Member Blog: Sustainable, Indoor-Grown Cannabis Starts with LEDs

By Andrew Myers, President & CEO of ProGrowTech

Despite cannabis’s down-to-earth appeal, it hasn’t been as friendly to the earth as one might assume. But cannabis growers have always been resourceful, and with recent developments in technology and improved growing methods – including full-spectrum LED grow lights – the cannabis industry is becoming increasingly sustainable. The end results? A healthier environment, better products and a notable cost reduction. It’s a win-win-win.

Cannabis’s Carbon-Intensive Past

Between staggering electricity usage, a ballooning carbon footprint, a habitually gratuitous use of pesticides and toxic runoff decimating local ecosystems, the cannabis industry hasn’t been the best steward of the environment. As more states pass adult-use and medical laws across the country, this seemingly blameless plant has come under scrutiny from environmentalists, consumers and policy-makers alike. 

Evan Mills, Ph.D., is regarded as one of the leading minds in cannabis industry sustainability issues. A California-based energy and climate change scientist, he authored a landmark and frequently cited report in 2012, “The carbon footprint of indoor Cannabis production,” highlighting the cannabis industry’s not-so-green track record. The report devotes a few hefty paragraphs to indoor lighting needs at cultivation sites. Primary takeaways include: 

  • Indoor cannabis production requires lighting levels 500-times greater than that recommended for reading. 
  • Cultivation sites power densities are measured at 200 W/m2, on par with modern datacenters. 
  • Grow facilities nationwide consume the same amount of electricity as two million average American homes. 
  • A single cannabis cigarette, according to Mills’ calculations, is equivalent to 3 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions.

The data is clear: without adjusting equipment and techniques, the cannabis industry was on track to becoming one of the largest carbon emitters in the world. And amidst growing calls for improved business transparency and environmentally conscious methods (that have only gotten louder in recent years), cannabis businesses were desperate for solutions that matched performance with sustainability. 

The LEDs of Today

Many outdated lighting technologies like HPS and fluorescents consume exorbitant amounts of energy for sub-par output, run hot (and therefore place additional pressure on environmental controls like HVAC and AC) and tend to burn out quickly. These technologies can leave many growers wondering if it’s worth the trouble – and encourage them to make the switch to LEDs.

While LEDs have certainly been around for a while, they’ve gained traction among cannabis growers more recently. At one time, large installations of LEDs needed at commercial grow operations were highly cost prohibitive, only allowing the biggest enterprises to reap the benefits. But, over time, LEDs have become increasingly affordable and accessible to smaller businesses, start-ups and hobbyists. Moreover, the technology has improved drastically. 

Today’s cutting-edge LED grow lights come with built-in features leading to better performance paired with lower costs and emissions for the modern grower.

  • Unparalleled Efficacy and Efficiency
    LED grow lights today are able to deliver unmatched uniformity, ensuring every plant in your canopy receives adequate photosynthetically active radiation. They also use less energy while delivering plenty of brightness – meaning you’ll cut electricity costs and emissions without seeing a dip in performance.
  • Full-Spectrum Light and Spectral Tuning
    Wish you could bring the sun indoors? Invest in LEDs – they’re the closest thing to sunlight you can find because they deliver full-spectrum light. Your plants can benefit from the full range of spectrum as they would in their natural environment. Further, features like spectral tuning give cultivators ultimate control, allowing them to elicit certain biological responses, hasten flowering and shorten the growing cycle altogether.
  • Vertical Racking
    This capability, made available with some modern LEDs, can double or even triple your harvests without investing in additional square footage. Vertical racking allows growers to use their spaces in the most efficient way possible, resulting in verdant, multi-level gardens.
  • Automation
    Automating light cycles, watering and even nutrient distribution can cut down on labor-intensive tasks and human error that can result in additional, unnecessary energy usage. By pre-programming the necessary functions of your grow, growers are given peace-of-mind and can focus on other important tasks that require more of a human touch.
  • Low Heat Profile and On-Board Dimming
    A huge selling point for growers of all kinds, LEDs have a much lower heat profile than other lighting technologies. They present less of a risk for heat stress, reduce reliance on other environmental controls and can be placed much closer to the plant canopy (a plus when vertical racking!). On-board dimming is a helpful feature as well: growers can create an artificial sunrise and sunset to gently ease their plants into light-dark cycles and prevent spikes in both temperature and humidity.
  • Improved Durability
    LEDs are built to last, another selling point for environmentally conscious cultivators looking to cut down on waste. If you’re in the market for some new efficient grow lights, look for LEDs that are built with industrial-grade materials and come with the IP66 or IP65 waterproofing certification. 


Looking Toward a Bright, Green Future

Cannabis has become a regular facet of countless American lives. It helps people relax and de-stress, mitigate crippling pain and calm seizures. In 2018, the Pew Research Center reported that 62% of Americans are in favor of legalizing cannabis. The once-villainized plant, long at the center of fear-mongering campaigns like reefer madness and gateway drugs, is now widely enjoyed by everyone from politicians to grandparents to entrepreneurs to professional athletes. It’s not going anywhere any time soon. 

That means that cannabis industry professionals have a responsibility to produce cannabis with sustainable methods – and LEDs are a great place to start. Not only do LEDs help shrink your business’s carbon footprint, they can also save you money in the long run and boost profits. There are countless growers today who prefer using LEDs, and it’s pretty easy to understand why.

