From Seed to Sale: How Colorado's Cannabis Resource Optimization Program Levels the Playing Field for Local Cultivators

Apr 20, 2023

Colorado's Cannabis Resource Optimization Program (CROP) is a unique initiative that aims to help cannabis cultivators reduce their environmental impact and increase their efficiency. As the first state to legalize recreational cannabis, Colorado has been at the forefront of the cannabis industry, and CROP is just one of the many ways it continues to lead the way in sustainable cultivation.

Launched in 2017 by the Colorado Energy Office (CEO), the program is designed to provide cultivators with the tools and resources they need to grow high-quality cannabis while minimizing their impact on the environment. The program is voluntary and free to participate in, and cultivators who enroll are given access to a wide range of resources, including educational materials, technical assistance, and financial incentives.

Leveling the playing field for smaller cultivators

RI's program manager, Jake Mitchell, takes a
closer look at the impressive results of a CROP
participant's sustainable cannabis cultivation

One of the key goals of CROP is to reduce the amount of energy used in cannabis cultivation, as growing cannabis indoors requires a significant amount of energy and water (energy expenditures make up an estimated 33% of cultivation business’ operating costs). In Colorado, where water resources are limited, this can represent a significant challenge for local cultivators and smaller-scale “mom-and-pop” operations. Thus, the program aims to provide energy and water audits to help identify areas where cultivators can conserve both resources. The Colorado Energy Office selected Resource Innovations to provide technical assistance and support as a part of this innovative initiative.

Once a cultivator is accepted into the program, Resource Innovations’ team of energy efficiency and cannabis cultivation experts consult and closely collaborate with these local operators to make recommendations to increase the efficiency of their cannabis facilities. This can include anything from switching to more energy-efficient lighting, using renewable energy sources, installing high-efficiency fans, improving insulation and ventilation, leveraging drip irrigation systems, capturing and reusing water runoff, and improving water storage and management.

RI's cannabis cultivation and energy efficiency
experts provide comprehensive audits to help
local cultivators optimize resource use while
reducing their environmental impact.

One of the most significant benefits of participating in CROP is the financial incentives that are made available to participants. The program offers rebates and grants to help offset the cost of implementing sustainable practices identified during Resource Innovations’ assessments. Additionally, for funding sustainable cultivation projects such as these, interest rates are typically around 14%; however, tying financing to the program’s assessment processes brings a significant reduction in interest rates, with CROP participants eligible for interest rates as low as 4-6%.

Overall, CROP is an excellent initiative that is helping Colorado's cannabis industry become more sustainable and efficient. By providing cultivators with the tools and resources they need to reduce their environmental impact, this multiorganizational program is helping to protect the state's natural resources and ensure that the cannabis industry continues to thrive in an ethically responsible manner. Launched with the full support of the Governor of Colorado, it’s only a matter of time before this first-of-its-kind program for legal cannabis makes its way to other states—with New York at the top of the list of states likely to adopt a similar program within the next few years.

If you're a cannabis cultivator in Colorado and are interested in participating the Cannabis Resource Optimization Program, please reach out to Damien Markiewicz or Jake Mitchell for more information.