#7: of 12 Cannabis Innovators We’re Watching That Are Killing It In All Things Weed7
As the desire to grow cannabis anywhere, in any environment, increases so does indoor cultivation and with it, more energy use and waste. One startup, Oshawa, Ont.-based Turnkey Aquaponics, is addressing the economic and environmental feasibility of cannabis cultivation with its innovative engineering tech.
What it is
Turnkey Aquaponics specializes in aquaponics — a form of agriculture that combines the growing of plants without soil, known as hydroponics, and aquaculture, like fish farming, into a symbiotic self-contained system. Their solutions also include an agricultural micro-combined heat-and-power system (CHP), as well as innovative LED lighting solutions.
What started as a hobby project in 2014 for Michael Veneziano and Timothy Sarvendran — two students at Ontario Tech University — drew attention when their aquaponics technology won the Spark Centre Ignite pitch competition that same year. The students, now co-founders, incorporated Turnkey Aquaponics in 2015 and continued to work on designs for their CHP system and LED lighting technologies while finishing their studies.
Impact on the cannabis industry
Turnkey Aquaponics’ LED lights, which are proudly manufactured in a factory based in Toronto, optimize rapid plant growth. Turnkey’s LED grow lights can be customized to a specific plant’s spectrum requirements or to a grower’s request. For example, growers may want indica or sativa-heavy cannabis, both of which require their own unique spectrums. By varying light parameters, growers can promote different levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), as well as customize the speed and size of plant growth. Turnkey’s LED grow lights are passively cooled, which means there is no risk of inefficient or high- failure components; the design not only extends the life of the LED lights significantly, but it also helps to reduce operating costs.
Turnkey also offers a micro-combined heat-and-power system (CHP) that encourages the utilization of all waste streams generated by cannabis cultivation. When it comes to harvesting cannabis plants, large volumes of energy-rich plant matter are grown, then discarded as waste. The CHP is comprised of three main subsystems — an anaerobic digester, microgrid, and thermal system. The waste from cultivation flows through anaerobic digestion — composting without oxygen — which produces biogas that is then burned in a generator to produce electricity, and carbon dioxide in the growing space.
At the time of publication, the lockdown had shuttered their manufacturing facility, so Turnkey has been working on several secondary projects that were not scheduled to be developed for a few years. One of those projects is the construction of a grow-testing laboratory that will feature several grow chambers with controllable environments that will better refine their LED grow lights.
The co-founders also plan to build the prototype of their CHP system out of a space provided by Ontario Tech University once pandemic restrictions are lifted. Until then, they’re exploring the repurposing of some components of their CHP for residential use and small commercial buildings.
With their LED grow lights and CHP technology, Turnkey Aquaponics is making it possible for the cannabis industry to rapidly grow plants year-round in any environment — from cities to remote communities — in the most energy-efficient, environmentally sustainable, and cost-effective way.