While indoor-grown cannabis has grown in popularity in recent years because of its uniformity and durability, some companies embrace cannabis's roots — growing outdoors. Cultivating cannabis in the great outdoors has its benefits but also comes with uncertainties that companies should consider before making a decision.
Bringing Nature Inside
As a plant, cannabis naturally grows outdoors and has for thousands of years. Its first known use for its psychoactive properties was over 2,500 years ago in the western Chinese mountains where it grew naturally. In more recent times, the plant has endured heavy regulation, which led many users/growers to bring the plant inside. Indoor cannabis operations have become the standard for most legal grow operations in the US and abroad.
Indoor cultivation is associated with higher costs due to its energy usage, upfront facility costs, and extensive ongoing maintenance. But the benefits can be enormous. Indoor growers can control environmental conditions, such as airflow, humidity, and temperature, by installing sophisticated agricultural technology that automates many labor-intensive tasks, including irrigation supplying complicated nutrient recipes, or fertigation.
Year-round harvest allows indoor growers to supply abundant crops throughout the year, providing sustainable income at a premium price—comparatively, outdoor growers must deal with the changing seasons and limited harvest.
Indoor cultivation is associated with the evolution of the plant, as indoor growers tend to prefer indica strains with shorter sizes and flowering intervals. For indoor growers, these quick-growing strains provide fruitful, profitable gardens that easily cover the high costs associated with indoor cultivation.
At the same time, outdoor growing tends to be more cost-effective due to the ability to use natural elements, such as sunlight, for growth instead of costly alternative lighting. Cultivating cannabis outside has a less devastating carbon impact on our environment, making it more sustainable. Outdoor growing does suffer from a limited harvest due to severe weather in certain climates, creating a supply chain shortage during harsh winter months. — Outdoor growing is more uncertain. Although challenging conditions, pests, and the unpredictable nature of the weather are distracters, there's a large segment of consumers who prefer the sun-grown, organic, and more sustainable aspect of cannabis grown outdoors, allowing for businesses to market to a specific cannabis users.
Outdoor cannabis is often considered better because the sun's natural light is said to produce more cannabinoids and terpenes, increasing the plant's flavor and potency. A Washington State study showed that outdoor-grown cannabis is one percent higher in THC than indoor plants; likewise, terpene response is best under the sun.
Whether you're looking to honor outdoor growing traditions or embrace today's ag-tech to fine-tune your indoor cannabis cultivation operation, how you choose to grow should complement your overall business strategy and marketing plan.