As every other plants, cannabis was mainly grown in soil. With the advent of its legalization it is now cultivated in large quantities in industrial farms in Canada and other parts of the U.S. However with technological progress there are new plant cultivation techniques like hydroponics that result in higher harvest rate. But have you heard of aquaponic cannabis? It’s a simple yet revolutionary technique similar to hydroponics but considered as more organic.
General method of growing cannabis
The general way of growing cannabis consist of the same traditional farming method. The seeds are planted in the soil where it gets all the nutrients and water grow into plants. Hence, depending on the region, the soil constituency may vary and this has an impact on the quality of the crops.
This method was predominantly used for the cultivation of cannabis, specially during the period it was not legal in many countries. People secretly grew it in hidden forests or in small pots in their back garden. But as cannabis become a legal industry, investors were attracted to grow it in large scale by setting up commercial farms.
To increase their profit they need plant which were more resistant to weather, pests and diseases and furthermore offering higher crop yield. Unfortunately this has lured many cannabis farmers to rely on chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Though it increased production, it has a negative impact on both the consumer’s health and the environment.
Hydroponic cannabis cultivation
Safer alternative to chemical fertilizers are natural fertilizer like compost and manure, but which demand more tedious work. Other farmers has turned to hydroponic culture which is more productive. It is a soiless technique were the plants are grown in water which is manually enriched with nutrients solutions, oxygen is provided by air pumps. The are also indoor system which have also artificial lighting to faciliate the photosynthesis process of the plants.
Hydroponic enable the cannabis plants to grow rapidly, be of better quality and have higher yields. Pests are mostly present in soil, hence in a hydroponic environment there is no need to use pesticides. Another advantage is that hydroponic system is modular units which mean that you can build small one at home or a gigantic one for mass crop production.
There is scientific explanation why cannabis plants grow better in hydroponic farms. When grown in the soil the plants has to use great amount of energy to make its roots extend deep under to find food and water. Whereas in hydroponic everything is readily available in the water, hence the plants focus all their energy on the growth of its leaves, flowers and fruit. Moreover, farmers can adjust for an optimum lighting for better photosynthesis – a process where the leaves convert light energy into chemical energy.
Hydroponic cannabis farmers claim that their plants contain higher cannabidoid, where the strains produced contain higher THC (+28%). They also prefer hydroponic systems because it can easily be automated and hence need less tedious work. However, the initial investment costs of a large hydroponic farm can be hefty.
Aquaponic cannabis cultivation
Aquaponic cannabis cultivation is a bit like hydroponic system i.e the plants are grown in nutrients and oxygen enriched water. The main difference is that the nutrients are not added manually through solutions but instead fish are reared in the same water. The excrement of fish act as a natural compost which provide the water with all nutrients that the cannabis need like potassium, nitrogen and phosphorus.
Aquaponic is the replication of a natural process; the symbiosis between plants and fishes. Fish provide nutrients which the plants absorb through its roots and during the absorption process the water is cleaned. This is very important for the plants as excess nutrients like ammonium and potassium can be harmful to the fishes.
However, to be able to start growing the plants you have to wait for the bacteria colonization which can take quite a lot of time, sometimes a few months. Moreover, there must be a constant monitoring of the level of nutrients in the water, this can be easily done with water test kit.
Factors to be taken in consideration when growing aquaponic cannabis:
Higher level of nutrients
The cannabis plants require higher level of nutrients, specially during the budding and flowering stage. So constant monitoring have to be done to ensure the level are adequate.
The quantities of nutrients can be controlled by varying the ratio of plants to fishes and also adjusting the level of water. In case there is low level of nutrients you can add natural supplements which do not harm the fishes. This close monitoring is less frequent when growing crops like lettuce or herbs and they are leafy and do not need additional energy for budding and flowering.
Different care at different growth stages
Aquaponic cannabis plants will need different level of nutrients at different growth stages. During flowering the plants will need more nutrients than the vegetative stage. If the plants in the aquaponic system are not growing at the same rate you will have to separate them in different systems to ensure optimum harvest.
Hence, you will have to operate two different systems with different parameters; plants to fish ratio and water level. That is why the water testing kit will be fundamental.
The by-products of aquaponic cannabis cultivation: Excess fish
One factor to be considered when growing aquaponic cannabis is that other than a higher harvest rate you will also have fishes. Many farmers using aquaponic systems ( cannabis and non cannabis growers) will have fully grown fish ready for consumption after 6 months.
Fish species like Red snapper and Tilapia are commonly used and they have a high reproduction rate. If you aquaponic farming with around ten fishes you can find yourself with 100 more fishes in less than a year! But when you think about it, the extra fishes are just bonus! For aquaponic cannabis farmers the sales of the extra fishes can be a source of extra money and make the business more profitable.
The main benefits of cultivating aquaponic cannabis is that it is 100% chemical free. For those who give high importance to organic products aquaponic farming is fully recommended.
Moreover, aquaponic system is modular and can be started by both and individual in his backyard or a businessman on a large scale farm. Another advantage that make it attractive is that it offer higher harvest rate in short lapse of time.
However starting an aquaponic system need some knowledge and experience, you will have to learn about water PH and learn to play with the different parameters.
If you want to know everything about growing cannabis for medical and personal purpose, have a look at the best selling book written by the author Ed Rosenthal. She is a leading cannabis horticulture authority
Aquaponic system is an innovative and ecological system which is now being wildly used for crop growing. As the cannabis industry has gained importance many farmers have been tempted with the traditional agricultural method, which is chemical intensive. There aquaponic system can be a safer alternative for the growing of organic cannabis.
I hope that you enjoyed this article and that you learn a bit more about aquaponic cannabis. If you have any questions and experience, we will be glad to hear from you.
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