Myth Busting: Is CANNA Cannabis Fertilizer Really More Expensive?

Walking down the fertilizer aisle of any local hydroponic store can be overwhelming. Cannabis-focused fertilizer brands spend a ton of money developing vast product lines, hip artwork, and clever marketing strategies to lure operators into committing their gardens to their feed chart—and once a cultivation business designs its irrigation strategy and system around a specific product line, making a change can be like switching horses midstream. 

A lot goes into figuring out which cannabis fertilizers and other inputs will give you the biggest bang for your buck. After more than a decade of helping operators develop and operate commercial cannabis cultivation facilities of all sizes, we at Next Big Crop tend to favor simple solutions that enable high-quality and consistent production across various markets and operational teams, without much guesswork. 

This is why we always recommend CANNA fertilizer, along with an inert substrate like coco coir or rockwool to our quality/boutique-focused cultivator clients—especially for New Jersey microbusinesses, New York microbusinesses, Maryland micro grower facility and Minnesota microbusinesses and mezzobusinesses. 

This combination has helped leading brands produce award-winning flower for decades now, and when fed through a precise drip irrigation system, the process can be as simple as following the feed chart and making sure you’re not overwatering. So why do so many new operators stray from this tried and true path to boutique status?

It usually comes down to numbers—growers often push back on our CANNA fertilizer recommendation with the same rebuttal: “Yeah CANNA is great, but it’s too expensive.” 

That would be fair enough—if it were true. 

This budget-minded response begs a couple of questions, namely: Is CANNA really more expensive? And if so, by how much? Is it worth it? And should you even directly compare the product offerings of different nutrient companies, when product lines vary greatly by concentration and ancillary features?

Let’s dig in and answer these questions—after all, the answers can seriously impact cultivators’ overall success. 

Types of Cannabis Fertilizer Inputs

The place to start is by identifying which cannabis fertilizer inputs are really comparable across brands and product lines. Some of the most useful points of comparison and differentiation include:

  • Base nutrients, which provide essential macro and micronutrients to plants through various delivery methods.
  • Additives that serve a specific function for a particular growth phase of a plant.
  • Supplements help fill in gaps when the base nutrients fall short of providing what the plant or growing media needs in specific situations.

The fact of the matter is, base nutrients are not created equal. While most cannabis fertilizer brands supply a universal two- or three-part base nutrient program for use in all types of growing media, CANNA Gardening offers a variety of base nutrient product lines, each designed for specific growing media compatibility—from coco, to rockwool, to soil and soilless mediums, to recirculating hydroponic systems.

There is a greater significance to that specificity than most growers understand—and we’ll explain more about the relationship between nutrients and media like coco in just a minute. For now, it’s important to recognize one thing: When you create a nutrient for a specific media, there is a lower probability that you will have a nutrient deficiency in your plants.

Breaking Down Wholesale Cannabis Fertilizer Costs

Growers need to think carefully about how a nutrient product works with their growing media. That interaction informs how growers can make crucial cost comparisons. Choosing a nutrient based on the cost per bottle doesn’t account for how nutrients are typically applied at different usage rates throughout each plant lifestage. 

A better unit of measurement is the price per mixed gallon of nutrient solution. Furthermore, it’s wise to take into account the price and product profile of any additives or supplements that are combined with a base nutrient.

For example, let’s look closer at how coco and nutrients work together. CANNA Coco A & B, when used with CANNA Coco Substrate, requires no supplements or additives. It wouldn’t be accurate to compare that combination to other fertilizer programs requiring calcium and magnesium supplements such as calcium nitrate to fill the gap between a one-size-fits-all nutrient and other types of growing media. 

Another factor to consider is the additional water, labor, humidity and runoff collection associated with routine “flushing” of excessive mineral buildup that can accompany some fertilizers with a high salt index. Don’t take our word for it, however. Here’s how the commercial math breaks down:

Cannabis Fertilizer Price Per Gallon 

CANNA Coco A&B has a retail cost of approximately $1,000 per 200L drum (prices will vary depending on your location and source). When used at a rate of 12 ml/gallon (for each A & B)—which is a high estimate for peak application—that’s $0.06 per product or $0.12 per mixed gallon. 

$1,000 / (200L X 1,000 mL) = $0.005 per mL

$0.005 mL X 12 mL Coco A = $0.06 per mixed gallon

$0.005 mL X 12 mL Coco B = $0.06 per mixed gallon

$0.06/gal Coco A + $0.06/gal Coco B = $0.12 total cost per mixed gallon (at peak application)

Compare those numbers to other popular brands that recommend a series of different fertilizers for vegetative and flowering phases of growth, plus a number of additives which are recommended for achieving optimum yields and quality. At a conservative Electrical Conductivity (EC) under of 3.0, that weekly application starts at $0.11 per mixed gallon and the rate increases weekly

Apples to apples, it becomes clear that CANNA is not more expensive, after all—in fact, it can actually be cheaper and less complicated for you and your crew to use, no matter the size of your canopy.

Cannabis Fertilizer Costs Per Gram of Flower

Another accurate point of comparison is the cost per gram of flower—In the research done by Next Big Crop, we’ve found that the cost per gram tends to run higher with high salt index fertilizer lines.

Oftentimes, growers find these products require much higher EC values than recommended to achieve complete nutrient profiles and yields—this high salt content can negatively affect flavor profile. 

Remember when your jars all smelled different, the flowers were stickier, and flower got you higher? One complaint in today’s market is that all product tastes the same—like cardboard terps. Well there is a direct relationship between the quality of your base nutrient input and these desirable results. 

As for additives and supplements, both established and new cultivators alike sometimes forget that they are not a required component of a complete nutrient program. Nor are they inherently expensive inputs for a commercial cannabis grow facility. If operators take the time to plan, design, and build gardens with a high level of environmental control, fewer additives are required to achieve full potential during specific growth phases. 

Take a well-designed facility, add a quality base nutrient that is designed specifically for your substrate, and follow the instructions on the container, and you already have a solid head start and are likely to outperform most of the competition, while spending less on fertilizer overall. But don’t forget to source high-quality and high-demand genetics for your operation.

Conversely, if a garden has limited environmental control ability, additives and supplements can provide major benefits in achieving full plant potential. When used right, these inputs can make a good grower great with just one or two extra inputs.

With all this in mind, what’s the best fertilizer program for your operation and business model? At Next Big Crop, we advise our clients to go with CANNA, follow the instructions and take out the guesswork. Whichever nutrient you choose, we hope this overview demonstrates why all base cannabis nutrients are not created equal—and why it pays to grade the costs of all consumable selections on a curve.

Contact Next Big Crop today to learn more about fertilizer injection and delivery systems, plus other equipment and materials sourcing.