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A Comparison Between Growing Cannabis Indoors and Outdoors

It’s an age-old debate with equally stubborn proponents on both sides: do indoor or outdoor growing methods yield better cannabis results? Every cannabis grower has their own preferences and practice – and there’s a good chance they’ll have conflicting opinions on this particular topic. Cannabis is indigenous to Central Asia and has been cultivated for centuries. It’s one of the oldest agricultural crops, playing an important role in several ancient cultures, used as a fiber, food source (hemp seeds), medicinal uses and for its psychoactive properties. Of course, cannabis has been around much longer than indoor agriculture, and it thrives in its natural habitat. But with the onset of prohibition, many growers were forced out-of-sight and behind closed doors. The silver lining: moving indoors opened up new possibilities for innovation and technological advancements. It created the ideal setting to cultivate the cannabis plant with more vigor and specificity.

Today, growers are often given an option between choosing to plant their crop outdoors or cultivate indoors. What should a grower take into consideration when deciding between these options? Here, we explore three categories – environment, cost and quality – to compare and contrast indoor and outdoor growing. Hopefully this blog helps clarify what approach may yield more benefits for you and your business.

Environment

Let’s begin with the most obvious comparison: the plant’s overall environment.

  • Outdoor: There are plenty of growers who have made their living growing cannabis outdoors. Take for instance the “Emerald Triangle” in northern California. This renowned trio of counties – Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity – have seen some of the most skilled cultivators and enviable flower. Outdoor cannabis crops are bathed in the sun’s natural full-spectrum, and they can pull nutrients from the rich soil. Natural predators like ladybugs naturally stave off pests like mites. The endless supply of glorious natural sunlight supports vibrant crops.
  • Indoor: Growing cannabis indoors comes with a whole host of clear advantages. For one, growers can plant their crops during any time of the year, regardless of season. They have ultimate control over the indoor environment, meaning they can adjust the temperature, humidity and light levels. Even the light spectrum can be tuned to elicit certain plant responses. Further, crops are protected from inclement weather and other outdoor threats. Indoors, individual plants can be cradled by a skilled grower from the time they’re seedlings to full-fledged adult plants with an ideal amount of water, humidity and light.

Cost

Many growers understandably see cost as a deciding factor in how they approach growing cannabis. So, what method is easier on the pocketbook?

  • Outdoor: The best thing about the sun’s energy? It’s totally free. One of the biggest draws to outdoor growing is cheap access to 100% renewable energy. Labor costs might be lower too, since there’s one growing season, in contrast with the constant plant-and-harvest cycle seen indoors. For growers in municipalities that allow outdoor crops and with limited funds, outdoor might be the best way to start out.
  • Indoor: Setting up a fully functional indoor grow facility can be pricey (though it’s becoming more affordable!). But many argue it’s worth it in the long-run, with bigger yields, constant output, a controllable climate and pristine flower. While running an outdoor cannabis farm might seem like the cost-effective option, you’re not likely to see the same profits that come with indoor grows. If you’re looking to fund expansions and meet consumer demands for quality and quantity, indoor simply can’t be beat.

Quality

Finally, a comparison on potency. Those who are growing cannabis for medicinal purposes might be especially concerned about the final product’s quality and want to deliver only the cleanest, most effective product to dispensary shelves.

  • Outdoor: Cannabis grown outdoors is subjected to a volatile natural environment. A particularly hot season could easily leave plants scorched. Or perhaps a sudden rainstorm creates the perfect conditions for mildew to flourish. Because of the crop’s exposure to the natural elements, potency and overall quality take a hit.
  • Indoors: This method is where quality truly reigns supreme. In a flawlessly controlled environment, cannabis plants exhibit their full potential with record-breaking cannabinoid contents, dense flower coated in glistening trichomes and dizzyingly rich terpenoid profiles. Using tunable LED grow lights has even been shown to improve cannabinoid content and produce visually striking flower. When cultivators keep best practices front-of-mind, indoor grows can nearly by sterile ­– making indoor-grown flower especially appealing to medical cannabis consumers.

Indoor growing truly represents the future of cannabis. As our climate shifts and becomes more unpredictable, companies are more likely to move toward indoor, controllable environments where they can oversee each phase of the plant’s lifecycle. Recent innovations – energy-saving, spectrally tuned LEDs and vertical racking that makes the most of facility space – has made indoor growing more sustainable and cost-effective than ever.

Eager to dive into the indoor growing world? Check out these resources on our blog to help you get started: