Gwynne Ann Unruh is an award-winning reporter formerly of the Alamosa Valley Courier, an independent paper in southern Colorado. She covers the environment for The Paper.

There’s money to be made in hydroponics, both for the seller and the buyer. The nation’s largest chain of specialty hydroponic and organic garden centers knows this well and is jumping head-on into New Mexico’s cannabis market. Grow Generation’s recent acquisition of Albuquerque’s All Seasons Gardening will serve as a quick and easy opening for the company’s entrance into New Mexico’s cannabis scene. 

“The acquisition is a testament to our continued investment in best-in-class hydroponic suppliers in emerging adult-use markets across the U.S.,” Grow Generation’s CEO Darren Lampert said.

In Latin the word “hydroponics” means “water working.” Very little water is lost to evaporation in a hydroponic growing system, making it a great application in drought-stricken areas like New Mexico.

Growing marijuana hydroponically means that you grow the plants in an inert, sterile growing medium instead of in soil. The most common hydroponic system for growing cannabis is a drip-fed system that works by pumping water up from a reservoir. 

Based in Denver, Colorado, Grow Generation (NASDAQ: GRWG) sells products that are key for the at-home growers of cannabis, as well as for producers looking to grow cannabis at a large volume. The company carries garden supplies such as organic nutrients, soils and lighting technology at its retail locations.

The organic gardening supply giant terminated its recent contract with Michigan-based company HGS Hydro, which owns a chain of hydroponic gardening supply centers.

“Following appropriate due diligence and capital allocation analysis, we decided to mutually terminate the acquisition,” said Grow Generation CEO Darren Lampert.

The company said its acquisition of All Seasons Gardening, an Albuquerque-based indoor-outdoor garden supplier that specializes in hydroponics systems and indoor garden lighting, “represents our entry into New Mexico’s cannabis market,” which Lampert said, “is projected to become a $1 billion industry by 2026.”

Water We Talking About?

So what’s the big deal about hydroponic growing? Since water is recirculated and reused in hydroponic growing, it saves 70 to 90 percent more water than soil growing. The system takes the desired amount of food directly to the root instead of the plant having to work for the food in soil. 

Up to 90 percent more efficient use of water is a big deal in our state. And with cannabis shortage predictions, a well-managed hydroponic production system increases yield three to 10 times in the same amount of space. 

In the production of cannabis, hydroponic cultivation generally occurs in a greenhouse where the hydroponic system increases the aeration of plant roots and provides greater control of nutrient uptake.

Hydroponic systems introduce the water, nutrients and air to the roots through growing mediums. All of the plants’ basic nutrient requirements are supplied for them when you mix water with a nutrient solution.

As hydroponics bypass the web of roots and the energy required for the plant to acquire the nutrients from soil, you get faster growing plants.

A hydroponic system can be set up in greenhouses as small as a couple of hundred square feet to as large as several thousand square feet. Year-round harvesting of cannabis helps to offset the setup costs. Those can be anywhere between $10,000 and a couple hundred thousand dollars for hydroponics—due to the expenses needed to maintain greenhouses and the higher labor costs involved. 

Hydroponics supports better growth for plants than soil gardening with about 25 percent faster growth than plants grown in soil. Additionally, plants in hydroponic gardening generally produce up to 30 percent more than plants grown in soil gardening. 

Unlike commercial farming where the water can run off and evaporate in huge quantities, hydroponics uses 95 percent less water than commercial farming. The system recycles its water and only loses water to the plant’s growth and a tiny amount to evaporation. 

Hydroponic systems of plant cultivation are not just good for the environment. They are widely considered more sustainable than regular farming, because they use so much less water for plant growth. Additionally, hydroponic farming yields more products in a shorter time. Finally, its carbon footprint is minimal as cannabis is grown locally.

The disadvantages of hydroponic farming are that initial costs are high. It’s also time consuming, requiring more expertise than traditional farming. It is labor intensive. There are risks with water and electricity, and the system is vulnerable to power outages. A hydroponic greenhouse requires constant monitoring and maintenance. There are risks of waterborne diseases, and any problems can affect the plants quicker. 

It’s definitely better to grow cannabis indoors. In a climate-controlled indoor environment, cannabis can reach its full potential and deliver higher cannabinoid concentrations. Indoor-grown cannabis is also more terpene-rich, making it taste and smell better. 

With the levels of control offered in a hydroponic grow space, growers find that their buds are more potent, bigger and healthier. Whether you have no experience growing cannabis or have been an ardent producer of cannabis for years, hydroponics can be a great way to produce cannabis in any size space. Even in a closet or your basement.

Get Growing

Cannabis is now legal for growing and use in New Mexico as of June 29. Cannabis legislation passed earlier this year allows an individual to grow up to 12 plants at home without a permit and carry up to two ounces outside of their home. On the permit level, applications have now opened for commercial cannabis producers in the state.

The All Seasons Gardening Center on Osuna is permanently closed now and Grow Generation Hydroponics Garden Center has relocated to 7900 Lorraine Ct. NE. Their retail hydroponic and organic specialty gardening center’s new location offers in-store and curbside pickup. 

Get growing, New Mexico!

Written by

Gwynne Ann Unruh is an award-winning reporter formerly of the Alamosa Valley Courier, an independent paper in southern Colorado. She covers the environment for The Paper.