How Solaris Farms’ Michael Sassano Works: Cannabis Workspace
Photo courtesy of Solaris Farms

How Solaris Farms’ Michael Sassano Works: Cannabis Workspace

In this installment, CBT presents an up-close look at the tools and habits behind the Nevada-based cultivator’s job.

August 12, 2019

Name: Michael Sassano
Location: Las Vegas, Nev.
Title: Founder and CEO, Solaris Farms
One word to describe your cultivation style: Data

Indoor, outdoor, greenhouse or a combination: Hybrid greenhouse

Photos courtesy of Solaris Farms
Solaris Farms is a hybrid greenhouse operation based in Las Vegas, Nev.

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

As a career investor in real estate and technology, cannabis clearly has elements of both of those worlds. Uprooting my life living in Europe to create a large-scale hybrid greenhouse in Nevada was a [sign of] dedication to the craft. Nevada was chosen because I felt they had the clearest rules and regulatory framework to be pro-cannabis and pro-business. And with a limited/closed licensing environment, plus being on the West Coast, there would be a greater investment benefit and talent pool to attract from in competitive states with older markets. And when Solaris was designed, there were no desert grows or hybrid greenhouses at all. I wanted to take advantage of the lower contamination desert environment and prove that indoor quality cannabis required a different tool.

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

We can’t function without the data gathered by multiple sensors inside the greenhouse. This data goes to a cloud-based system that provides real time environmental tracking inside and outside the facilities.

Sassano was attracted to Nevada's market due to its limited licensing structure and desirable position on the West Coast.

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

I would have to say a toolbox because there’s always something that needs attention.

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

We’ve been phenotyping to raise the most powerful genetics. We are working on acclimating the chosen plants to the desert environment with every generation, and now we have come to a point where I am studying how to preserve those genetics for future generations.

Solaris Farms uses phenotyping to raise desirable genetics.
How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favorite failure” of yours?

Without failure, you have no idea how to succeed and face challenges. When we raised our genetics inside an indoor “pod” I built while we were waiting for the greenhouse to be complete, we achieved a strain that topped 30-percent THC. And when the greenhouse was ready, we rushed to move the mother stock into the greenhouse. The mother stock all died, and we had to start almost from scratch with a few clippings that needed a lot of care.

That was a very tough lesson. In hindsight, we should have clipped the plant, made clones and acclimated the new clones to the greenhouse environment. We easily could have just made any kind of cannabis, but that wouldn’t do justice to Solaris’ design and purpose I envisioned. I lost a lot of time and money, and now the genetic is yielding 28-percent THC … and [a] great terpene profile. The next generation will only be … stronger and higher yield. I can tell you, doing something nobody has done makes you heavily doubt yourself. But this was not my first rodeo, and the theory and design were correct.

Solaris Farms' genetics yield 28-percent THC.

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

Everything is in the planning; before you spend one single dollar, you better anticipate delays, extra costs and less revenues.

Try to get into seeing the best grows of the time and find a way to improve the process and design.

How do you deal with burnout?

When you enjoy what you do and see all the people daily that depend on you, you have no choice but to burn the midnight oil seven days a week. I take off a weekend here and there to refresh the mind and see a different perspective.

Nevada's desert environment means less contamination for Solaris Farms' greenhouse.

How do you motivate your employees/team?

I’m there early every morning and work late hours. Nobody is expected to perform at my level, but it is encouraging, and anyone can interact with me, no reservation needed. I will stop what I’m doing and help anyone that approaches me. I’ve done every task to understand what they are going through.

What keeps you awake at night?

The next phase is completing the scale up to 300,000 square feet. Each detail of design is constantly being questioned, and workflows are being created to get it right before we even have a shovel in the ground. It’s intense focus to scale up. And the new design is incorporating all the mistakes, failures and lessons learned over the last four years of Solaris.

What helps you sleep at night?

I relax by watching a movie and knowing I have replied to every email with actionable answers.