For enterprising individuals wanting a piece of the billion-dollar cannabis industry, it’s a common misconception that having access to cash and an uncle who’s grown weed for 30 years is equivalent to having a sustainable business plan. However, this is not sufficient to build successful cannabis grow facilities or manufacturing labs.
Before pouring a slab or investing in equipment, it’s best to talk through your strategy with someone in the industry that has experience. Having that initial conversation can help identify challenges that may have not surfaced in your initial planning phase.
Preparation Is the Key to Success
Although both capital and experience are important – there are a great many logistical topics to consider before you begin building your cannabis business. Topics that need consideration include:
- Choosing a location for your cannabis facility
- How to plan for expansion
- Knowing which products you wish to produce, as well as your output
- How to familiarize yourself with your equipment supply chain
- How to find industry partners that can shoulder global supply chain challenges
Knowing the right questions to ask is an excellent way to begin preparing for the exciting business venture you’re about to embark on. We’ve curated five important topics that will help ease the pressures associated with tackling the build of a new grow room, lab, or cannabis kitchen.
1. Choose an Appropriate Location and Facility
A cannabis operation can be a risky venture. Mistakes happen, however, the process of rebuilding, rewiring, and backtracking of any kind generates extra, avoidable expenses. A clear vision of the type of business you wish to construct and the product you want to offer can save a tremendous amount of time. And it starts with knowing the building where your business will take root.
Laying the Foundation for Your Cannabis Facility:
To build and operate a successful cannabis operation, one must consider the foundation on which that business is built. We are not just referring to your business model or mission statement. The physical building that will house your grow room, your cannabis processing equipment, your lab, or your cannabis kitchen should be planned out ahead of time.
When building a new structure, you’ll need to have an intimate understanding of the business you are envisioning, the layout, and the equipment to be installed before you begin to pour concrete. Once you know how much space you’ll need and how much structural support each room or floor will require, you can begin to effectively develop a “slab plan.”
A slab plan is one of the simplest yet most effective types of reinforced concrete foundations. Ideally, a cannapreneur would have consulted with someone that has experience in the type of business they wish to construct before pouring the facility’s foundation. This allows for an efficient build, saving time and money.
Know Your Energy Limitations
Operating a large cannabis grow room or manufacturing facility can be tiresome work. However, in this instance, we are referring to the electrical limitations of your building. If you are constructing your facility from the slab-up, then you’ll have the opportunity to pipe in the electricity needed to power your extensive array of grow lights and manufacturing equipment.
Still, whether you are building from scratch, or whether you’re purchasing a pre-constructed building or a location consisting of the bones of a past business – it’s all the more critical to become intimate with things such as:
- How much power will I need?
- What amperage are the breakers limiting the power to each room?
- Has the wiring and breakers been inspected?
- How many amps will you need to operate a large room of grow lights?
- Will you need to have additional circuits installed?
A faulty or unreliable breaker will not just cause you headaches, it will cost you money. You don’t want a power outage while carefully balancing the light being offered to your plants. If a breaker blows while in the middle of manufacturing gummies, you could be left with wasted ingredients. This is especially true if it takes time to restore power to your manufacturing room.
The Utility of Making Friends
We also recommend getting to know your local energy company. Should you have any issues while pulling enough electricity to support a grow room, you need a plan for when that power fails. This may include installing a generator for critical areas of your facility. And it also includes knowing who to call and how to reach them should an outage occur.
Starting and nurturing relationships with your local utility companies may sound like overkill, but it’s smart planning and you may be glad you did so.
Other Utilities to Consider
Electricity may be what powers your cannabis equipment, but it’s certainly not the only utility to keep in mind before constructing your canna-business.
Inspect Your Plumbing
If you are looking to acquire and repurpose a building designed to support a variety of commercial businesses, you’ll almost certainly be asking a building inspector to review the plumbing. The types of pipes used and their age can be indicators of whether an immediate or future investment needs to be made to prevent leaks, water contamination, or other headaches that arise with aging waterworks.
Knowing you have enough water being piped to applicable rooms isn’t enough. It could be argued that water is nearly as important as power. Liquid H2O is needed for your plants, ultrasonic washers, and break rooms. It will be important to know the condition and quality of that water.
An abundance of minerals in the water can cause havoc in the long run by leaving built-up deposits on any piece of equipment that regularly uses water. This is especially a threat if you are operating a cannabis kitchen.
Fortunately, there are commercial water filters that can mitigate most types of water contaminants. It’s certainly worth your time to get your water tested to determine if these filtration solutions are necessary for your facility.
Is Natural Gas or Propane Available?
Natural gas (or propane if you’re constructing a rural facility) is known to be more reliable than electricity. No blown breakers, no outages in the depths of summer or winter, and it is a cleaner-burning fuel. If your building has access to natural gas, or if you plan on piping it into a new build, it’s certainly worth considering.
If you’re building a commercial cannabis grow operation outside the reach of local natural gas lines, commercial propane tanks are available to integrate gas and all its advantages into your building. Again, utilizing gas when possible reduces the electrical load your operation will place on your circuit breakers and the power grid.
Especially if you are moving into an existing building, you’ll need to verify the current building’s HVAC can be expanded to include the necessary air scrubbers and ionizers needed to meet the emission regulations. Depending on where you are installing equipment that emits heat, such as grow lights or an ice machine, be sure your HVAC system can provide climate control within every room in your building.
