During the summer of 2019, Mike Lentz received an alert on his smartphone that something wasn’t right in his indoor cultivation facility. The alarm, delivered by an environmental control platform, notified him that the flow rates for a particular irrigation zone were higher than normal. Lentz had programmed the acceptable flow-rate limits into an Argus environmental control platform. The information indicated that there was likely a broken irrigation line somewhere in the system. Knowing this, Lentz arrived on site to fix the problem before it left the plants to dry out and die.
For many cannabis cultivators, these type of off-hours alarms can be unsettling. But for Lentz, director of cultivation for Klutch Cannabis in Akron, Ohio, the alerts provide reassurance that he is resolving issues before they become much larger problems.
“The plants don’t stop growing, and you can’t be in the garden 24 hours a day,” Lentz says. “The Argus control system allows me to be in the garden at all times. Maintaining a certain level of control over temperature, humidity and automated irrigation in a cultivation space can be very challenging. Having the ability to remotely control all of your cultivation equipment is imperative to maintaining a constantly healthy crop.”
The Argus Controls system at Klutch dates back to 2018 when the company wanted to consolidate all of its environmental controls into a single hub. Having all of the automated irrigation, fertigation, lighting and climate controls in one platform provides 360-degree visibility into growing conditions and greater communication between each environmental system.
“For example, I can tell my lights to turn down or shut off if the cultivation space experiences a temperature spike and send me an alert that the room experienced an alarming environmental condition,” Lentz explains.
Another costly expense in the garden is equipment failure due to short cycling. This is when the equipment cycles on and off very rapidly, which can cause unnecessary wear and eventual failure. Within the Argus platform, Lentz can program operating parameters to prevent the equipment from short cycling. If the equipment does fail, he also can program alerts to notify him of the situation before setting foot in the grow room.
“This gives you the best climate control for optimizing your cultivation space and maintaining the health of not just your plants but your equipment,” he says.
Lentz also receives analytical data from the Argus system that helps him identify trends and make informed decisions about growing conditions.
“Whether it’s how many times that unit has called for cooling or humidification or dehumidification or CO2 enrichment, you can see that historical data and analyze it to make decisions for the future in your garden and program individual pieces of equipment to work better together,” he says.
For instance, the Argus OMNI sensor monitors crop conditions like temperature, humidity, CO2 and photosynthetic photon flux density (PPFD) in real time throughout each crop cycle. Being able to analyze this historical data and to compare it with crop quality and yield helps steer future crop environmental decisions, Lentz says.
It’s a form of preventive maintenance that’s helped Klutch Cannabis continue to grow in Ohio’s nascent medical marijuana market. In early March 2021, the company was preparing to double its growing capacity to 25,000 square feet. The scalability of the Argus platform was an important factor in the decision to continue with the system as the company expands.
“What makes Argus very easily scalable is its compatibility with a very diverse range of equipment,” Lentz explains. “As we all know, cannabis cultivation technology and equipment are rapidly evolving. What was cutting edge equipment last year is not cutting edge this year. Having the ability to scale by adapting new technology and equipment into the platform was important to our decision to go with Argus as our company continues to expand.”
In addition, some of the most labor-intensive tasks in the garden are watering plants and monitoring and adjusting environmental conditions. As the company grows, these tasks can exhaust 20% or more of its labor force, Lentz says. A single, integrated environmental controls platform eliminates those time-consuming daily cultivation tasks and allows the grower to have quick and full control over the operation any time of day.
“You can essentially crop steer your garden in real time,” Lentz says.