industries, the fact remains that setting up a commercial cultivation facility is complicated and hard to navigate for new entrants. From navigating regulatory requirements to finding an appropriately zoned facility to choosing the right equipment, nothing about this process is simple. As soon as one task is completed, another task needs attention.

Here at Surna, we’ve been designing controlled cannabis environments for almost a decade and are well-versed in the cultivation set up process. This involves balancing numerous variables and is as much of an art as a science; but what we’ve seen to be one of the most crucial aspects for cultivators to get right (and what so many get wrong) is properly sizing a cooling system.

The first thing anyone trying to determine the correct cooling system size needs to know is how to measure cooling. Cooling is measured in tons. Sometimes chillers will be sold based on horsepower, but this is really just an indication of the size of compressor the chiller uses to circulate refrigerant, giving you an idea of how it cools itself but not necessarily speaking to its ability to cool your space. So, it’s safer to always think about cooling in terms of tons.

The next thing to understand is how cooling works. It is not the introduction of cool air that counts, but rather, the removal of heat. Therefore, it is important to have a solid understanding of how much heat (measured in ”British Thermal Units” or BTUs) is being introduced to the space and where it is coming from so a cooling system can be sized accordingly. Most heat will be introduced to the space via electrical equipment. Generally, each watt of electricity converts to approximately 3.41 BTUs. Usually, cultivators primarily look at the number of lights in the space, as this usually accounts for the largest electrical load.

From there, it is a relatively simple calculation into tons. However, this is where we see cultivators make the biggest mistake. If we just stopped the article right here, any grower using this as a guide would go out and get a cooling system that would be simply too small. Why? Because they would be overlooking other sources of heat that have not been accounted for. As was previously mentioned, anything electrical will produce heat. Things like fans, pumps, stand alone dehumidifiers and CO2 burners have to be included in the calculation. Physical location, ambient conditions, occupancy and even heat created by plants themselves during photosynthesis are other sources of heat to consider and require precise calculations.  

Another source of heat that is often overlooked is heat created by the process of dehumidification. Any standard cooling system will dehumidify as a byproduct of cooling but when liquid condenses, it releases BTUs, adding an additional heat load to the cooling system. Adding this heat into the calculation starts to make things complicated, as it will depend on many different factors like growing mediums, target temperature and humidity levels. As we all know, indoor cultivation uses a substantial amount of water, calling for more dehumidification, and thus more heat than you would encounter in other applications like server farms, offices or homes.

As you can see, if you size your system solely based on lighting, without taking into consideration other heat loads from additional equipment, occupancy, ambient conditions and dehumidification, you will most certainly undersize your system, disrupting the indoor garden environment and potentially risking yields.

Sizing a system can be tricky for those unfamiliar with all of its different aspects. But some systems, like a Surna chilled water system, are easier to size than other HVAC options like split and mini-split ACs. Due to the nature of chillers and hydronic cooling, Surna can utilize a bank of chillers to service all rooms in a grow facility. This means that instead of trying to size each room individually, we only have to consider the maximum total heat load for the whole facility at any one time, making it more accurate.

So, how do you size your system correctly? Understanding the delicate balance between cooling and dehumidification means that sizing a cooling system on your own can be tricky. To truly be sure that you have it right, you should ask an expert with both the mechanical and cannabis-related knowledge, like Surna.
February 10, 2017

Cooling Towers and Dry Coolers

With the launch of the Surna Reflector, there will be a few new terms popping up around here. These include Cooling Towers and Dry Coolers. Due to the high-heat of the bulb, the Surna Reflector can be effectively cooled using Cooling Towers and Dry Coolers during most of the year in most regions.

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February 09, 2017

Considering your Regional Climate when Choosing Equipment for Cannabis Cultivation

Here at Surna, we’ve been designing facilities for indoor cultivation for close to 10 years and we’ve been excited to watch as new states begin coming online and more people reach out to us for guidance in designing their cultivation facility.

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February 08, 2017

How to Effectively Cool your Nutrient Solution

Hydroponic systems are becoming increasingly popular in the industry as they’ve been shown to produce greater yields with less pest and fungal issues. We’ve been talking with many cultivators recently who are using hydroponics and need a nutrient cooling solution but are uncertain about how to go about it; so we’ve decided to share what we think are the best practices to grow big, healthy plants in a hydroponic system.

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February 08, 2017

Sustainability for your Indoor Garden

This is an exciting time for Cannabis. An estimated 84 million Americans will be affected by proposed cannabis legislation on the ballot next week. This is significant for the industry, marking a turning point in our country’s relationship with the plant. However, as more and more states come on board, it is inevitable that cultivation operations will begin multiplying at incredible rates

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