Balancing the Environmental Costs of Cannabis
Economic development comes with a massive environmental cost.
Since 1980, heavy industrial activity has caused the doubling of CO2 emissions. As scientists warn of the lasting negative impacts this will have on the planet, nearly every industry is committing to sustainable practices to try to counteract this effect.
Today’s infographic comes from The Green Organic Dutchman, and it demonstrates that while the business of cannabis isn’t always eco-friendly, there are several tried-and-tested ways to reduce its massive footprint.
A HEFTY PRICE TO PAY
Energy is the second-highest cost driver in cannabis cultivation after labor.
There are two main culprits – lighting and HVAC systems (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning). Combined, they make up a whopping 89% of energy use in cannabis cultivation operations.
Last year, legal cannabis cultivation was responsible for consuming 1.1 million MWh of electricity, and producing 472,000 tons of CO2 emissions. That’s enough to power 92,500 homes, and produce the same emissions as 92,660 cars per year. As legal cannabis production scales, this will only escalate.
Much of this data can be attributed to how the plant is grown.
|Growing method||Power consumption (kWh/g)||Carbon intensity (lbs CO2e/g)|
Indoor cultivation is roughly 18 times more energy-intensive than outdoor cultivation, and produces 25 times the carbon emissions. On the other hand, outdoor production produces lower overall yield per square foot. Since it’s difficult to control the environment, impurities can also end up in the final product.
That’s why many companies opt for a hybrid approach instead – balancing the benefits of precise control, with the use of natural light to lower production costs.
A GAME PLAN FOR SUSTAINABILITY
Many licensed producers are adopting a suite of strategies to relieve this environmental footprint.
- Renewable energy
Diversifying the energy sources for cannabis cultivation can reduce carbon emissions. Solar and wind are top choices among cultivators.
- LED lighting
LED light bulbs are more than 60% more efficient than other types. They also produce barely any heat, lowering ventilation requirements.
- Water efficiency
A single cannabis plant can use up to 23 liters of water per day. Water can be recycled and re-used through innovative techniques such as reverse osmosis.
The plastic packaging often associated with cannabis products is a considerable contributor of waste. There are several alternatives, such as paper, glass, and tin. Each of these have their own benefits and drawbacks, depending on what they are used for.
Maximizing energy-efficiency has a domino effect not only on the planet, but on reduced operating costs. These savings can then be passed on to the buyer, which could prove to be a strong competitive advantage as the cannabis industry matures.
Stay tuned for part 6 of this series, where we’ll delve into the scientific evidence for medical cannabis compounds.
Cultivating Cannabis: The Journey from Seed to Harvest
The estimated $63.5 billion green rush has led to increased revenues in cannabis cultivation—positively impacting other industries
Cultivating Cannabis: The Journey from Seed to Harvest
Cannabis is emerging from the shadows of strict regulation, prompting the growth of a global market worth almost $25 billion today. This green rush has led to increased revenues throughout the entire cannabis supply chain—most notably in cannabis cultivation.
Such growth is rippling across industries such as energy and agriculture technology, with innovation allowing for greater scale.
Today’s infographic from Water Ways Technologies follows the journey of the cannabis plant, and explores cutting-edge technology that will fuel the future of cannabis cultivation.
Breaking Down the Cultivation Process
Cannabis is an annual plant, meaning it naturally goes through its entire life cycle in one year. However, this cycle is shortened to 3 months in commercial cultivation to improve productivity.
Plants can be grown from either a seed or a clone. The cloning method guarantees consistency, cost savings, and provides genetic stability from a disease-free source. All of these factors contribute to its popularity with commercial growers and the medical cannabis community.
Each stage requires different variables to ensure the highest standards are being met.
- 1: Creating a Mother Plant: 3 months, 4 times a year
Mother plants create an endless supply of clones, making this stage the most crucial. The mother plant starts as a seed, chosen for desirable qualities that the grower wants to replicate—like aroma, flavor, and yield.
- 2: Making a Clone: 7-10 days
Growers then take clippings from the chosen mother plant, and dip each one in water and fertilizer. They are then soaked in rooting fluid and placed in a plug (individual cell), before entering an incubator.
The clippings remain here until they finish rooting. The incubator maintains the plant’s moisture by facilitating leaf absorption.
