Highly efficient “Swissleaf smart-dome” cultivation technology comparison table

The attached table summarizes the unique value-added benefits of a smart-dome as a technologically superior structure to hybrid greenhouses or warehouses for indoor cultivation.

Structure Inflatable Air Supported Dome Hybrid Glass Ceiling Greenhouse Industrial Warehouse
Installed Cost (structure only) $35 /ft2 – Lowest $40 /ft2 – Average $80/ft2 – High
Clean room suitability Highest – dome interior by design becomes primary clean area for cultivation operations Poor Average – High Cost
HVAC (climate controls) Best – sub floor design enables a highly efficient +30% thermal transfer improvement from below canopy, best suited for vertical farming Poor (thermal cooling from top of canopy) Poor (thermal cooling from top of canopy)
Outdoor Contaminate Control Double Containment – Highest (all entrances have sealed air locks) Low Average
Scent Control Double Containment –Highest Low Average
GMP certification suitability Excellent – at reasonable cost Poor Good – but at significantly higher CAPEX
Organic Cannabis Cultivation Insect/Pesticide/Mold/Mildew/Mice/Fungal/Bacteria free – Highest organic rating Low organic rating Medium organic rating
Interior Grow Room Construction Masonry 8” block – 18’ high, self supporting, lowest cost, good vapour seal, easy to clean None needed 3’ King-span,  supported from ceiling steel structure
Lighting options Natural sunlight/Indirect LED’s / HPS Natural sunlight/indirect LED’s/HPS Indirect LED’s / HPS
Cultivation Methods Natural soil /Hydroponics/Aeroponics Natural soil /Hydroponics /Aeroponics Natural soil /Hydroponics /Aeroponics
Vertical farming Capability Yes No Limited – buildings cost very prohibitive >16-18’
Ability for 24/7 Cultivation 365 days per year Yes Poor – especially in northern climates Yes
Cultivation yield  kg/ft2 of canopy Very High – can use multiple levels Poor Average – (limitations in warehouse ceiling heights)
Sustainability matrix’s Highest – simple design and construction (lowest overall environmental impact) Low High
Suitability for low sunlight power intensity, colder geographies Highest Rating Low rating Average rating (Capital intensive)
Field Construction Duration 4-6 weeks 6-8 weeks 8 months
Facility Relocation  Capability Dome can be re-located easily (at low cost) Limited – high labour costs to relocate None

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At present, pressurized “air-supported” fabric domes have been well suited for uses as sports stadiums, soccer fields, and cycling velodromes, worldwide. Swissleaf has completed a design alternative that harnesses the potential of these structures for purposes in urban indoor vertical farming applications and the emerging cannabis marketplace.

“Grow Magazine Vol IIII Issue V -2018” excerpts:

# 1 biggest challenge for cannabis facility designers is the “prevention of external threats from entering the facility”
# 2 biggest challenge is “ability to filter and scrub the entire air volume of a grow room continuously, many times per hour”
# 3 biggest challenge is “ability to sterilize and disinfect equipment and rooms easily”

Design Simplicity

The Swissleaf smart- dome truly represents a disruptive approach to traditional indoor grow-op facilities that are predominately used worldwide by LP’s, namely hybrid greenhouses and abandoned industrial buildings.

Air supported sports domes are an attractive alternative; they are low cost, durable design (+20 years’ life) and assure a controlled contaminate-free indoor environment. The inner dome space now becomes effectively, the primary cleanroom for cultivation uses. Existing sports domes are inflated and maintained to 1.5 to 2.0 inches’ water column with clean HEPA (MERV 13) filtered ambient air, airlock entrances are provided for all personnel, and equipment to restrict the loss of pressure to a minimum. Additionally, the airlock entrances prevent the infestation of externally airborne insects, bugs, bacteria, pollen, mold spores, pathogens, into the dome.

Assembled inside the smart-dome are sealed climate-controlled flowering, vegetative, clone, and mother grow rooms, which effectively achieves a further secondary level of containment. These grow rooms are maintained at a lower static pressure 0.5 to .75 inches’ water column to the smart-dome, and prevent any reverse cross-contamination from the grow rooms back into the general common areas within the dome.

This fail-safe differential pressure feature is a unique attribute to pressurized air-supported structures and is prohibitive to engineer in typical greenhouses and warehouses, which generally operate at atmospheric static pressures. Swissleaf consequently will enjoy a significant competitive advantage to its peers in effectively addressing cultivation cross-contamination issues that plague most growers, not to mention the virtual elimination of outdoor pollutant risks in the cultivation process.

