SunVentive Zero and its New System for Growing Cannabis that Could Disrupt the Industry

Alex Cho

Alex Cho

CEO l Research Director

[email protected]

Jason Chen

Jason Chen

COO l Research Editor

[email protected]

Shakeel Stewart

Shakeel Stewart

Columnist and Author

So, what if there was a new, or different approach to growing cannabis that doesn’t require as much electricity? 

Well, today we’re featuring our cannabis industry expert, Johnny J Perricone, CEO of SunVentive Zero™ or SVO™. 

SunVentive Zero offers a lighting system that takes advantage of naturally occurring and free, full color spectrum sunlight, by incorporating equipment referred to as “Tubular Daylighting Devices’ (TDD for short) into a comprehensive lighting system specifically designed for indoor cannabis cultivation.

Industry background and overview

Currently, commercial cannabis cultivation is broken up into multiple segments.  There is outdoor cannabis cultivation, indoor using artificial lights, and large scale commercial greenhouses that utilize a system known as light deprivation (Light Dep).

Outdoor:  Outdoor cultivation is widespread in several states in the West, particularly in Oregon and Northern California.  Cannabis plants are grown to full term, meaning one large harvest per year, or utilizing Light Dep, meaning three harvests per year.  There are several drawbacks for outdoor cannabis cultivation: Growers cannot control weather, which means rain, fog, cloudy days, temperature issues. Growers cannot adequately protect plants from pests. Lack of consistent fresh product limits commercial viability. Possibility of cross contamination of illegal pesticides that are airborne.

Indoor:  Indoor cultivation is prevalent across the US, and is just about mandatory East of the Mississippi.  Cannabis plants are grown under accelerated conditions, utilizing light controls to “Trip” the plants into flowers so that a commercial indoor cultivator can harvest every room at their facility every 10 weeks, or 5 times per year.  Drawbacks for indoor: A large commercial indoor cannabis cultivation facility is one of the most energy intensive building designs in any industry.  Needing 1000 watts of electricity for every 16 ft2 of cultivation is unprecedented in commercial building design. The indoor lights generate enormous amounts of energy while running, which creates a secondary energy demand; huge HVAC systems that are required to constantly vent out all of the hot and wet air to protect the plants from the deleterious impacts. The heat loads cause the plants to transpire, which in turn adds more water to the air. The combination of heat and water, humidity, creates the ideal conditions for molds and mildews, which is the second largest concern in the industry after energy costs.

Commercial Greenhouses: Greenhouse cultivation is fraught with many of the same problems facing indoor cultivation.  Greenhouses are faced with the dilemma of allowing in enough sunlight to drive photosynthesis effectively while preventing the full power of the infra-red (IR) and ultraviolet (UV) wavelengths from entering the space.  IR and UV are the quintessential drivers of greenhouse gases, and if allowed to pass through the fabric or polycarbonate coverings of a greenhouse unimpeded, they wreak havoc on the growers ability to control heat inside the greenhouse.  Designers usually sacrifice around 12-16% of the power of the sunlight to attempt to solve the problem, but in the end, greenhouses have been the most challenging design being implemented in the cannabis space.

How the system works 

We want to discuss the SunVentive Zero system to explore how cost or production targets can improve, and how their new method contributes to this outlook.

Figure 1. Light Quality

Keep in mind, this system accomplishes the same results when compared to an LED based lighting system, which you can see in the recently published whitepaper:

“Plant growth is driven by light quality (spectral composition) and quantity (intensity, μmol/m2/s). The McCree Curve represents the wavelengths plant photosynthesis is primarily driven by — it is commonly referred to as photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) and spans 400 nm to 700 nm (Figure 5, top). Our measurements of light spectral composition emitting from the SkyVault diffusers (approx.16″ below diffuser) is shown in Figure 2, middle. It is an ideal match against the required PAR spectrum, high peaks within the blue 400-500 nm range as well as the reds in 600-700 nm wavelengths. It demonstrates how well the Solatube TDDs preserve the quality of natural sunlight — the light source photosynthesis evolved to capture in the plant.”

