Designing Your Ideal New York Adult-Use Indoor Cultivation Facility

New York adult-use indoor cannabis cultivation license holders have an exciting opportunity to set a high bar for quality and yield in one of the most hotly anticipated emerging cannabis markets in the country. The first step to success—after winning the license lottery, of course—is to optimize your indoor cultivation facility design. 

If you want to reduce per-pound overhead costs and maximize quality, here’s what you need to know about the two cultivation license options, which are based on canopy size. 

New York Adult-Use Indoor Cultivation Facility Design

  1. Tier 1, up to 5,000 SF of Canopy

Don’t be fooled; 5,000 square feet of flowering canopy is a sizable operation. To maximize your allowable canopy, you’ll need a 10,000 to 15,000 square foot facility. The extra space will be necessary for veg and prop, harvest, drying / curing and post-processing, staff areas, egress, etc. 

An ideal indoor cannabis cultivation facility design has equally sized flower rooms, each with the same light and plant count. This keeps the propagation and veg schedule efficient and consistent. At 16 square feet per flowering light, you’re looking at just over 300 total flower lights for a maxed-out Tier 1 New York adult-use indoor cultivation license. Harvested five times per year, those 300 lights are capable of yielding 3,000+ pounds of flower annually. 

The number of flower rooms you have in a facility will directly impact your production schedule. Having multiple flower rooms spreads out your workload and allows for a streamlined veg, dry rooms, harvest crews, etc. If you stick to an eight-week flower schedule, then a facility with two flower rooms usually provides one harvest per month. A four-room facility will harvest biweekly. 

One of our favorite configurations: three flower rooms. This allows for a harvest every three weeks, with a three-week veg time—the longest we’d recommend. With this strategy, you’ll only need one generation of veg plants on deck at any given time, with the next set in clone trays ready to move up as soon as you move the mature plants into flower. 

Larger plants (more weeks in veg) are more expensive to produce than smaller plants and the more generations of veg plants you require at one time, the larger your veg will need to be. Definitely consider multilevel racks for veg and clone—this can be a real space saver, although it can also narrow the properties you consider for your cultivation facility.

  1. Tier 2, up to 12,500 SF of Canopy

If you’re planning on maxing out a Tier 2 license, you’re going to need 25,000-30,000 square feet of facility if you’re going single level, or roughly half of that if you install multilevel racking. At approximately 16 square feet per flowering light, a Tier 2 indoor license will house close to 800 flowering lights. 

If you’re hitting your target cultivation yield metrics and have a sound production schedule in place, a facility of this size should throw off 8,000-10,000 pounds of flower annually. But to hit these numbers, you’ll need a proven process, a rockstar team and even better genetics.

Check out MMI Agriculture Solution’s Retractable Elevated Decking systems if you’re looking for the most innovative and labor-saving multilevel cultivation layout on the market. You’ll need at least 12-foot ceilings for a vertical grow facility. Limit your veg time to three weeks or less and select strains that are compact in height to keep your plants from growing into the lights. 

A high-quality rack or bar-style  LED grow lights like the Fluence SPYDR Series (our top choice) will help growers achieve targets in tighter spaces—but you’ll want at least 16-foot ceilings to achieve ideal airflow and conditions. 

For multilevel cultivation facilities, we always recommend growers select an all-in-one coupled HVAC design—in which cooling, heating and dehumidification is handled by the same system—rather than supplementing a traditional air conditioning system with additional dehumidification, which adds heat to the room and provides less control. AGronomic IQ offers our favorite coupled HVAC solution for vertical gardens. 

Pro tip: HVAC rebates can be a great way to maximize cost savings on your equipment selections. 

Genetics, Genetics, Genetics

Because all the newly licensed operators in the Empire State will be taking off from the same starting line, it’s important to have a good plan in place to get cultivating and harvesting as efficiently as possible. But before you start popping seeds or shopping online for the newest hype strain, ensure you’re working with reputable cannabis genetics sourcing experts—cannabis clone nurseries, tissue culture and cannabis seed companies—to ensure genetic quality and legitimacy and to avoid scourges like hop latent viroid.

Due diligence early on will save you from wasting time and money on poor-quality plants during the crucial period when cannabis genetics enter new and emerging markets. Starting with proven, quality strains and a good process for adding new ones to the lineup can be the difference between success and failure in a new market. Sourcing weak, unstable and/or infected plants can set a new facility back 6-12 months. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to enjoy high-demand, early market pricing because you cheaped out on your plant stock or rolled the dice with an unreliable source. Remember, a cultivation facility is only as good as the genetics inside. You can build the most expensive, state-of-the-art facility in the world, but if you put A-minus (or worse) strains in there, that’s as good as you’re ever going to do.

Navigating the Wholesale Market for New York Adult Use Indoor Cultivation Facilities

Newly licensed New York adult-use indoor cannabis cultivators will be competing with existing operators that already have established sales channels and brand recognition. You will also be up against dozens of low-cost greenhouse and outdoor producers that will inevitably drive down the wholesale flower and distillate pricing during their harvest season. 

Once you do have your final product for sale, you’ll need a competent sales strategy to maximize product pricing and to develop and maintain valuable relationships with dispensaries and budtenders. There are a few steps you can take to navigate the wholesale market and make sure the product you’ve worked so hard to grow gets the market and consumer recognition it deserves:

  • Focus on branding, product variety, and quality to build a loyal customer base. 
  • Maintain a strain library of at least 12-24 varieties for the allowed canopy. 
  • Introduce new strains quarterly to keep customers interested. 
  • Establish a ground game, ensuring your sales team is actively promoting your brand in every dispensary in New York State. 
  • Build relationships with budtenders; invest time and effort into connecting with them through traditional sales tactics like providing incentives, dinners, and hip merchandise.

For support in planning, designing and operational management of a grow site or any other cannabis business in New York, reach out to Next Big Crop today. Our expertise in cultivation facilities of all sizes, application development, financial modeling, and more can help you realize your cannabis business aspirations. Your journey to success in New York begins here.