“The Farley Group” a partner company to Swissleaf provides sports domes with these unique components:

  • Architectural grade vinyl coated polyester fabric membrane which is resistant to molds, fungi, bacteria and ozone use during de-sterilization activities
  • Optional interior liner layer that has thermal and acoustic properties
  • Anchoring concrete grade beam construction
  • Slab-on-grade floor area if required, typically, soccer fields are installed with compacted surface and a membrane
  • Interior ceiling lighting
  • The HVAC system for normal personnel ventilation and inflation pressure
  • Heating, cooling, and dehumidification based on personnel and use requirements
  • Back-up power and inflation redundancy to prevent deflation of the structure
  • Sealed air-lock entrances with multiple emergency exit doors for life safety
  • Maintenance-free automated inflation and climate controls
  • Exterior modular buildings for personnel offices, change rooms, washrooms, and lunch facilities

The smart domes simplistic design and relatively low capital cost to erect will differentiate Swissleaf from all other licensed growers by achieving a sustainable, profitable organic solution for indoor cultivation. The Swissleaf smart-dome adaptation involves retrofitting the dome’s expansive interior footprint and overhead height advantage with individual structural grow rooms that are climate controlled independently of the central dome environment. Additionally, rooms will include all necessary LED’s, racking, and nutrient delivery ancillary systems typical of any cannabis grow-op operation.

Remotely monitored, specifically engineered horticultural mechanical AHU equipment provide precise climate, ventilation, filtration, and de-humidification of the grow rooms. Sub-floor environmental controls achieve higher thermal efficiencies than conventional HVAC designs that deliver ventilation overhead of the canopy. Traditionally, most greenhouses and indoor
warehouse cannabis operations are designed in this manner; the Swissleaf approach of introducing cooling from below the canopy enhances plant growth and ensures superior control from microbiological threats. Lastly, sub-floor cooling is better suited for multi-level tiered vertical growing, which is the trend that the indoor agro-industry will naturally follow for greater
floor area efficiencies.

Most hydroponic, aeroponic cannabis cultivation climate controls are sophisticated and, if not correctly designed, can lead to an in-efficient operation with costly downtime, reduced yields, and development of molds, fungi, and bacteria. The supply and return air is continuously sanitized with UV lights, filtered, and dehumidified to prevent the spread of disease, typically 15-20 times per hour. Any exhaust air from the facility from either the grow rooms and or the central dome is filtered with carbon filters to comply with Health Canada odor restriction mandates. Individual fan coil outdoor coolers are provided for necessary cooling throughout the year with purpose built-in redundancy to maintain high levels of operating uptime.

Four design prototypes are currently in development:

1. 125,000 ft2 – 250’x500’x 75’ apex, opaque fabric cover only
2. 57,600 ft2 – 160’x360’ x 64’ apex, opaque fabric cover only
3. 21,200 ft2 – 80’x265’ x25’ apex, opaque & 80% translucent cover
4. 7,200 ft2 – 80’x90’ x 38’ apex, opaque & 80% translucent cover (micro-cultivation LP version)

Organic GMP Cultivation

The utility of smart-domes for horticulture applications is a game-changer in our opinion, it’s a cost-effective organic cultivation platform, and when combined with automated aeroponic or hydroponic growing processes, it effectively eliminates the requirement for costly and harmful pesticides. Furthermore, this ecosystem assures buds that are free of any biological contaminates and will not require further irradiation processes to pass Health Canada product specifications. This Swissleaf cultivation strategy establishes ideal indoor conditions for superior quality plants with high yields, and the ability to reproduce strains from their original genetics consistently. Additionally, our smart-dome technology platform will enable further GPM certification status, which is a coveted standard by premium medical-grade cannabis cultivators worldwide.

