Microgrows: How This Trend Can Reduce the Environmental Cost of Growing
Growing any crop has an ecological impact that can affect the environment in numerous ways. Large-scale agricultural operations are not always created with the natural world’s best interests in mind, from excessive water use to pesticides to emissions and energy expenditure.
Cannabis farms and industrial grow ops are no different.
And in the age of the green rush, more states legalizing the plant has resulted in an obvious increase in the number of larger growing operations in existence. Alongside this, however, is another green movement on the hearts, minds, and actions of any environmentally conscious individual in the form of ecologically friendly business and industrial practices.
A recent trend in the cannabis world may just hold the key to lessening the industry’s negative impact at large – microgrows.
What is Microgrowing?
Microgrowing, from a simple perspective anyway, relates to any small-scale growing operation. You can set up a microgrow for any crop, but for the purposes of this post, we’ll stick to cannabis. Throwing a few seeds in your veggie garden or attempting an indoor grow for the first time can both be called a microgrow.
But more specifically, the entire idea behind microgrowing cannabis is to maximize your yield while minimizing space. Microgrows can occur in both indoor and outdoor situations and can vary in size from a few plants for personal use to a small-scale commercial operation.
How Microgrowing Differs from Large-Scale Growing
The obvious distinction between microgrowing and large-scale growing is – you guessed it – the operation’s overall size. This isn’t the only significant distinction between the two, however. Microgrowing also allows for more direct control over the growing environment, which means it can be a far more efficient way to maximize the harvest quality.
With a large scale operation, many factors can be relatively out of the grower’s control, such as pests, growing environment, and quality control issues involved with having a large number of plants. Large grows will lead to a larger harvest, but this often comes at the cost of wasted resources and loss of plants because the grow is more involved.
A microgrow allows you to focus on the growing environment to your benefit while also limiting the number of resources needed to achieve a quality harvest. The smaller size of the operation filters out anything unnecessary. A top-notch microgrow might utilize any number of techniques to help the plants flourish in a more controlled situation. The cannabis microgrow community is steadily growing and has developed some fascinating and innovative methods to make the most out of a small space, helping to increase the success and production of these grows.
Environmental Impact of Large Scale Grows
Large-scale grows have a more significant impact on the environment than a smaller operation. There are certainly some full-on industrial operations that do their best to minimize their negative ecological footprints, but increased size directly means a higher demand for resources and more waste.
Growing cannabis requires a large amount of water. In regions of the West where many larger grow operations are found (think California, Washington, Oregon, Colorado) that have been impacted by severe drought and climate change, water is precious. It’s not an inexhaustible resource, and water shortages are an everyday consideration for farmers of any crop. These large outdoor grows can also impact the local environments where they are located by depleting the soil. If pesticides are used, these chemicals can run off into surrounding areas via water and wind.
Large indoor grows have a high demand for resources as well. The water needs remain the same, for the most part, whether cannabis is grown indoors or out – high. And the energy consumption it takes to operate indoor lighting, ventilation, heating – all necessary for a successful indoor operation – can quickly become far from efficient. Much of this energy still comes from the use of fossil fuels. Until more sustainable practices become readily available, large growers are going to be more concerned with profits and quality crops than their carbon footprints and other environmental concerns.
Microgrows are More Ecologically Friendly
The smaller size of microgrows inherently leads to less impact on the environment. This is evident in both the resources needed to create a successful microgrowing operation and the reduced waste that comes from a smaller grow. Microgrows can drastically reduce water waste, especially indoors, as many can literally be hand-watered. Even an outdoor microgrow can be set up with an irrigation system that delivers enough water to each plant to support growth and limit evaporation.
Pesticide use is also reduced and oftentimes eliminated altogether in a microgrow. By having more direct control over the growing environment, microgrowers can regulate the possibility of pests, insects, or otherwise, and not use any harsh chemicals that could present severe ecological ramifications. This means fewer toxins in the ground and a smaller footprint on the area surrounding the microgrow.
Outdoor microgrows can have a similar environmental impact as a veggie garden – minimal. And with an ecologically-minded grower at the helm, they wouldn’t need much more than ample water, good soil, and sun. Indoor growers still have to use energy to operate lights, ventilation, and heating but the demands of this are far less than what is needed in a larger operation, such as a warehouse grow. And the smaller nature also means that microgrowers can utilize indoor lighting to their advantage by creating grow boxes and the like that help maximize the efficiency of the energy needs they do have.
There is no perfect solution to growing cannabis in an ecologically friendly fashion. Any growing operation will use resources that have an impact on the environment. But the level of this impact can vary drastically depending on the scale of the operation. Microgrows have far better overall environmental effects because of the lesser demand for resources, and maximizing yields more efficiently.
Large-scale cannabis growing operations can have considerable demands in the form of water and energy consumption, not to mention the impact they can have on long-term soil health and the role that plays in the surrounding natural world of an outdoor operation. Large indoor grows can eat up fossil-fueled energy just the same as any other industry as well.
And while environmental concerns are becoming more apparent in these cannabis operations, microgrows offer a genuine alternative that proves to be effective at both helping the environment and producing successful and high-quality crops.