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Cannabis Grows: Indoor vs Outdoor

It’s the age-old question posed by cannabis cultivators and connoisseurs alike: which is better, indoor or outdoor bud? Both growing techniques are capable of producing high-quality premium marijuana flower, but each has its own set of unique advantages and disadvantages. For most people, the answer will change depending on the individual needs and preferences of the cultivator. 

The recent emergence of legal cannabis markets has also changed the landscape. During the black market era, large outdoor farms weren’t exactly viable. It’s hard to successfully hide a 100-acre marijuana farm from the police, while a smaller grow house can be easily tucked away from authorities. Because of these new laws allowing for the sale and cultivation across the United States and Canada, outdoor grows have become a more practical model for commercial growers. 

Cannabis Grows: Indoor vs Outdoor

The Benefits of Growing Outdoors

The cannabis plant has been cultivated for centuries -- beginning around 2000 BC. For the vast majority of this time, the plant has grown outdoors. 

Outdoor grows are by far the cheaper of the two options. Procuring all the equipment necessary to set up an indoor grow is no small investment. Often these costs are a barrier for small farms and hobbyists. 

Arguably one of the most important things for any cultivator, commercial or hobbyist, is soil. Before buds are ever trimmed and packaged, they start as small germinated seeds nestled safely in the soil. That soil is the lifeblood of marijuana, and it influences its tastes and aromas long after the plant has been processed. The soil on an outdoor farm is a bit like a snowflake. It takes properties from the local biodiversity and climate and passes them along to the plant to create a unique terpene profile. It’s simply impossible to accurately replicate this kind of natural soil content on an indoor farm.

Many commercial cultivators who grow outdoors market their products as “sun-grown cannabis.” When you stop to think about it, the sun is the most powerful tool in any farmer’s toolbox. Full-spectrum sunlight encourages the growth of uncommon cannabinoids in a way that artificial light can not mimic. The sun also directly impacts the shape of the buds. As a plant grows, it naturally grows up towards the sun. Growing outdoors gives the plant more space to stretch out, and can result in a final product that’s less dense than indoor grown alternatives.

With the existential threat of climate change looming over the world, it’s incredibly crucial for those in the agriculture business to be good stewards of the environment. Indoor grows are a huge energy suck. Because sun-grown cannabis utilizes the naturally occurring light and water provided by nature, these farms have a dramatically smaller carbon footprint. If sustainability is essential to your ethos, outdoor farming is the only option. 

The Benefits of Growing Indoors 

The main advantage offered by indoor grow houses is, in a word, control. Sun-grown cannabis is susceptible to all of the environmental stressors that mother nature can produce. This usually causes outdoor grows to have a lower crop yield. It also means that outdoor grown marijuana buds tend to take on a more rugged looking appearance and often smell less pungent than their indoor counterparts. 

Indoor grows are able to make cannabis cultivation into a science. Cultivators can take the data they get from past harvests and make tweaks to everything in the growing process. Things like c02 and humidity levels can have drastic impacts on a grower’s final product. When cultivating indoors, these factors are always under your control.

Because of the added level of control, indoor grows are able to cultivate marijuana plants with higher THC or CBD percentages, more aesthetically pleasing buds, and achieve unrivaled consistency between growing cycles. The quality of sun-grown cannabis can vary from batch to batch due to unmitigable environmental factors. With indoor grown cannabis, it’s much easier to keep your products similar throughout the years. This kind of consistency is key to commercial farmers who are looking to build a brand.

Why Not Both? 

Some cultivators attempt to get the best of both worlds by utilizing greenhouses. Marijuana plants grown in these greenhouses glean all the benefits that natural sunlight can provide, and the environment around them is more easily controlled. Because greenhouses don’t require all the fans and energy-consuming lights that traditional indoor grow houses do, they are a more environmentally friendly option. Greenhouses also provide shelter from environmental stressors like wind and heavy rain, helping the buds maintain their funky smells and better selling appearances. 

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