How Hawaiian Ethos’ Kris Jacobson Works: Cannabis Workspace
Photo courtesy of Hawaiian Ethos

How Hawaiian Ethos’ Kris Jacobson Works: Cannabis Workspace

In this installment, CBT presents an up-close look at the tools and habits behind the Hawaiian greenhouse facility.

November 22, 2019

Name: Kris Jacobson
Location: Hawaii Island 
Title: Director of Cultivation, Hawaiian Ethos
One word to describe your cultivation style: Sustainable 

Indoor, outdoor, greenhouse or a combination: Greenhouse

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

My roots in agriculture go back to my family. Cultivating cannabis is a huge passion and a dream job for me, but I also have a farm on Hawaii Island where I grow other stuff like pineapple and dragon fruit. I’ve been a part of Hawaiian Ethos since the very beginning. We were awarded one of eight licenses in the state back in 2016, and I’ve been a part of the team ever since. The thing that’s shaped Hawaiian Ethos’ path the most is the diversity and depth of our team—we come with backgrounds in agriculture, cannabis, medicine, science [and] tech, all with start up experience. This has allowed us to create an operation and vision that goes beyond just selling weed.

RELATED: How Hawaiian Ethos Approaches Sustainable Packaging Solutions in the Cannabis Industry

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

Our Blue Labs Combo Meter (pH meter).

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

While there are a lot of cool gadgets and grow tools out there, having a solid team is priceless. The best $100 we’ve spent has been on providing drinks, snacks and perks for our staff. The Hawaiian Ethos cultivation team works really hard, and taking care of them boosts morale, attention to detail and work ethic.

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

There are so many exciting projects that the Hawaiian Ethos team is pushing forward. Right now, we’re really focused on aligning our cultivation and extraction process. Growing beautiful flower is important, but it’s also important that we offer other types of products for people who prefer non-pulmonary ways of medicating. Since Hawaiian Ethos does 100% solventless extraction, we’re doing a lot of phenotype hunting, hash washing and rosin pressing experimentation to find plants that make beautiful flower and also extract well. This is especially interesting when it comes to CBD strains, because we’re finding that CBD-rich strains behave differently in extraction. We’re diving deep into figuring out what characteristics of the plant will lend themselves to more efficient and higher quality extracts.

Photo courtesy of Hawaiian Ethos
Hawaiian Ethos operates a greenhouse facility with a focus on sustainability on Hawaii Island.

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

Hawaiian Ethos started off with a really sophisticated, complex plan for our cultivation facility. It was a dream set up, but the realities of permitting, building and budgeting soon came into play, and we had to make compromises. It felt like a failure at the time, but we made the changes necessary to survive. In the end, it actually set us up to have a super lean, efficient grow that uses a fraction of the energy and resources the initial setup would have used. We learned that limitation can be a catalyst for innovation.

One of my favorite failures was our Jack Herer strain. We grew a bunch of plants thinking it was Jack Herer, but it turned out to be [a] 2:1 CBD:THC strain that was totally different. I don’t know if it was mislabeled or a freak phenotype, but it ended up being a great strain that’s now a staple on the shelf at our Kailua Kona dispensary.

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

A lot of growers aren’t used to following rules and working “within the system.” As cannabis moves from the black or gray markets and becomes a legal, regulated space, it’s critical that growers understand the rules and regulations that they must abide by. While it may be obvious that you need to know the cannabis-related laws, it’s just as important to understand the rules around zoning and building for your cultivation site, how to set up your business and pay taxes, etc. Doing your homework, understanding all the rules and making a business plan before jumping in the deep end will save you a ton of stress, money and time.

Ignore the internet. With the plethora of videos giving advice on how to grow on the internet these days, it’s important to have a discerning eye and have a foundation of understanding before trying whatever you see on YouTube. It’s crucial to filter all that information for what’s applicable to your specific situation. There are so many factors to take into account when cultivating cannabis, and there’s no magic bullet that will work in all situations.

How do you deal with burnout?

We definitely work hard, but Hawaiian Ethos fosters a company culture that encourages work-life balance. We also believe in ‘ohana (“family” in Hawaiian), where all members of our staff are part of the family and we all take care of one another. People are less likely to experience burnout when they feel supported and taken care of, even when they’re on the job.

How do you motivate your employees/team?

Knowing that people in our community benefit from our daily work keeps us all motivated. Hearing success stories from patients that get our products from the Kailua Kona dispensary gets us stoked. A lot of us are patients ourselves, and we love hearing about how patients use our medicine, what they’re using it for and the results they’re getting.

What keeps you awake at night?

Growing under the Hawaii sun and seasons introduces dimensions to our cultivation operation that wouldn’t even be factors if we were a strictly indoor, controlled environment grow. Tracking all of our strains, their performance from season to season and their expression in our unique environment is an undertaking, but it’s also necessary and very rewarding to have that intimate, data-driven understanding of our grow.

What helps you sleep at night?

A couple of our Quick Dissolve Tabs or Effervescent Tabs always does the trick! Seriously though, knowing that we’re doing right by our team and right by our patients helps me sleep at night. The medicine we grow helps people get off opioids, have a functional life, or just get through the day. I feel really fulfilled knowing we’re offering a clean, natural, accessible alternative for people.