- Medical Cannabis
With the legalisation of medical cannabis around the world and the imminent legalisation of recreational, many farmers have started looking into the booming cannabis industry. But how do you become a a cannabis grower in the UK?
There are still some obstacles to overcome but becoming a hemp producer is certainly possible.
Step 1 – Licence
First and foremost, you need a licence from the Home Office to grow hemp in the UK. You must apply using the online application form and provide your contact details. There is also a fee associated with the application. New licences usually cost £580, with licence renewals costing £326. You must also undergo a Disclosure and Baring Service (DBS) check to be eligible for a licence. This check helps employers make safer recruitment decisions each year.
The Home Office may impose restrictions on where you plant the crop. They may also request that you screen your crop or locate your crop sensitively, eg not in the vicinity of schools or areas of public access.
Licences last for a growing season, and you must renew your licence before you can begin to grow for the next season.
Step 2 – Growing
The cannabis plant is very resilient and adaptable to climate. Cannabis cultivation is therfore a rather straightforward process if you get the fundamentals right.
Some of the cultivation requirements include:
Soil with sufficient nutrients and a certain Ph between 5.8 and 6.5.
You can use hydroponics as well which is a type of horticulture and a subset of hydroculture, which is a method of growing plants, usually crops, without soil, by using mineral nutrient solutions in an aqueous solvent.
It is very important to maintain a certain temperature range. Otherwise, the plant might go into a mild shock. The optimal day temperature range for cannabis is 24 to 30 °C
Depending on where you grow your cannabis plant light can be natural (outdoor growing) or artificial (indoor growing).
Standard light periods are 18/6 and 20/4, and these tend to give the best results. The ‘Gas Lantern Routine’ is an alternate lighting schedule that has proven to be successful for growing cannabis, while saving a significant amount of energy. The flowering period for Cannabis has a median of approximately 60 days. The secret to the gas lantern routine lies in the 12 hours of uninterrupted darkness for plants to flower.
The amount of water and the frequesncy is determined by several factors like the temperature, age, size and stage. Inpect your plants regurarly for any unwanted signs such as the wilting of leaves. Beware that excessive watering can kill cannabis plants if the growing medium gets over-saturated.
Ideal levels of humidity for optimal growth are 40–60% RH. In our interconnected digital world there are now IoT sensors that can monitor the microclimate of your plants including humidity.
This is a subject that requires trial and error to get right. Fertilizers are generally needed and we would advise to use organic ones. In general, cannabis needs more N than P and K during all life phases(NPK= nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium).
Lucky for you, there is expert advise that you can get from industry bodies like Agri-TechE. Agri-TechE is bringing together farmers and growers with scientists, technologists and entrepreneurs to create a global innovation hub in agri-tech.
The Development stage consists of 5 different phases. From Germination to the Seedling phase and the Vegetative phase to the Pre-flowering phase and utterly to the Flowering and fruition phases. The time for the whole cycle varies from 6-12 weeks depending on the strain and the environment.
Depending on the goal there are several harvesting processes.
- Cannabis grown for smoking is harvested when 15% of the trichomes have turned a reddish brown/amber.
- Fiber hemp needs to be harvested before flowering.
- Seeds are harvested when fully developed.
Last but not least there is the Sale stage. In this stage you have generally 2 options.
1. Sell your product in bulk
If you have set up a process to produce big quantities and on a certain timescale then there are a lot of options to sell your product to the wholesale market. Either within the UK or in Europe and across the world with the legalisation of medical cannabis it has become easier to find buyers. There is also a surge in demand for all forms of cannabis ranging from industrial hemp to CBD, THC and medical cannabis. The risk is low with this model but the same goes for profits.
2. Create a brand
If you have an entrepreneurial spirit you could set up your own cannabis brand. UK is the largest CBD consumer market in Europe totaling 290 million pounds ($374 million) at the end of 2019 and expected to be £1B by 2025. Hemp cultivation on the other hand is small compared to US or France. There is a great opportunity to market your products on an emerging market.
If you have made the decision to become a cannabis grower you can benefit from a range of cannabis courses offered from top-tier Universities. University of Maryland – School of Pharmacy offers a Master of Science (MS) in Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics.
Botany, herbalism and chemistry have always been huge passions of mine. I came to NMU to focus on Biology in the Botany concentration and was interested in changing my area of study to biochemistry. Once this program was announced, I was ecstatic! Medicinal plant chemistry is the perfect blend of all my interests. I know what I’m studying here will change the future of medicine for so many people.Student Josie Mollohan
The numbers show that it is a sound investment. Overall, 7% of the population have used cannabis for medicinal purposes in the past year, rising to 41% among those who have used CBD in the past year. And support for legalisation of cannabis increases from 47% among the total population to 75% among past year CBD users. The demand is certainly their. Time now to make a great product and meet this demand.