Furthermore, according to the white paper, the lighting system does adjust for weather related issues, with the data representative of normal weather conditions:

“The spectrum shown in Figure 2 is representative of a clear day in Sonoma County, California. Overall, in the course of daily review, it became clear that any time-based or weather-based changes in our location’s sunlight quality were mirrored inside of each grow room. Meaning, any changes or fluctuations in sunlight intensity or quality outside each room were paralleled inside and our control systems were adopted to compensate as such. The recorded spectral composition also illustrates how Solatube TDDs filter out UV (< 400 nm) wavelengths. While opinions on the importance of UV rays in cannabis cultivation are strongly held, there have not yet been empirical tests performed to definitively determine a relationship. Anecdotally, we noticed a lack of browning and what seemed to be a longer shelf life of the SunGrown Indoor cannabis flower presumably due to the lack of UV exposure.”

Figure 2. Results from prior cultivation utilizing the system

Source: SGI Whitepaper

Quoted from whitepaper:

“Cycles 1 and 2 were grown in a research grow room with one Solatube SkyVault centered over the 100 sq. ft floor-plan in Sacramento, CA. This single SkyVault design was built to determine how cannabis plants respond to TDD delivered sunlight, if at all. Cycles 3 – 6 were grown in Petaluma, CA using the 100 sq. ft, four SkyVault design shown in Figure 2. With four TDDs, 8 LEDs, and integrated grow room intelligence, the primary goal of this design and grow cycles was to optimize the system towards higher production rates (grams/ft2) while minimizing energy and water use as much as possible. Overall, approximately 12 cycles/harvests were completed in SunGrown Indoor research grow rooms during this research. The 6 cycles presented here were selected based on the overall completeness of research data across the plant’s entire Lifecycle from cloning to end-product analytical lab profiles.”

Figure 3. R&D Test Facility

Q&A Section Featuring Johnny Perricone with Sunventive Zero

To further understand the Sunventize Zero system we’re proud to feature our guest, John J Perricone, CEO of SunVentive Zero.

Alex Cho (CEO and Founder of Cho Research) – So, when it pertains to SunVentive Zero can you explain how you got started and why this company is so important to you?

Johnny Perricone (CEO of SunVentive Zero) – The story of the SunVentive Zero project is very interesting.  I discovered the technology at a cannabis conference I was attending while I was thinking about getting out of being a commercial cannabis cultivator in Humboldt County, CA, and was speaking at and attending a number of cannabis conferences to take a look at what the future was going to hold for me. 

I saw the tech team present their findings. At that time I simply could not believe that it was possible. When I first saw them speak at a conference, I… just couldn’t wrap my mind around the idea that they could grow cannabis using this little weird tube thing they were showing. And, I challenged them to demonstrate to me it’s real.  They invited me to visit the R&D facility they had in Petaluma, CA.  

I went.

Upon going to their facility, I immediately realized that they had cracked the code, that they had created something that was revolutionary, that would have a huge impact on the industry, and that they would be among the industry leaders as cannabis legalization expanded throughout the world.  I still feel this way to this day. 

That they had solved the largest and most complicated problem in the industry; the energy costs are non-negotiable. 

Alex Cho (CEO and Founder of Cho Research) – Can you explain more details to commercial grow and how that pertains to the SunVentive Zero system? 

Johnny Perricone (CEO of SunVentive Zero) –  Commercial cannabis cultivation means continuable harvest.  The goal is to have fresh cannabis available for your wholesale and retail on a continuous year around basis.

In a typical commercial cannabis indoor installation whether they use LED lights or HPS, or CFL lighting what cultivators plan to do is harvest 5 times in a calendar year in each room. Now, what does that mean? 

Cannabis can be induced to finish and to produce flower within 70 days on a 12-hour light cycle. As there are 52 weeks in a year, a facility with multiple grow rooms can see each room  harvested 5 times a year.  A well-designed indoor facility can harvest cannabis every week, year-round, ensuring a steady supply of fresh cannabis.

From the standpoint of photosynthesis, cultivators need 4,380 hours of light in a 365 day period,  with each grow room operating for 12 hours per day.

