So you’re ready to get your commercial cannabis facility up and running. While it can feel like an enormous undertaking, once you’ve got it dialed in with the right irrigation system and nutrients, you’ll be rewarded with both predictable yields and profitable crops.
To start, let’s take a look at the major components you’ll find in common types of commercial irrigation systems, from reverse osmosis water and pumps to fertigation, filtration, and more.
Step One: Choose a water reservoir to store and supply water for your grow
Our recommendation is to always grow cannabis with reverse osmosis water. Because reverse osmosis water has a starting point of 0ppm, you’ll receive a clearer picture of what you’re feeding your crop. Plus, you’ll decrease the risk of unwanted minerals that can cause equipment failures
Step Two: Select the right piping for your commercial irrigation system
Schedule 40 pipes can handle the necessary PSI, but we recommend schedule 80 pipes for safer operation. When you use Schedule 80 pipes, they’ll block light from passing through, helping you to avoid algae biofilms that are known to cause problems with commercial irrigation systems.
When it comes to the pipes running from your main hard lines to individual zones, either flexible PVC or poly tubing will work just fine.
Step Three: Select the right water pump
When setting up a commercial irrigation system, you always want to use a “pressure pump” that maintains a consistent pressure between 40 and 60 PSI. These will only turn on when a solenoid feed valve opens, dropping the PSI and signaling the pressure switch to start powering the pump.
You’ll find these kinds of pumps in residential homes as well because of the consistent water pressure they provide, making them the perfect choice for commercial irrigation systems.
Step Four: Select a fertigation technique (e.g. nutrient dosing systems/injecting)
When it comes to nutrient dosing systems, you’ve got multiple techniques to choose from for your irrigation system.
- Batch Tank Mixing: The most hands-on fertigation technique, batch tank mixing requires growers to hand weigh and mix fertilizers into large water reservoirs, which are then irrigated to plants.
- Dosers (i.e. Dosatron/Mix Rite): As your facility grows, you will want to find ways to free your time and eliminate human error from your operations. And that’s exactly where an automatic nutrient doser comes into play. If you’re looking for a simple set up, consider water-driven, non-electric nutrient dosers such as Dosatron or Mix Rite. Keep in mind that they only run a single analog injection setting for a single nutrient.
- Fertigation Systems (i.e. Netaflex/Rhythm): For even more automation, then consider investing in a fertigation system that can inject multiple fertilizers into various recipes tailored to any phase or zone in your grow. While a fertigation system is the most expensive fertigation technique, it’s worthwhile if you want a precise, efficient, and predictable commercial irrigation system for optimal yields.
Step Five: Adjust Your pH Levels (UNLESS You’re Using pH Perfect® Technology)
If you use Advanced Nutrients’ pH Perfect® base nutrients, you’ll never have to worry about adjusting your pH, because the pH Perfect® technology automatically adjusts it to the sweet spot for optimal nutrient availability. So you can skip this step and move onto the next.
However, if you’re using other base nutrients, then you’ll need to adjust your pH according to your fertigation technique.
With batch tanks, you’ll need to hand weigh and test and with doser systems, you’ll need an additional doser for pH Up and Down products. If you invest in a fertigation system, all you will need to do is program your desired pH level.
Step 6: Set Up Filtration For Your Commercial Irrigation System
It’s very important to protect your equipment and your irrigation lines from nutrient sediment that can build up over time.
We recommend that you use disc filters with a minimum of 120 mesh (130 micron), and that you run an oversized inlet on the filter to slow down flow for optimal filtration. The more consistent you are about maintaining and cleaning your filter, the less likely you’ll be to run into clogging issues or system failure.
Step 7: Set Up Your Solenoid Valves For Zone Control
After you’ve mixed, filtrated, pumped, and pressurized nutrients into the lines, you’ll use solenoid valves to introduce them to your plant’s root zone.
Solenoid valves run off 24v electric wiring connected to an irrigation controller. You can choose an irrigation controller that’s as simple as a timer or as complex as algorithms that monitor substrate data for even more accurate feedings. Just remember that mineral accumulation can cause solenoids to get stuck in an open or closed position, so you’ll want to maintain them regularly.
Step 8: Select Your Water Emitters
Once the solenoid valve is activated, the water will begin to pressurize the irrigation zone, with even pressure enabling each plant to receive a predictable amount of nutrient water.
You want to choose water emitters based on both velocity and volume of water flow, as well as water pressure. After choosing your emitters, place them near the top of your substrate and feed them through a ¼ inch emitter line that runs from the main irrigation line.
You can choose from several types of irrigation stakes that hold the water emitter in an optimal position for each plant and root zone.
Step 9: Increase the Functionality of Your Irrigation System
For optimal functionality and lower risks, you can add the following components to your irrigation line:
Flush valves: These are closed when the line is pressurized. Once the PSI has dropped low enough to open the valve, these flush valves will keep drip lines clear of any lingering nutrient solution from previous feeds.
Air bleed valves: Install air bleed valves at the highest point of a zone’s irrigation drip line. This enables air to escape the line at the beginning, so you enjoy more consistent drip distribution without any air pockets.
Finally, you’ll want to…
Choose the Right Cannabis Nutrients for Your Commercial Facility
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