When we think of farming, most of us think of fresh air, big skies, and acres of open land. One of the oldest industries is transforming to meet the increasing demand for commercially grown produce, wine, hemp, and cannabis with emerging agriculture odor management strategies.
Agricultural commerce brings jobs but also a few unwelcome odors. Hemp farms have distinct odors, vineyards spray elemental sulfur smelling of rotten eggs on wine grapes, and cannabis facilities can smell at different stages of plant growth. Even a farm growing cut flowers, when fertilized, will have a measurable smell.
A wine’s aroma is usually floral, citrus, or earthy, and Thanksgiving Day is the smell of home and hearth. However, getting these agricultural products grown and processed can sometimes be smelly. Many environmental technologies are being adapted for use in agriculture. Some are the result of industrial risk management and even landfill technologies for controlling odors and maintaining good air quality. As with landfills, they work best when designed for a specific site with site-specific wind conditions and site-specific distances from the nearest neighbors.
Hemp and cannabis growing facilities, both indoors and out, get odor complaints, so operators plan ahead to manage them. Odor intrusion for facilities coexisting in dense urban areas or com-mingled with other industries nearby tends to get more complaints, where the odor source is more complicated to pinpoint. On larger tracts, greenhouses, and small farms, air-misting systems or air blocking vegetation are more common.
“We can assess the potential concentration (odor strength) using known chemical surrogates emitting from cannabis. However, this approach has considerable weaknesses since many of the odor-causing compounds are difficult to detect at concentrations near their odor detection thresholds,” says Paul Schafer of SCS Engineers. “The ratios of emitted compounds are variable based on cannabis strain and time in the plants’ lifecycle, drying/curing/processing method, and varying atmospheric chemistry following emission.”
Some proposed cannabis greenhouses filing for a permit use an internal carbon filtration system to prevent fugitive pot odors from becoming a neighborhood nuisance. This indoor odor-control system would replace outdoor air-misting systems used by some greenhouse operations and commonly at landfills. The outdoor systems neutralize smells by changing the molecular structure of escaping vapors and work best when designed to work with air patterns. They are useful when there is a larger buffer zone because odors typically rise or flow in patterns.
Production hubs on larger acreage, even property utilized for agriculture for decades, require remediation. Many firms use modern greenhouse structures encompassing hundreds of thousands of square feet with processing plants. Schafer explains “As an odor and air monitoring expert and environmental engineering consultant, my job is to assess how various environmental technologies work under specific conditions to these companies and at times to the public. We use and investigate specialized technologies for industrial or agricultural use because they require specialized odor reduction, are safe, and can be successfully utilized to manage air quality and odors.”
As farming, businesses, and housing coexist across the nation, SCS’s water, soil, and air management teams are tweaking environmental technologies to help communities and new-age farmers remain good neighbors. Schafer who is the firm’s Ambient Air Monitoring expert puts it this way, “As engineers and consultants, we help communities and industry thrive together.”
Farmers or growers strive to include more ethical and sustainable growing practices, such as higher standards for water use and purifying their wastewater for reuse. As urban areas grow and farmland shrinks, stormwater management is essential to help new-age farmers operate sustainably and meet growing stormwater regulations that protect water supplies and the environment.
These aren’t the only greenhouses we work in.
The proven sustainable environmental solutions SCS Engineers offers to the agricultural, construction, extraction, manufacturing sectors, and municipalities help them attain their cleaner operating goals. As an environmental consulting and construction firm, we produce measurable technologies and programs that capture and reduce more greenhouse gases for private and public clients than any other environmental firm in the Americas.