- 3: Vegetation Process: 3-4 weeks
The clones are transferred to growing rooms and placed into a light substance similar to soil. They are moved on to flood benches—large tables that re-circulate excess water and fertilizer—which enable the optimal uptake of nutrients.
During this phase, the clones require 18 hours of light and 6 hours of darkness. There must be a constant analysis of the radiation levels to combat any damage from the artificial light source.
- 4: Flowering: 6-8 weeks
Following the vegetation process, the plants are separated into different flowering rooms. During this phase, buds grow and develop a solid cannabinoid and terpene profile. Terpenes are organic compounds that give cannabis varieties their distinctive aromas like citrus, berry, mint, and pine.
- 5: Post-harvest: 1-3 weeks
The cannabis plant is harvested once it reaches maturity. The flowers are de-budded, trimmed, and set on drying trays in a post-harvest room with low humidity, before they are ready for extraction.
This final stage requires a substantial amount of time and attention to detail, to ensure the best quality and most potent product possible.
Cultivating the Future of Cannabis
Efficiently producing high-quality, consistent cannabis will help meet growing consumer demand. Water Ways Technologies is an agro-tech company helping to propel this growth, by providing cultivators with data-driven insights from their precise irrigation system.
With a strong understanding of the full cannabis life cycle, Water Ways Technologies ensures that adjustments can be made at different stages throughout the growing process, resulting in the highest standards, and wider profit margins for investors.
An Investing Megatrend: How Climate Change and Resource Scarcity are Shaping the Future
Learn how climate change and resource scarcity are affecting our most basic needs, and how investors can take advantage of this growing megatrend.
If you’ve ever played with dominos, you’re familiar with their cascading effects. Gently nudge one piece, and the force will ripple throughout the rest.
This process of cause and effect works much the same way in society and business: as global forces take hold, their effects are deeply intertwined with the financial markets.
The Climate Megatrend
Today’s infographic comes from BlackRock, and it explains how one such megatrend, climate change and resource scarcity, will be a long-term opportunity for investors.
Earth in the Hot Seat
In 2018, global CO2 emissions rose 1.7% to the highest level since 2013. These rising emissions have intensified the effects of climate change, with 2015-2018 being the four hottest years ever recorded. Society and the economy are starting to feel its negative consequences:
- Extreme weather events have become more frequent. In particular, floods and other hydrological events have quadrupled since 1980.
- In hotter, wetter conditions, infectious diseases spread more easily—between 2004-2017, total tick-borne illnesses increased by 163%.
- The global insured losses from natural catastrophes was $79 billion in 2018.
- Extreme weather effects, and the health impact of burning fossil fuels, cost the U.S. economy at least $240 billion in 2018.
It’s clear that climate change is having an immediate, serious impact on the world.
Many see climate change as a long-dated future risk, however, our research findings show that compared to the 1980’s, there are measurable GDP impacts in the market today
-Brian Deese, Global Head of Sustainable Investing at BlackRock
In addition to these issues, climate change is contributing to another problem: it’s becoming harder to feed the global population.
Over 7 Billion Mouths to Feed
Climate change significantly threatens global food security. As glaciers melt, the world’s freshwater supply—including what’s available for food production—melts with it. This is a significant problem, considering that between 2,000-5,000 liters of fresh water are needed to produce one person’s daily food intake.
As an added hurdle to food production, supply and demand are pulling in opposite directions.
The share of total employment in agriculture has dropped significantly over time. Even worse, among the food that is able to be harvested, roughly 30% is lost or wasted globally.
On top of limited resources, the world will have to contend with forces driving up food demand.
- Population growth: By 2050, the global population will grow by about two billion.
- More calorie-rich diets: As emerging economies grow their wealth, their populations seek richer foods like meat and dairy products.
How can society combat these pressing issues?
A Greener, More Plentiful Future
As society works to slow climate change and produce more with less, a myriad of investment opportunities will emerge.
- Renewable energies are becoming increasingly competitive.
- Electric & fuel cell vehicles are growing in market share.
- Products made from recycled materials are appealing to environmentally-conscious consumers.
- Agricultural machinery counters the declining workforce and increases productivity.
- Precision agriculture leverages real-time environmental data to help farmers make decisions.
Climate change and resource scarcity will be a driving force behind the actions of consumers, companies, and governments for years to come.
By staying attuned to this megatrend, investors will be able to spot long-term opportunities.
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