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The Burgeoning Business of Cannabis Odor Control

cannabis air filtration system

To a cannabis producer, the pungent, skunky smell is good news. It is a sign of a healthy crop – and most likely some even healthier profits further down the road. Not everyone feels that way though, which is why there is a whole industry built around containing the odor of marijuana.

A cannabis growing operation can be odor free, thanks to people like Daniel Gustafik. Twenty years of building grow rooms for pot taught him the best way of controlling the smell within the building. That is long enough to know how to keep a cannabis farm odor free. One or two plants may not catch anyone’s attention, but with big operations involving large numbers of plants, it is necessary to call in the experts.

Pungent odors emanating from a cannabis growing operation are not only unpleasant but also potentially expensive. They expose property owners to the risk of litigation from neighbors whose lives are affected in one way or another by the smell. Cannabis growers have been facing lawsuits from neighbors who argue that their property values have gone down as a result of the menace. One judge from Colorado set a precedent when he charged a cannabis grower with racketeering. The complainant argued that their property had lost value. As a result, other litigants are going to court, hoping to get similar settlements. This arguably means that the legal marijuana industry has to succeed at controlling odors if it is to succeed at making bank.

Choosing to grow less pungent strains of marijuana is one way of controlling the smell. The drawback is that it is only partially effective, and may or may not be economically viable depending on your market. For maximum effectiveness, a carbon filtration method is best.

It is not just fear of lawsuits that inspires growers to control odors. Some local governments are taking a proactive approach and requiring cannabis growers to control the smell. According to Gustafik, who consults with farmers, the tell-tale smell of cannabis cannot be masked with other fragrant plants like lavender or gardenia. It can only be eliminated using a filtration system. Other scents will merely add an accent, and dryer sheets will not be effective in absorbing odors.

Gustafik’s filtration system is simple. He relies on a charcoal filter to absorb all the smells, releasing air that is free of that signature weed smell. He sets up fans strategically, to channel air into the fan, ensuring that all air goes through it, before leaving the building. If the building is in a slight vacuum, anyone who is outside the building will be unable to detect the smell of cannabis. Sadly, Gustafik’s method only works for the indoors. An outdoor farm cannot apply the same system with success because it will not be possible to contain, and control the flow of air. This means that unless you have no neighbors close by, a marijuana cultivation project is best done indoors. It would be impossible to hide the odor otherwise.

While effective, Carbon filters have to be replaced every few months. Depending on the scale of operations, this might prove costly. But it works perfectly for more most operations. Air filters, made of fibers woven together densely and incorporated into the ventilation, are more cost-effective but not as good as carbon filters. They trap odors as air goes through. Not all filters are cheap though; some advanced ones get rather expensive. Luckily, they don’t have to be changed as often.

Some cannabis growers approach odor control differently, by eliminating the need for air filtration. They create a sealed environment, one that does not require ventilation; but instead circulates air within the grow. This method keeps pests out but makes it harder to keep temperatures down.

Home growers can consider using simpler solutions like biofilters. Biofilters are made of a simple organic material that is inoculated with bacteria that absorb the smells. Hand sprays may work sometimes, but they often do not work. Some people use fans with dryer sheets and ozone generators, with varying degrees of success. Some activated charcoal inside the growing pot helps. Car fresheners, Grade plugins, Carpet sprinkles, and liquid gel are some of the remedies that home growers apply. None of these work as well as charcoal filters, but they may be good enough for damage control.

When Gustafik first got an opportunity to design a drying room for cannabis, he was excited. It was certainly something novel. He had done drying rooms before, but this was new. And the client needed him to do the job in only six weeks. He could not resist the challenge. Cannabis’ industry regulations are different, and time was short. He grabbed the opportunity and has been working with cannabis ever since. What attracted Gustafik to the cannabis industry was the opportunity to offer real solutions to real problems. Surprisingly, he is not much of a pot smoker.

There weren’t any manuals or production guides. He wanted to be a pioneer.

He doesn’t just know what works, he also knows what doesn’t work. According to Gustafik, it is not possible to remove the odor by adding another scent. The only thing that works is elimination.

Activated charcoal filters were already being used by some manufacturing industries when Gustafik started experimenting with them. Oxygen is pumped into the charcoal, making it absorb odors even better. They work well but must be replaced after reaching capacity. He was unsatisfied with their performance because he knew he could make them better.

Gustafik realized that it was not enough to just add a charcoal filter to the growing room. He spent years working on the perfect way to use it to filter out the smell, by installing fans in strategic places inside the growing room. The fans circulate all the air in the room, making sure that the fan purifies every bit of air before it comes out of the room to the outside world.

Gustafik has painstakingly researched the ideal growing conditions for every strain of cannabis. One of his most ingenious tricks is to push air out slightly faster than it comes in. The resultant semi-vacuum within the growing room ensures that no odors escaped. In case of doubt, Gustafik clarifies that his standard is zero odors. Not even close by. His innovative ideas come from thinking of the growing unit as an organism with different parts.

The decision to gamble on the virgin territory of cannabis production has more than paid off for Gustafik. He is reaping the benefits of early entry into the market and offering solutions where there were none.

Residents of small agricultural towns that have adopted cannabis farming have become well acquainted with the smell. In California’s Carpinteria, a distinct odor of cannabis wafts into their homes at certain hours of the day, particularly in the early mornings and evenings. They describe the smell as ‘skunk-like.’ Deputy Sherriff Xave Saragosa says he just wants fresh air. There, cannabis is grown in greenhouses. Most of the farming land is still dedicated to traditional crops like strawberries, but a lot of farmers are making modest investments in cannabis growing, after acquiring licenses from the authorities.

Many of the greenhouses now growing cannabis previously grew cut flowers like carnations, which have been priced out of the market. In some cases, farmers may choose to sell their greenhouses to cannabis growers. As growers implement odor control mechanisms, the smell is becoming significantly less noticeable. When all growers comply, odor from cannabis farms will cease to be a menace, and the crop will enjoy all of the support that it deserves.

There are many varieties of cannabis that are grown. Most of them exhibit the same smell, sort of like a skunk. The smell is caused by oil-producing substances called terpenes that are found within the herb.

Weed can contain as many as 120 types of terpenes. The terpenes don’t all smell the same, which is why the odors are not always identical in their nature or strength. That is why some smell more like skunk and others more like citrus.

Having designed a weed grow for the first time in 1997, Gustafik has applied his background in Electrical Engineering and HVAC. Today he runs his business in three states, serving many clients, who include the largest marijuana growing operations. Gustafik has experience applying his engineering and manufacturing background to the cannabis industry. He has worked in industrial power and controls, server centers, clean rooms, and of course, cannabis cultivation outfits.

Today’s cannabis farmer is growing the crop in a strictly controlled environment, making it easier to manipulate different factors to get the right input. Besides cannabis, Gustafik works with basil and microgreens. To create a legal, compliant marijuana growing operation in the US or Canada, Gustav is your go-to guy.

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