GROW: Large Scale Grow Rooms for Serious Production

By: The SD OG Grower

2011 is a great time in history and a great opportunity for those growers who are serious and want to take it to the next level! Commercial grow operations are popping up everywhere, and some are successful while others are not! I’ve been setting up commercial grow rooms for years now and there are a few tricks to make it consistently successful each time. You can not simply apply closet growing techniques and expect to get the best results. And it all starts with planning, design and having ALL the proper equipment; and of course, the knowledge and know-how to run a commercial operation.

Picking a location is the first objective. You should have some type of business plan or reason other than growing for leasing or renting the building. Don’t be that idiot that looks out of place with blacked out windows and no business name or information on the door or windows. And make sure to be friendly with your neighbors and HAVE A REASON FOR BEING THERE OTHER THAN GROWING! Check the power when you look at a place. Not all warehouses have enough power to do what you want, so make sure you know how many amps are available before signing a lease. A 15 light flower room, a veg room, and totally sealed loop rooms with proper air conditioners and everything can easily run at over 200 amps (@ 240v), so checking your power supply is essential.

Once this is done and you have your new spot, start designing it and planning it out. One way to get more out of less amps is by using a ballast flip box, which runs a single ballast for 24 hrs, but flips the load from one room to another based off the time schedule you give it – normally 12 hours in one room, then flip to 12 hours off and 12 hours on in the second room. So in sense, a 200 amp panel could actually run 30 lights by having 2 rooms running 15 lights each, but at separate times so that only 15 lights would be running in only one room at a time. This can actually save a lot of power by running a lower load continuously and not all at the same time. And more importantly, it allows you to run double the amount of lights for flowering. By using a Power Box Lighting Timer and a Power Box Light Flipper, this can be accomplished very efficiently and save you a fair amount of power in the long run.

I always like to use a professional electrical contractor and a licensed air conditioner contractor to make sure things are set up properly, efficiently, and safely with no fire hazards! I’m not a builder or a contractor; I’m a grower, so I pay my contractor who has been building my rooms for years, and he builds them perfectly to my requirements, which he already knows from experience. Fully closed rooms, one Excel Stealth 5 Ton A/C Unit with a dehumidifier built in for each flowering room of 15-1000w lights to keep the temps at desired levels of 76-78°F year round! Also, I always run charcoal filters as scrubbers for scrubbing the room 24 hrs a day, and these scrubbers are hooked up to electric dampers on thermostat controls, so in case of an a/c failure, the room dampers will switch the airflow from recirculation in the room to exhausting the hot air out of the building through large duct vents in the roof. This is a security feature to prevent the plants from dying if the a/c fails – it may be hot, but at least I’ll have air flow and minimal damage until I can get there and fix the issue. Trust me, this safety feature is a must for all growers, especially commercial growers because when you least expect it, SHIT HAPPENS!  And of course, I run CO2 propane generators. The electric ignition CO2 generators and the Fuzzy Logic CO2 Monitor from C.A.P. are my favorite; they perform the best with almost zero problems. They also have a 5 year warranty and their customer service is awesome. They always take care of anything right away for their customers. Getting your room’s environment under control is an absolute must for perfection and big sticky harvests! And don’t forget to control your humidity! Make sure you have a proper sized humidifier and dehumidifier in your rooms!

Once you have the room built, the environment perfectly controlled and have tested it, you need to choose the right growing system. There are many different ways to grow and many different systems to choose from, but remember the K.I.S.S. theory (keep it simple stupid). More important than ever in a commercial operation is to keep things simple and efficient, as labor can be a big cost if not done resourcefully. I like to use a system that requires the least amount of maintenance, automated with minimum waste and definitely with the least moving parts as possible! A Top Fed Drip System run-to-waste is the most efficient in my opinion, and it’s also what professional nursery growers use on much larger operations. Before, I had mainly been using Ebb n Flow Trays as a base to collect the run off and hold the plants, but the tray always had some problems; it always stayed wet, creating algae and molds, which end up airborne and affect the plants. By having one flat basin under the plants with no air flow from underneath, which is where all the CO2 is, causing humidity from under the plant’s leaves is not a good thing. And most of the plastics and systems out there today are not built for commercial grows, but for hobbyist closet growers!

