Commercial cannabis grows are ready to rise in the United States, but energy consumption does not have to rise with them. While there are those behind the legalization movement, there are also those that are seeking to promote energy-efficient practices within the legal cannabis industry.
The advocates for green initiatives in cannabis cultivation represent a mature and responsible approach to ensuring the industry’s sustainability. It should also indicate to outsiders that legal cannabis businesses are capable of exercising ethical practices just like any other enterprise.
LED lamps are one way for cultivators to be energy efficient, but heating, ventilation and air conditioning are also vital when crafting the ideal environment for cannabis cultivation. Surna (OTCQB: SRNA), a manufacturer of water-chilled climate control systems, develops disruptive technology and manufactures products to address the energy and resource intensive nature of indoor cannabis cultivation. Some cultivators may use products from traditional HVAC companies like Daikin and Trane, but Surna’s products are made specifically for the cannabis industry, allowing it to be a first mover in environmental comfort for cannabis cultivation.
Why Energy Efficiency Matters
On a basic level, energy efficiency matters because the buildup of greenhouse gases may change our environment. The Pew Research Center recently revealed that 87 percent of scientists registered with the American Association for the Advancement of Science believe climate change is the result of human activities that have accelerated the buildup of these gases within our atmosphere.
For the ecologically minded, this is the reason to transform cannabis cultivation into a green enterprise. However, according to the aforementioned study, 50 percent of American adults do not believe climate change is due to human activity. Let us assume some of these people are involved in the cannabis industry. Why should energy efficiency matter to them? Money.
According to a 2011 report by Evan Mills, Ph.D., an environmental systems analyst, cannabis cultivation is extremely energy-intensive. If a grower continues to practice inefficient methods of cultivation, wasted energy ultimately increases the total cost of production, lowering profit margins. Rising energy costs will exacerbate this issue.
This is where Surna’s value comes into play. Tom Bollich, CEO, is leading the team that manufactured Surna’s water-chilled climate control systems to be approximately 30 percent more efficient than traditional air conditioning. Surna’s systems have also been engineered to reuse wasted power, which can result in an additional energy savings of 10 percent.
The numbers may speak for themselves, but Surna also assumes the role of educator so potential clients legitimately understand the value of its technology. Katie O’Block, Surna’s Vice President of Marketing, said, “Everyone knows energy efficiency is crucial. Our challenge is helping them understand they can save energy and increase productivity at the same time.”
Commercial cannabis grows aren’t the only ones able to use Surna’s energy efficient technology. O’Block said “Surna’s climate control technology came from a company we acquired, Hydro Innovations. Through the Hydro Innovations brand, we are able to provide products for smaller scale grows, including caregivers. This allows us to provide climate control solutions to people who are growing medicine, under strict compliance with state law, in their homes for themselves or others.”
While energy efficiency is an easy way to save money, getting growers to switch to energy efficient methods can be challenging. If a grower has a formula for cultivation that has taken years to refine, the grower will likely perceive any formulaic revisions as a risk to the operation.
Traditional advertising normally works as a vehicle to influence consumer behavior, but the cannabis industry has legal limitations when it comes to opportunities in advertising. “Everything right now is word of mouth or PR,” O’Block said. While this certainly makes marketing difficult, it also acts as an incentive for Surna to maintain the highest level of customer satisfaction, as satisfied customers can bring new business to the company.
Fitz Couhig, owner of Pioneer Production and Processing, a Washington State-licensed manufacturer of cannabis products, said, “Surna was a major reason we were able to succeed getting our products to market. They were the only folks we worked with that fulfilled on time and at the costs they quoted during our entire licensing and build out process.”
Replicating this type of customer experience will be a key aspect of advancing the proliferation of Surna’s technology. And while the old guard of cannabis cultivators might not embrace energy efficiency as a means of optimizing growth, the spread of legalization should ensure that ambitious newcomers will understand the long-term value of sustainability and actively seek energy efficient solutions.