Andrew Myers is President and CEO of ProGrowTech, which helps commercial horticulture operations increase profitability, yield and energy efficiency with industry-leading LED lighting systems. For more information, visit





Member Blog: Doing More With Less – Ways To Expand Yields, Save Money, And Keep Quality

By Andrew Myers, President & CEO of ProGrowTech

As the cannabis industry continues to expand, commercial growers are looking for new and cost-effective ways to get a competitive edge in an increasingly crowded market.

The persistent and ever-growing demand for cannabis products has industry professionals wondering how they can increase their production levels and maintain quality while remaining profitable. Simultaneously, the price of cannabis continues to drop yet operational costs facing growers remain the same — this combination undoubtedly limits the ability to make much-needed investments or updates to their facilities. While the answer may be different for each grower, evaluating a few key areas may lead to increased production without the skyrocketing expenses.

What are some of the best ways to cut down on costs without inhibiting quality? Start by asking the right questions.

Which Lights Provide the Right Intensity, Spectrum, and Efficiency for Your Grow?

It can’t be emphasized enough that lighting plays an integral role in the success of any harvest. When growing indoors, agriculturalists lose exactly what plants need to survive: the sun. LED lights that produce the appropriate light spectrum and intensity can be a (sometimes superior) replacement for the sun.

When used effectively, LEDs can mimic the changing of the seasons — thereby allowing horticulturalists to hasten flowering or encourage dormancy. They’re able to change the appearance, potency and size of the plant. Spectral tuning gives cultivators control over the timing of the plant’s natural life cycle and the resulting harvest, supporting the conclusion that LEDs are the optimal lighting choice for growers seeking higher production levels in a shorter amount of time.

LEDs deliver numerous other time- and money-saving benefits to commercial growers, including:

Energy efficiency – LEDs are an environmentally friendly and sustainable choice for horticulturalists looking to cut down on energy costs — easily surpassing other lighting technologies in this realm.

Cooler running temperature – They runs at a much cooler temperatures than most other options. This means that, even with several LED fixtures delivering bright, intense light, horticulturalists don’t have to worry about burning their plants.

Durability – Lights need to survive a high-demand, busy and ever-changing commercial grow environment. Some lights include especially durable features, such as tempered glass LED chip covers and industrial-grade aluminum — they’ll last for years while also giving growers peace-of-mind.

What Can Be Vertically Accomplished?

Vertical farming has revolutionized the way we think about indoor agriculture. With the advancement of vertical racking, growers can amplify their harvests — sometimes multiplying their crops ten-fold — without having to invest in more square footage.

While this layout certainly isn’t a new idea in agriculture, it was more recently adopted by cannabis growers as some LED grow lights are now capable of being vertically racked. Many growers’ facilities have square footage limitations, whether due to budget or state law; building up, rather than out, offers the opportunity to drastically expand growing capabilities even in smaller spaces.

To keep your vertical cannabis garden in excellent condition:

  • Ensure your LED lighting fixture delivers uniform light intensity, so each plant gets the light it needs at every stage of growth to flourish.
  • Assess whether spectral tuning is appropriate. Some growers might opt for more adjustability so they have the greatest level of control when custom crafting their crop.
  • Make sure you have proper ventilation. This equalizes the environment of each tier and prevents the development of microclimates or condensation — which can lead to disease or rot.
  • Install moveable benches to easily rearrange and access each tier as needed.

This combination of technology and intelligent design expands the realm of possibility for cannabis cultivators who want to use their space more efficiently.

Which Cutting-Edge Growing Techniques Make a Difference?

It’s also important to explore what the individual cultivator can do to improve harvests and offset costs. After all, they’re the ones who handle the plants on a day-to-day basis, and best understand what they need to prosper. Their approach plays a central role in crop health.
Commercial cultivators are able to implement advanced growing strategies to produce healthier and more profitable plants:

Tissue culture cultivation – This innovative technique is relatively new to the cannabis industry, although it has been used since the 1950s to aid in orchid reproduction. The process involves immersing cuttings from a healthy, mature plant in different hormone solutions. Tissue culture cultivation allows growers to quickly develop several — up to hundreds — of genetically identical plants.

Consolidate veg and bloom rooms – Adjustable LEDs offer an easy solution for growers who want to use the time-saving “flower-in-place” approach.LEDs start by delivering gentle springtime light, and growers gradually ramp up the intensity to replicate the height of summer. This method prevents plants from being shocked when they’re moved from room to room, encouraging resiliency — and reducing the required square footage to get a healthy harvest.

The Bottom Line

Critics of indoor agriculture argue it’s too expensive. And in some cases, skeptics have a point — when approached incorrectly, indoor cultivators are indeed faced with expensive operational costs that may slash their profits.

But this doesn’t always have to be the case. Advancements in technology and design, catalyzed by the creative minds leading the industry, are making indoor agriculture more realistic than ever — for any type of grower. Furthermore, indoor agriculture gives the individual grower ultimate control over the environment. One day, variables like unpredictable weather or changing seasons can be left behind. Traditional industrial agriculture results in soil degradation and pollution — moving indoors can help mitigate this negative impact on our environment. In addition, cultivators no longer have to use harmful pesticides, resulting in a healthier product for both the earth and the eventual consumer.

Andrew Myers is President and CEO of ProGrowTech, which helps commercial horticulture operations increase profitability, yield and energy efficiency with industry-leading LED lighting systems. For more information, visit


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