While cannabis will grow freely under the sun, the average cost of a cannabis grow can quickly rise indoors.
Here’s a breakdown of the factors that contribute to the costs. Essentially, the costs of a cannabis grow varies widely, with the predominant factor being whether the grow operation is indoors or out. Indoor cannabis is always more expensive to cultivate than outdoor cannabis due to the additional equipment and the climatic control required.
According to the Marijuana Business Factbook, the average cost of a cannabis grow indoors for wholesale cultivators is $42 per square foot. The costs for outdoor grows come in a lot cheaper and are in the range of $10-$17 per square foot.
The Average Cost of an Indoor Cannabis Grow
Indoor grows cost more due to the need for strict environmental control. Between grow lights and temperature and humidity sensors, the costs can quickly escalate exponentially depending on the size of the grow and the cultivator’s eagerness to yield top-quality buds.
Outdoor grows rely on the sun, and the diminished potency that cultivators obtain outdoors is offset by the lack of a need for specialized equipment to control the environment. While the cost of running an indoor cannabis grow is much more expensive than an outdoor grow, indoor cultivators will generally receive a higher price for their cannabis over outdoor cultivators. Then there’s also the fact that indoor cannabis cultivators can grow all year round if they wish. In contrast, outdoor cultivators can only grow during a specific window when the conditions are right.
But, how do the costs breakdown, and how can you start a cannabis grow on the cheap? Here’s a list of the main factors to take into consideration.
What do I Need to Grow Cannabis Indoors?
Anyone can grow cannabis cheaply with a few plants in the basement under a primitive lighting setup. But, to set up a grow room and give the plants exactly what they require to flourish and yield highly potent flower takes time and money.
The Costs of Grow Lights and Electricity
Anyone growing cannabis indoors will require lights. There are several types of lighting solutions available. The amount of lighting you require correlates to how much cannabis you grow.
LED grow lights are the most common type of grow light nowadays. Their low power usage, coupled with increased efficiency over alternate lighting methods are their most attractive feature. For small grows, a 400 Watt LED lighting system will cover around two square feet and come at a cost of around $400. With the average electricity cost in the US of 12.83 cents per kilowatt-hour, this equates to around 0.6 cents per day or $18 per month. However, such small grow areas are only useful for home growers with a plant or two. For those with larger grows, the costs of lighting and associated electricity can quickly rise.
Temperature Control and Ventilation
Climatic control in indoor grow rooms is of paramount importance. For temperature regulation, fans are hugely important and usually cost around $100 for a quality fan. The larger the operation, the higher the number of fans required, meaning startup costs can quickly rise. Humidifiers and ventilation systems can also raise the costs of setting up an indoor grow operation, and depending on the size of the grow, the operating costs can quickly ascend into thousands of dollars.
What Kind of Soil do I Need for Cannabis?
Another additional cost is that of the growing medium. Whether growing in soil or hydroponically, there are costs associated with each. In the case of soil, commercial solutions average at around $15 for a 10-gallon pot that will hold one plant. For larger grow operations, the cost of soil and the pots themselves can quickly escalate.
Those going the hydroponic route will need to purchase a system and an inert growing medium such as coco coir or rockwool. There are several types available, but a quality 12-plant watering system will cost around $500.
The Cost of Nutrients
Those intent on maximizing their harvest will generally need to feed their plants a nutrient solution. These too come with additional expense. Take a small home grow operation (say six plants). Here, growers can expect to pay around $100 for a quality nutrient solution.
Increased Costs For Commercial Operations
For those growing commercially rather than for personal use, there’s also the associated costs of licensing. This is something that can be hugely prohibitive to many. A report published by the California Growers Association stated that only one percent of cultivators purchased a license due to excessively high licensing costs.
In those states where cannabis cultivation is legal, each has its own licensing protocol. Between registration fees, facility licenses, and annual renewal fees, costs vary substantially and quickly reach into the thousands of dollars.
The Cheapest Cannabis Grow Setup
The cheapest indoor grow setup can be as simple as an LED grow light over a cannabis plant in your living room. Aside from the lighting solutions, kits are available with all the necessary components and are often available for less than $100.
However, for those more serious about the business side of legal cannabis cultivation, the costs can be substantial. Startup costs generally approach $20,000 to get off the ground.