The Data on Outdoor vs. Indoor Cannabis Growth

by | Jun 18, 2024 | Cannabis

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Cannabis cultivation can be an expensive process. There are a number of variables to consider, and in order to get the best results those variables need to be carefully managed. It can be difficult enough to do all of this under perfect outdoor conditions, but in places like the northeast, there are more extreme weather considerations to take into account.

In 2019, there was only one outdoor cannabis farm operating in Massachusetts. That number is up to 22 in 2024, with about two dozen more having received provisional licenses to open in the future, according to the state Cannabis Control Commission. How does a business decide whether to grow indoors or outdoors? Data can help.

It starts with capital investment

The first number to consider for many cannabis organizations is what it takes to get started. Capital investment for an indoor cannabis facility can be much more expensive than outdoor cultivation. Business partners in the Boston Globe article linked above say they raised $1.5 million to open a farm in Colrain and two dispensaries in Dracut and Pepperell. If they had tried to open an indoor grow facility, they say, it would cost at least three times that number.

An indoor facility allows the growers to control all elements, from lighting to pest control, not to mention storage conditions after harvest. Analytics can help growers assess all of those data points to make sure they are creating the same product over and over again. But outdoor growth has its own data to track.



Benefits of outdoor conditions

The potency and effects of marijuana, such as its aroma or the way it makes a user feel, all depend on how it is grown. The variables like nutrients, temperature, light, and water can all be controlled indoors, but outdoor growth can in many ways lead to a stronger crop. In an area like Massachusetts, strains have been developed that can grow quickly, so they can be harvested before the winter frost sets in. Variables that are eliminated from an indoor environment, like bugs or a sudden rainstorm, can help make the plants stronger over time because of the way they have to defend themselves against those elements.

Outdoor plants have the opportunity to grow deeper roots, so they can grow larger than indoor plants. These are not new developments—in areas with a suitable climate, like California, there are plenty of places that rely solely on outdoor growth. But just because a location experiences a harsh winter doesn’t mean that has to be an obstacle to a successful business.

The analytics of indoor versus outdoors

That’s another area where analytics can come into play. The right analytics solution helps an organization operate in the most efficient way possible. Increasingly in Massachusetts, that data is showing that it can be cheaper and more environmentally friendly to grow cannabis outdoors, without sacrificing the product.

Analytics can help determine if the cost of operating an indoor facility is worth the extra harvests it allows a grower to produce. The same is true of the amount of energy a facility uses. While some indoor facilities can use natural light in a greenhouse-type setting, many are pumping in artificial lighting and dealing with escalating energy usage. According to a study from the Northeast Sustainable Cannabis Project cited in The Boston Globe’s article, indoor cannabis cultivation accounts for 10% of all industrial electricity consumption in Massachusetts.

According to The Boston Globe, of the 3.8 million square feet licensed for cannabis cultivation in Massachusetts, nearly 40% is used for outdoor farming. The cost savings is a big reason why. It can be very expensive to start and run a cannabis business. Deciding on indoor versus outdoor farming is just the first many possible decisions that can take advantage of cost efficiencies.

From the time the plant is cultivated to the point where it is sold, there are opportunities for a business owner to continue to make those types of data-driven decisions. The right analytics solution can take data customized for your business and produce results that ensure your company is operating at peak efficiency. Whether your focus is on the complex world of cannabis regulations, growing sustainably, or doing all of that while still turning a considerable profit, cannabis data analytics can help provide the information you need to achieve your goals.

John Sucich
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