Prop up Your Business on Strong Bones
It’s easy to assume that an acquired building is sturdy enough to install heavy equipment. In the spirit of planning ahead, it’s worth your time to have the structure supports inspected. If you’re building a new structure, you’ll have control over where the heaviest loads will be located, and you will be able to plan accordingly.
However, if you are moving into a pre-existing structure, be sure your inspector reviews the supports for signs of buckling. It seems like a small thing, but without strong bones, your business could crumble, literally. Inspect a pre-existing building for structural integrity; taking the time for peace of mind.
2. Plan for Expansion
If you are carefully planning how to construct your business, then you should plan for success in the form of expansion. Investing a little more time and money now can save you a significant amount of time and money in the future. When it’s time to ramp up your cannabis cultivation and processing operations, you want to be sure there’s enough power and space already available.
Reasons a cannabis business will want to expand include:
- Increased production of current product offerings
- Expanding your product selection
- Adding additional extraction equipment to support both current and new products
Even if your cannabis business is highly successful, it’s more time-consuming and costly to scale a successful business without any prior planning. Start with a plan to expand from the beginning, and you’ll experience far fewer growing pains when the time comes.
3. Know Your Products and Expected Output
One of the alluring things about starting a cannabis operation is the creativity it allows and the breadth of products that can be produced.
Know What Products You Want to Produce
It’s well known that toking a joint can spark creativity. However, the cannabis plant itself opens the doors for creative entrepreneurs to explore a world full of uncharted territory. A dispensary menu will often include products such as:
- Flower, buds
- Extracts such as shatter and rosin
- Cannabis oils and distillates
- Vape cartridges
As enterprising business folks continue to explore and rediscover the world of cannabis, we’re seeing isolate capsules, beverages, sublingual strips, and a host of familiar foods infused with the benefits of marijuana. Cannabis kitchens will have an endless supply of ideas, as chefs and foodservice operators have a long history of being highly creative.
Know How Much Product You’ll Want to Generate
Before you can have fun manufacturing gummies, distilling isolate powder, or selling perfect, crystal-glazed buds, you will need to do some math and determine how much of your product you want to make.
Be sure to plan your output so your revenue supports your expenses and that your profits support your business expansion plan. This is a highly overlooked detail but is every bit as important as planning the physical build of your facility. In fact, you’ll want to know how much product you plan on producing before you pour your slab.
4. Become Familiar With Your Supply Chain
Especially in the age of Covid, most companies are struggling with acquiring equipment and supplies needed to keep their businesses operating and profitable. Although cannabis enjoys increasing profitability year after year, the equipment needed to run cannabis operations can still be hard to come by. Existing supply chains have been greatly slowed, ships carrying goods are delayed, and raw materials are scarcer.
In addition to acquiring needed equipment, there are price fluctuations to consider. With scarcity comes increases in the prices of materials, goods, and transportation. It’s beneficial to partner with companies that have experience in traversing the landscape of an ever-changing world.
For example, a shortage in the mineral silica makes it difficult for manufacturers to produce the high-quality glass used by cannabis processors and labs. This, in turn, increases the cost of lab-grade borosilicate glass, which increases the price of distillation equipment.
Having partners that are experienced in finding supply chain solutions for your business comes with many advantages:
- Omega keeps a finger on the pulse of their suppliers, allowing them to plan on the lead times necessary to acquire equipment.
- Omega was born of a 100-year-old company with close ties to a plethora of manufacturers. These relationships are important in locating supplies when supplies are scarce.
- We can help plan for price increases so you’re not caught financially unaware and can prepare accordingly.
- Omega does the logistical heavy lifting by setting up meetings with vendors and manufacturers.
- We manage the stock and availability of equipment, so our cannabis operation partners don’t have to.
Having a strong relationship with someone like Omega, who has extensive supply chain experience, allows you to have fun growing bud and processing oil. And as your industry partner, we keep your business supplied while staying ahead of commercial challenges.
5. Don’t Go It Alone
Everything we’ve discussed in this article is, of course, a bit overwhelming for someone to wrap their head around. And we’re not afraid to say it: trying to plan every detail for every corner of your cannabis business can make you feel a bit crazy at times. In the end, the most effective planning comes from a mind that knows what it wants:
- Do you want to leverage horticulture and be a commercial cannabis cultivator?
- Do you prefer the scientific side of cannabis and want to process flower into oils, distillates, and isolates?
- Are you going to channel your inner chef and build a cannabis kitchen and integrate the benefits of marijuana into foods and beverages?
- Perhaps you’d like to build a dispensary and provide product to those who both benefit from the medicinal properties of cannabinoids as well as enjoy its uplifting effects.
Perhaps you have the capital and ambition to both cultivate flower and manufacture cannabis products. Regardless of your vision, it’s one you can achieve with proper planning and the right relationships.
Partner With A Trusted Design+Build Team
Jumping headfirst into the cannabis industry sounds fun and may even be fun… at first. However, if you don’t plan ahead, countless hurdles and challenges will leave you feeling overwhelmed. Thankfully, this isn’t a business venture you need to undertake by yourself. It’s up to you to know what you want, and it’s up to us to support your vision and help you execute your business model as efficiently as possible.
We have extensive roots in managing equipment and commercial supply chains to ensure your first cannabis build is one that will not only be successful but also scalable. Although we’ve covered quite a few topics in this article, it’s just the tip of the iceberg compared to the knowledge and experience our staff has to offer.
If you’re looking for passionate business partners that share your enthusiasm for cannabis while being equally passionate about building a profitable canna-operation, Omega’s Design+Build team is here for you.