For most cannabis cultivation companies seeking to build new facilities or revamp existing spaces, one consideration is paramount: maximizing canopy size. But the future of indoor cannabis farming needs to broaden its scope beyond the hyper-focus on square footage. What if there are grow room solutions that could improve outputs by pivoting to also focus on employee ergonomics?
Worker satisfaction feeds into performance, efficiency, safety, and burnout rates. If these considerations are not already on your radar, they should be. The future of cannabis facility design needs to be built not just for plants but also for people.
The Current Designs Rarely Consider the Worker
Ask most employees working on the floor of commercial cultivation rooms and they’ll come up with a laundry list of challenges to job performance, many of which boil down to facility workflow and design.
Despite how new the industry is, these issues are already translating into injuries, burnout, and resentment.
According to Pinnacol Assurance, an insurance company serving Colorado, the most common cannabis cultivation facility injuries are:
- Slips, trips, and falls
- Hits (getting hit by something)
- Strikes (hitting into something)
Slips, trips, and falls translate into the most expensive injuries, followed by strains and cuts. Of course, these are expensive for the employee but also for the employer. Injuries result in downtime and operational deficiencies, and importantly, hurt overall staff morale.
What an Ergonomic Cannabis Grow Room Can Look Like
What if facilities started to pivot design focus away from canopy square footage to more ergonomic features and layouts? Would this negatively impact profitability and yield? Not necessarily.
The key is to rethink the concept of canopy from 2-dimensions to 3-dimensions. Just as adding shelves to a closet increases the square foot of storage area, adding more “layers” of plants can increase canopy in the same size facility. In short, grow room solutions require you to think vertically.
While vertical farming is not new, not all commercially available solutions on the market also deliver increased ergonomics and worker comfort. Solutions such as the Vertical Farming Unit (VFU) exclusively available from Agrify prove it’s possible to have ergonomically designed workplaces while also boosting yields and, thus, revenues.
Intelligently designed spaces using Agrify’s innovative VFUs and Agrify Insights, a cloud-based software integration, help create an environment optimized for cannabis production and also for the workers managing that production.
Here are a few ways a grow room design can solve long-standing facility issues that impact the cultivation team and, ultimately, output.
Problem: Inaccessible Cannabis Canopy
The grow room is maxed out for a cannabis canopy in a traditional warehouse-style space. Benches run down the room in long rows to cram in as many individual plants as possible as the space allows. Plants are stacked several rows deep.
While the first row or two of plants running along the aisles are accessible for pruning, training, and harvesting, the backsides are tough to navigate. To access the off-aisle plants, workers are usually required to reach, often simultaneously ducking under low overhead lights.
Plant management and monitoring in these circumstances become (quite literally) back-breaking work.
Solution: Make Every Plant Accessible
A facility design that places every single plant within a worker’s natural field of vision ensures that what was once back-breaking work is now much less physically demanding. In addition, this shift in design makes it easier for employees to perform daily cultivation tasks, which translates to better performance of those tasks.
An accessible canopy also reduces the risk of injuries stemming from repetitive overreaching and continuous bending over a long shift. It’s a design that creates more durable employees.
Agrify’s VFUs, which can hold up to 64 plants, solve these traditional accessibility issues. Cultivation techs can open VFUs from two sides, and every plant is within a worker’s natural field of vision, reducing the physical aspects of monitoring. For easy trimming, harvesting, and other tasks, every cannabis plant is also within reach (two feet or less).
Problem: Tripping, Slipping, and Other Workplace Hazards
A grow room can become quite cluttered, especially during heavier workdays, like pruning or harvesting. A busy grow room can quickly become cluttered with tripping hazards like hoses and extension cords, which are left behind by employees rushing to complete tasks.
Employees are likely wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), like shoe coverings. Slipped over work boots and shoes, these loose-fitting booties only increase the tripping potential. In many facilities outfitted with a conventional vertical design, workers need ladders for accessibility. Ladders alone pose a risk, but PPE booties on ladder rungs make for an even riskier combination.
Solution: Eliminate Tripping Hazards and Clutter
A smarter design reduces the risks of injury by removing tripping hazards altogether. Integrated hydroponic technology is one way to instantly reduce the network of hoses running across aisles.
Also, Agrify’s VFUs, even when stacked three high, are accessible by walkways and staircases, not ladders. With employees wearing boot coverings, no-skid walkways reduce slipping hazards.
Grow Room Solutions: An Ergonomic Facility Doesn’t Have to impact Yield
With so much money invested in cannabis cultivation, commercial growers have understandably sought to maximize flower space over all else. But Agrify’s VFUs, combined with Agrify’s Insights, can improve outputs while improving ergonomic considerations.
Agrify’s grow room solutions can increase yields by up to 6 times over conventional facilities and lower operation costs by up to 30 percent while reducing the physical strain on workers. This vertical facility design translates into a win-win for both plants and those that tend to them.
Better for Plants. Better for Workers: Grow with Agrify
Agrify’s VFUs make vertical farming simple. With no need to buy racks, benches, or LED lighting separately, everything your grow needs is baked right into every VFU.
The unique VFU design and integrated software reduce the risk of worker injury and the physical costs of common repetitive tasks, which means improved task performance and overall employee morale. It’s a system that supports your key assets: plants and people.
So, are you ready to take your grow to the next level? Contact the Agrify Team today.