How CAMP’s Irene Villanueva and Aaron Nino Work: Cannabis Workspace
Headshots courtesy of CAMP

How CAMP’s Irene Villanueva and Aaron Nino Work: Cannabis Workspace

In this installment, CBT offers an inside look at the tools and habits behind the Las Vegas operation.

March 9, 2022

Names: Irene Villanueva and Aaron Nino
Location: Las Vegas, Nev.
Titles: Director of Post-Harvest and Chief Operating Officer, CAMP
One word to describe your cultivation style: Passion (Villanueva) and Innovative (Nino)

Indoor, outdoor, greenhouse or a combination: Indoor 

Can you share a bit of your background and how you and your company got to the present day?

Villanueva: My cannabis journey started six years ago here in Las Vegas, just before recreational sales began in 2017. I started as a cultivation tech, worked with great cultivators and ended up running post-harvest. I became obsessed with figuring out how to bring the best smells out of the flower and in doing so, my nose became very familiar with all the different stages in smell the flower has to offer. I managed to bring out some great testing results, which ultimately landed me a role with CAMP, the first [company] in Nevada to offer a portfolio of all solventless products, including cartridges, live rosin, tinctures and more. Here at CAMP, I have made it my mission to go even further in my skills. Working side-by-side with Aaron Nino has gotten me to look deeper into what we do to ensure our flower is the cleanest quality in Nevada.

Nino: As an industry leader and innovator in the cannabis space for over a decade, I’ve been recognized as a leader in the development of solventless extracted products in the state of Nevada. In 2019, I received recognition for my work in solventless production ... winning the High Times Cannabis [Cup Nevada] award for Best Vape [Pen &] Cartridge.

In 2010, I began developing innovative ways to extract specific cannabinoids to help treat my grandmother’s Parkinson’s [disease], while winning 12 cannabis awards along the way.  I’ve been recognized for my contributions to the community and my commitment to creating quality products. Those awards included the Extract Artist of the Year at the Las Vegas Cannabis Championship (2015); Connoisseurs Choice award for Best Concentrate (2016); two first-place Kushstock awards for Best Indica Flower and Edible (2016); two Las Vegas Hempfest awards for Best Topical and Top Concentrate professional (2016); first-place for Best Concentrate at Terp Wars (2017); the Jack Herer Cup for Best Indica Vape Cartridge (2019); Golden Bong Award for Best Vape and Best Concentrate (2021); Jack Herer Cup for Best Concentrate (2022); and Jack Herer Cup for Best Vape (2022).

What tool or software in your cultivation space can you not live without?

Villanueva: A humidifier. Introducing humidification into our vegetative portion of our grow has increased our plant size which, in turn, has affected our ability to grow more flower per plant. 

Nino: Data is our biggest tool! We have two cultivation facilities where we grow [with] double-stack LED lighting. Every day we are collecting a ridiculous amount of data, which helps us make future decisions about how, what and why we grow.

What purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted your business in the last six months?

Villanueva: Sticky tape is a cheap and effective way to capture any pests that may have gotten into our facility from the soil we put our mothers into. 

What cultivation technique are you most interested in right now, and what are you actively studying (the most)?

Villanueva: Vertical grow. 

Nino: Dry backs and saturation points.

How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favorite failure” of yours?

Villanueva: Failing flower for aspergillus is one of my more notable ones. When you lose your crop to bacteria that are everywhere, you get a different understanding of the cleanliness you are held accountable for. Overcoming that issue has only put us in a much better position with the quality of our flower.    

Nino: In my home-grow days, it took me almost a year to understand the impact your environment has on the quality of the flower you’re growing. While overseeing CAMP’s grow, I could tell early on that we had airflow issues, which we were able to solve and almost eliminate future yeast and mold failures.  

What advice would you give to a smart, driven grower about to enter the legal, regulated industry? What advice should they ignore?

Nino: Be humble! At CAMP we don’t have “masters” of anything. You must be willing to learn new techniques and expand your knowledge every day. Lean on your teammates to understand how they’ve been growing in the commercial environment you’re entering. Ignore social media and other sources that don’t provide factual data to back up their claims. It’s easy to read a blog about a certain grow technique and treat it as facts but remember that factual data needs to be attached to someone’s statement.

How do you deal with burnout?

Villanueva: When you love what you do, you rarely feel burnt out. However, if I need to quiet my mind after a stressful week, I leave the city and hike the mountains around us. 

How do you motivate your employees/team?

Villanueva: Working with your employees goes a long way. Listening to what they have to say, monitoring their achievement, being upfront about issues and successful harvest has been motivating. Giving them samples and talking about the flower has been our most recent motivator. We all want to create and enjoy great cannabis.

Nino: I agree with Irene here 100%. You need to work side-by-side with your team to not only show them best practices but understand what’s going on in the garden from their perspective. Your cultivation technicians are the heart of the grow, they see and hear everything that’s going on. It’s important to listen to their concerns and test out theories instead of dismissing them. I’ve found this technique to be extremely advantageous not only to our grow but to help build trust and camaraderie.

What keeps you awake at night?

Villanueva: Lately I’ve been sleeping great! There might be an occasional thought about something not getting done, but we’ve been building a great team that handles things very well, which has helped tremendously with my sleep. 

Nino: The pursuit to grow the best cannabis in Nevada. Quality is key with CAMP! Great flower doesn’t need promotion. If it’s great, people will talk about it with their friends or recommend it to a family member who will buy everything we grow.

What helps you sleep at night?

Villanueva: Having a solid team and knowing everyone here cares as much as we do to ensure everything is taken care of.