What SunVentive Zero does is by bringing full color spectrum sunlight into the room without bringing any heat generating IR (infrared) or UV (ultraviolet), we allow the cultivator to turn off the artificial lights for significant amounts of time. 

In western states where cannabis is primarily cultivated, we are able to turn off those lights for at least 3,000 of the 4,380 hours needed to light each room, which translates into gigantic savings on energy costs. 

Alex Cho (CEO and Founder of Cho Research) – And so, with the energy savings that come into play with the SunVentive Zero system how does that play out for growers? 

Johnny Perricone (CEO of SunVentive Zero) –  You’re more profitable because your utility bill is going to be dramatically reduced. So, our first elevator pitch is profit, we’re going to cut your electricity bill by 75% or more, depending on your geographic location. That translates into massive profit by reducing your fixed cost.

We have not yet had a large commercial installation of SunVentive Zero installed, so we don’t know the exact savings on the HVAC (air conditioning). What we do know is that without the IR (infrared) and UV (ultraviolet) radiation driving the heat loads, and the lights not being on at all most of the time, the demand for the HVAC system will be reduced as well.   

And then, we talk about mold. One of the single most devastating impacts in terms of crop failure are molds and mildews. Mold and mildew primarily happen because of excessive heat loads in the room. Excessive heat makes the plant transpire faster, so when the room is super hot, plants are transpiring an enormous amount of water as they are, for lack of a better term, panting in the heat.  This humidity creates the ideal conditions for mold and mildew, which is why it is the second most important concern for cannabis cultivation. 

SunVentive Zero, without having the lights on all the time, and without letting IR or UV into the space, well, there is nothing in our design that contributes to an excessive heat load. In fact, we’re able to control the environment far better than any other growing design that’s out there. 

Put simply, SunVentive Zero controls the heat loads far better than any other cultivation design in the space.  No heat loads means the incidences of mold and incidents of mildew are virtually eliminated. Meaning, that crop failure incidences are limited to operator failure or very rare instances of mechanical failure. 

No other cannabis lighting system or building design can make this claim.

Alex Cho (CEO and Founder of Cho Research) – So, how do cultivators implement your system, or what does the design sort of look like?

Johnny Perricone (CEO of SunVentive Zero)We ask prospective clients that we be included in the initial design phase of their buildings.  We work closely with the architects and engineers to ensure that the actual physical parameters they implement work with our technology.

SunVentive Zero utilizes two pieces of equipment where a standard design has one.  Additionally, there are physical dimensions that we need to be able to control as well, in particular, we need a certain roof to floor height that varies depending on your geographic location. 

Alex Cho (CEO and Founder of Cho Research) –  With this type of implementation, you wouldn’t have to install as many of these HVAC systems probably or not as much in ways of cooling and that would also reduce the installation cost and also the reduction of use in utilities?

Johnny Perricone (CEO of SunVentive Zero) – What you’re referring to is capital expenditures (CapEx) versus operating costs (OpEX). CapEx is what you spend to build the facility. OpEx is what it costs to run the facility. So, you’re not going to have to spec out the massive amount of tonnage worth of HVAC using Sunventive Technology. And, it’s not going to be running like a jet engine 12 hours of the day because the lights are never off. You’re going to have a much more stable & temperate environment using SunVentive Zero. 

It bears mentioning that SunVentive Zero has a higher CapEx cost than standard installations, but we project a full ROI within 36 months due to the tremendous energy savings.

Alex Cho (CEO and Founder of Cho Research) – How should clients that want to use SunVentive Zero expect the business model to sort of look like, are you implementing these systems, are you selling the hardware, how does the value proposition kind of get packaged, so commercial cultivators can implement your building design? 

More specifically, how does the commercial aspect of this all work, do they purchase a service contract, or do they just purchase the system and implement it themselves?