Scalability & Vertical Cultivation Advantage

Smart-domes are an attractive solution for vertical farming due to their expansive ceiling elevations at the apex, which are designed to combat harsh Canadian snow loads. Indoor flowering grow rooms nominal size is 48’x 52′ with a ceiling height of 18′. Utilization of two levels of cultivation (6′ per level), which, when combined with an adjustable mobile racking system, achieves an industry-leading cultivation capacity (lb-ft2) per flower room. Each flowering grow room has an impressive canopy area of 5,184-ft2. The 125,000-ft2 dome layout is designed with 12 flowering rooms for a total canopy area of 62,208-ft2. When multiple domes are considered, the smart-dome concept can scale to match any significant indoor grow-up operation worldwide. Furthermore, the 125,000-ft2 dome has an apex ceiling height of 75′ which presents attractive opportunities to increase grow areas vertically in future designs. Typically, warehouses are designed to elevations of 24-32′ underside of steel, and costs become prohibitive when considering higher ceiling heights.

Propagation Services to Existing LP’s

The cannabis marketplace in Canada is evolving quickly and experiencing growing bottlenecks in many key areas of their operations. Swissleaf believes that the application of smart-domes to existing LP’s for “nursery” plant cultivation and nurturing could potentially free up large floor areas in their greenhouses and warehouses for additional flower cultivation.

Vegetative, clone, and mother operations could be redeployed in an adjacent smart-dome installation very efficiently and at a low cost and potentially within the same licensing operating permit from Health Canada.

The HVAC requirements for early-stage nursery plants are not nearly as intensive and complicated as flowering plants. Existing significant capital investments in large scale HVAC infrastructure within the greenhouses could be leveraged to increase overall production by as much as 30% in some cases. The ROI could be very lucrative to existing LPs and, in our opinion, an attractive value proposition in the marketplace to existing large scale LPs.

Building Code Compliance

While local codes vary from province to province, initial architectural reviews confirm compliance with the Ontario building code and NFPA fire regulations. In some jurisdictions, provisions may be needed to sprinkler the indoor grow rooms, the addition of standpipes, fire hose racks, CO and smoke alarm systems, and possibly halon fire suppression equipment. Swissleaf will endeavor to exceed local code requirements where possible to ensure personnel
safety for all operations. Generally speaking, smart-domes are designed with sufficient egress exits for life safety, and minimal fire protection measures will be necessary as compared to expensive industrial buildings that require extensive and costly sprinkler systems.

Swissleaf has initiated design review discussions with local municipal fire departments togenerate feedback on general conformity to building and fire code regulations.

Cannabis Act Security Compliance

Measures taken for Heath Canada Cannabis act security compliance include the following:

  • Architectural grade vinyl coated polyester fabric membrane which is resistant to molds, fungi, bacteria and ozone use during de-sterilization activities
  • Optional interior liner layer that has thermal and acoustic properties
  • Anchoring concrete grade beam construction
  • Slab-on-grade floor area if required, typically, soccer fields are installed with compacted surface and a membrane
  • Interior ceiling lighting
  • The HVAC system for normal personnel ventilation and inflation pressure
  • Heating, cooling, and dehumidification based on personnel and use requirements
  • Back-up power and inflation redundancy to prevent deflation of the structure
  • Sealed air-lock entrances with multiple emergency exit doors for life safety
  • Maintenance-free automated inflation and climate controls
  • Exterior modular buildings for personnel offices, change rooms, washrooms, and lunch facilities

Personnel Offices Modular Building

Separately attached modular buildings can be easily integrated into the main smart-dome structure as well, which achieves a cost-effective, sanitation friendly approach for personnel offices, lunchrooms, change rooms, washrooms, and site security. Having these facilities delineated from the smart-dome cultivation areas establishes key best practices SOPs under GPM guidelines provided by Health Canada and acts as an effective barrier to prevent the spread of diseases.

Mechanical and Electrical Building

In some larger smart-dome applications, a separate structural building is envisioned for all mechanical and electrical equipment, inclusive of the following:

  • Chillers
  • AHU’s
  • Fan coil coolers
  • Inflation equipment
  • Heaters
  • Backup power
  • RO units
  • Aeroponic & hydroponic nutrient delivery apparatus
  • Ozone equipment
  • CO2 injection
  • Carbon exhaust filters
  • Wastewater and heat recovery
  • Electrical power distribution room

Generally speaking, cultivation operations are preferred in the main smart-dome, where environmental conditions can be strictly controlled. Auxiliary major mechanical equipment will be located exterior to the smart-dome and predominately without buildings or enclosures, easily accessible for maintenance.

Patent and Intellectual Property Protection

Swissleaf will continuously examine unique areas of the smart-dome structure and its integration into a cultivation facility for potential intellectual property registration. Several critical areas of the design have been identified for possible patent protection.