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This week, Andrew Lange, president of Ascendant Management, discusses his work designing more than 1.5 million square feet of indoor cannabis facilities across more than 56 projects. When he started out, he primarily saw smaller projects of less than 20,000 square feet, but as the industry has evolved, he now rarely works on anything less than 50,000 square feet.
Lange started off in Washington state building fully automated aquariums that ranged from $30,000 to $80,000 installations. He made some connections with people who had medical licenses and helped install aeroponic/hydroponic setups. He found similarities between the cannabis market and high-end aquariums, including controls and LED lighting integration. However, the cannabis operators were often paying a lot of money for under-performing equipment.
In 2010, he founded Ascendant Management in Olympia, Washington, and it has grown into a boutique — but highly sought-after — firm with eight employees.
Over the past five years, Lange has noticed an uptick in the amount of equipment designed and manufactured specifically for the commercial cannabis industry. A few years ago, manufacturers were still manufacturing equipment to run on 120-V or 240-V, because that's typically what you had to work with in home grows. Only recently have OEMs started designing for industrial facilities.
Lange embraces new technology, and he is selective when it comes to new clients. He strives to increase efficiency and decrease labor costs using automation, but until recently, startups didn't want to do anything new. He’s transitioned away from $400,000 facilities operating on a shoestring budget and now works with sophisticated investors who are open to using new tech in $20 million facilities.
In 2015, Lange started working with Onyx Agronomics. Onyx set up shop in an old warehouse that was in rough shape. Lange wanted to work with Onyx because the company wanted to build an extremely efficient, aeroponically operated facility that was LED-lit and 60% more energy efficient than its nearest competitors. Now, the company provides 10,000 to 12,000 pounds of the most consistent, cleanest and “greenest” cannabis in the state of Washington every year — and the company is currently working on a new expansion.
Using state-of the art equipment, including aeroponic cultivation equipment and control software from AEssenseGrows, Onyx is averaging 2.7 grams per watt. Under LEDs, Lange typically sees an average of 1.8 grams per watt, and Onyx is doing it with less than 30 employees — and even using wastewater to cool the facility.
As the industry emerges from the pandemic, supply chain issues persist. Costs are high, lead times are long (if materials are available at all), and timelines are getting pushed out, sometimes due to availability of basic materials like piping. Lange used to tell people to take their time buying equipment, but now he’s telling clients to order anything — particularly anything metal — as soon as possible.
Ascendant Management offers design and engineering services as well as general contracting. Lange says he is driven to show companies how to “do it right” for cannabis.
The Cannabis Equipment News Podcast is an interview series with growers, processors, manufacturers, distributors and other professionals who work within the legal cannabis industry.
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