I always have a project going somewhere and right now I’m building another 60 light grow facility in a commercial building. Not including rent or utilities, it’s easily costing over $250,000 for equipment and construction of the facility, just to get it up and running! But once it’s done, it will be a big producer and will definitely pay for itself in just a few harvests. So, I was going to set this one up with the same trays I normally use, but a commercial system I had seen a while back is just now becoming available. I was going over my project with long time friend Scott from IGS, as he designs most of my projects for me, and he showed me what they had just built. They sort of modified the commercial system from the greenhouse division for us warehouse growers indoors! They had a floor model and I thought it was awesome and had to try it! It’s one of the best systems I had ever seen, especially for larger grow areas.  I called it the IGS Green Machine! It’s a custom 4’x8’ bench stand on wheels with supporting trellis and light rack. This system is built heavy duty with 1-1/2” galvanized square tubing so strong you can get up and walk on the bench or even do pull ups on the trellis and light rack! It’s a very versatile system meant to be run as a top-feed drip, but could be ran continuous drip, recirculation back to reservoir, or used with just about any medium of your choice! For me, it’s a perfect system for run to waste using coco coir with the top-feed drip system. For larger growers, they are modular, meaning they can be connected lengthways to create a longer 16’ or 24’ long table or system while using just one pump and reservoir to feed the entire table. The last thing you want in a large grow room is the hassle of having to fill and drain several small nutrient tanks, and clean them out and do the maintenance required all the time. By using one large tank and one large pump per table, we only have one tank to fill and clean, and can do it less often by having the larger volume tanks.

As I mentioned above about having the Ebb n Flow Trays as my catch basin, the IGS Green Machine has channels with saucers that the plants sit on, draining waste out and into the channels. The setup gives you open space between, below, and above the channels, allowing the air flow to get kicked up and directed right up under the leaves where the stigmata uptake the CO2. If you could see CO2 gas, you would see that it falls like a feather and accumulates dangerous levels down close to the floor of your room. So by installing some fans or blowers below the table and using an air sock to distribute the air upwards, we can kick up or circulate the CO2 accumulating close to the ground, blowing it right up underneath the leaves to the stigmata where they can uptake higher levels of CO2, which makes a healthier plant and heavier harvest.

The IGS Green Machine has many advantages and can be custom built however you want, regardless of your needs. A floor model I saw at IGS was going for around $1500, which is actually a better value for your money compared to any of these cheap non-structural systems coming out of China. It’s definitely the first real commercial system made to handle a commercial operation. I ordered 12 of these new systems for my new project and even had a few custom features added to them, including the trellis mounts, light rack bar, and having them modular (connect together lengthways), so I can run 5-1000w lights over a 16’x4’ table. The fact that the systems are on wheels and modular, and come complete (only taking a few minutes to put together), means this is going to be much more efficient and save me lots of money in the long run by not having to build as much, like the light racks and trellis. It’s basically the plug-n-play system that I’ve been looking for because of its heavy duty construction, efficiency, and the fact that it will last for years and is already set up for large grows. The cool thing is that IGS can custom build this system any way you want and make it any size, large or small.

When growing in a commercial building or organizing a large operation, it is important to have all the right equipment and not cut costs by cutting corners, which makes for smaller harvests. Environment, water quality, nutrients, genetics, and the type of growing system you use all make a world of difference in a commercial grow operation. It’s very important to make sure you build everything correctly and use the right equipment, including your grow system! Don’t go into a commercial grow situation thinking your going to build it and run it like the garden in your closet, it needs to be built with commercial equipment and run like a machine to achieve optimal results! And if you don’t know how to build a commercial grow room, hire a professional contractor to build it right.

If you’re doing a commercial grow operation, make sure you set it up and build it right the first time and you will be successful with bountiful harvests!

bringing you that fire! stay tune for more posts.

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