Johnny Perricone (CEO of SunVentive Zero) –  SunVentive Zero needs to participate at the early stages of design, working hand in hand with the architect and engineer. We provide a basic layout of the equipment to be installed for the SunVentive Zero, and the architect and the engineer draw it up, so the architect lays out in the plans where the TDD will be installed, where the supplemental lights will be installed. The engineer will incorporate whichever different roof framing structures that work for this particular building, based on work that SunVentive Zero has already done with structural engineers that are appropriate depending on the size of the cultivation to ensure that the roof is stable, and that there are no issues with the installation of all the Tubular DayLighting Devices (TDDs).

Alex Cho (CEO and Founder of Cho Research) – At one point I remembered you mentioned that you purchased and invested a couple million dollars into Sunventive, what does the technology entail with Sunventive Technology versus Solatube, and how is your relationship with Solatube?

Johnny Perricone (CEO of SunVentive Zero) – We are a technology integration company. We combine multiple patented technologies in a way that they were not originally intended, utilizing them in a way that they didn’t know that could be done. 

We have a positive relationship with Solatube, one that we intend to strengthen going forward. Solatube has no competitors in the space that they work in, in the TDD industry Solatube is by far the best product, and it’s the only product that can drive photosynthesis that actually grows plants. 

Our original R&D team reached out to Solatube and said, we think your product -designed to bring natural light indoors for people- could possibly grow cannabis, and they allowed the R&D team to do the work. They partnered with them, they allowed access to their lighting study data, and the R&D also gave them all of the lighting study data, including as you saw the white paper that was based on the 3 ½ years of work at the Petaluma R&D facility. 

So it’s a symbiotic relationship, there’s a synergy between Sunventive and Solatube.  That said, the way to really think about it is, Solatube is an equipment manufacturer that we utilize in our design, just like Revolution Microelectronics is an LED manufacturer that we utilize in our design, there are companies that produce sunlight meters and sensors that we will use their equipment manufacturers that we will use in our design, does that make sense?             

Alex Cho (CEO and Founder of Cho Research) – Of course, and so..

Johnny Perricone (CEO of SunVentive Zero) – Solatube is agriculture agnostic, they have no interest in being in the agriculture space, and they have done no research on the agriculture space. They’ve never spent a dollar in the agriculture space in any way shape or form. We on the other hand from the beginning iteration of the first group of scientists till now, will have spent somewhere in the range of $4-plus million on this project.

And you were talking about investment opportunities and what is the play moving forward for people with capital that look at SunVentive Zero and see the value. The number one play is funding large commercial cannabis installations using SunVentive Zero technology whether you are a bank or just an investor. If an investor is going to be putting money in play to build a 100k sq. feet cannabis cultivation facility that might cost as much as $30 million. 

Using SunVentive Zero is a way to almost guarantee success with the project whereas every other design that they might pick is built within an inherent design flaw that challenges its ability to succeed. 

All the other designs have a heat load built into them that is non-negotiable, an inherent design flaw that cannot be mitigated; one that can only be controlled by spending more money.  

SunVentive Zero ‘s system does not come with that inherent design flaw. We have no design flaw, in fact we have nothing but design corrections. Every aspect of the SunVentive Zero system is by default correcting the many technological and physical flaws that the industry faces in every other design — we have corrected all of them with the way our system works.

Alex Cho (CEO and Founder of Cho Research) – Okay, so that’s pretty much all the time we have for today, and we’re happy to have featured you, and we look forward to hearing more updates from you, when it pertains to the August launch of the LA test facility. 

Also, what’s a good email address for people to reach you if they take an interest in learning more about SunVentive or want to get more involved?

Johnny Perricone (CEO and Founder of Sunventive Zero) – Thank you, Alex for the phenomenal interview, and the best way for people to reach me is at info@sv-zero.com.

In closing, I want to direct everyone’s attention to our soon to be debuting first cannabis cultivation showcase facility.  It will be located in Los Angeles, and will be featured in a cannabis dispensary with a glass window into the grow room.  

Visitors will be able to see for themselves the dramatic and revolutionary sight of indoor cannabis being cultivated with no artificial lights!

Disclosure: Cho Research was compensated by SunventiveZero to publish“SunVentive Zero and its New System for Growing Cannabis that Could Disrupt the Industry Cho Research also uses the research dollars it generates from other clients of our research service to fund market research
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