Cannabis Business Times has always worked to bring lessons from mainstream agriculture and academia to you, based on two premises: not reinventing the wheel (after all, cannabis is an agricultural crop and, as such, will eventually be commoditized) and bringing in proven, researched insights from those with significant horticulture backgrounds, including university professors and researchers. Research on cannabis cultivation, however, has been seriously lacking, particularly in the university setting, due to the crop’s federally illegal status.
However, times are changing. And Cannabis Business Times is now able to provide you with even more insights from academic researchers and mainstream ag.
Our March issue will feature the first of a recurring series on nutrient management co-authored by:
- Dr. Brian Whipker, a professor of floriculture at North Carolina State University (NCSU) specializing in plant nutrition, plant growth regulators and diagnostics, who has more than 28 years of greenhouse experience working with growers. He has co-authored eight scientific journal articles on the impact of fertilization with greenhouse species and three disorder diagnostic guides.
- Turner Smith, a graduate student in substrate science at NCSU.
- Paul Cockson, a research assistant and undergraduate at NCSU, who, for the past two years, has worked in the plant nutrition lab at NCSU with Dr. Whipker.
- Hunter Landis, an agronomist at the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, who works with growers using plant tissue analysis to monitor plant nutrition and diagnose plant nutrient disorders.
While the quartet has written several nutrient management features for Cannabis Business Times, they will now be sharing the results of their latest research at NCSU on cannabis nutrition.
We also are pleased to introduce two new columnists:
Robert Eddy (whose name you might recognize from a number of features he has penned for CBT), the director of ag projects for Core Cannabis in East Lansing, Mich. He was the Plant Growth Facilities Manager at Purdue University for 20 years and was responsible for the success of hundreds of research studies involving more than 100 diverse flowering, food and medicinal species.
This issue features Eddy’s second “Hort How-To” column (his first column on hydroponics can be found in CBT’s February issue). Eddy will be alternating with Ryan Douglas, the owner of cannabis consultancy Ryan Douglas Cultivation, who has also worked in commercial horticulture for 20 years and specializes in legal cannabis start-ups. He spent three years directing cultivation for Canada’s largest licensed producer of medical cannabis, Canopy Growth Corp., at the company’s Tweed facility and now lives year-round in Colombia consulting for businesses in the medical cannabis industry.
These exciting new opportunities that are emerging as the cannabis world continues to advance also are being shared in person at Cannabis Conference 2019 (www.cannabisconference.com); in addition to the 90-plus leading cultivation and dispensary business owners and professionals who will be speaking at the event (April 1-3 in Las Vegas), you will hear from Dr. Whipker, along with:
- Dr. Raymond Cloyd, Professor/Extension Specialist, Kansas State University, Department of Entomology
- Dr. Shouhua Wang, Plant Pathologist, Nevada Department of Agriculture
- Dr. Bruce Bugbee, Professor, Utah State University, Department of Plants, Soil and Climate; and
- Dr. Brian Jackson, Director of Horticultural Substrates Laboratory, North Carolina State University
While you or your team may have decades of cannabis cultivation experience, we can’t ignore that there are 12,000 years of agricultural experience to learn from (according to National Geographic). No doubt there is huge potential for rapid and significant advancements to be made in cannabis cultivation through research and lessons from the millennia-old agricultural community at large.
Brian MacIver: How has Panacea Valley Gardens changed from its beginnings as a 4,000-square-foot horse barn retrofit and 8,000 square feet of hoophouse space?
Jesce Horton: Unfortunately, during the regulatory changes in Oregon, Panacea Valley Gardens had to close at the end of 2017. Our property was at the edge of what is considered National Scenic Land, which was too close a designation to Federal Land for the state to allow us to continue operation.
BM: What is the status of Saints Cloud, your Portland cannabis culture hub project?
JH: The closing of Panacea Valley Gardens was a major blow financially, and we had to suddenly shift gears from the multi-million-dollar development property, Saints Cloud, to opening a smaller cultivation facility first. “Lil Saints” as we call it, an 8,000-square-foot Tier I facility, has just entered full-scale production, and we are now back to development of the Cloud. We plan to open the first phase of Saints Cloud in the summer of this year.
Lil Saints is actually just 2.5 miles down the road from Saints Cloud, in Northeast Portland, Ore. The official name of the business is “Saints’ Cannabis.”
BM: Resource efficiency is one of your core values. What new methods and/or technologies have you developed or discovered in the past two years that helped you be more efficient?
JH: We are always increasing levels of monitoring and reporting in cultivation environments and implementing a Variable Refrigerant Flow system in appropriate applications. Variable refrigerant flow (VRF) systems vary the flow of refrigerant to indoor units based on demand. This ability to control the amount of refrigerant that is provided to fan coil units located throughout a building makes the VRF technology ideal for applications with varying loads or where zoning is required. In addition to providing superior comfort, VRF systems offer design flexibility, energy savings/energy incentives and cost-effective installation. Additionally, we are working with leading organizations like the Resource Innovation Institute on efficiency tools like their newly released PowerScore.
BM: Over the past two years, many states have offered opportunities for minorities to join the cannabis industry through criminal record expungements, reduced application fees and other programs. What do you think of those efforts, and what remains to be done to keep advancing racial equity in the cannabis industry?
JH: I commend the efforts being made across the country and the industry leaders who are driving the progress. As the industry evolves, it is exceedingly important to ensure these minority-owned businesses can scale by making capital available through programs like NuLeaf Project, a historic industry grant program in Portland, Ore., directed by my wife, Jeannette Ward Horton.
BM: You describe yourself as a craft cannabis grower. What tips can you offer other small-scale and craft growers to survive in a market glut like the current one in Oregon?
JH: Focus on being the best cultivator possible and on bringing something unique to the market. Sell on value, not on price, and there will always be a place for you in the market.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for style, length and clarity.
Of all the things that can go wrong in a grow room, HVAC system failure is among the most critical. This vital system is required to manage the heat produced by the powerful grow lights we use, but it also helps to remove the humidity produced by plants. HVAC failure can greatly reduce yield, decrease quality and lead to devastating pest issues such as powdery mildew. When an HVAC system breaks, the clock is ticking to save your crop.
Here are six tips for looking after your HVAC systems, so your HVAC systems can look after your plants.
1. Set up a preventative maintenance schedule.
HVAC system filters can become clogged with dust and dirt circulating in the air, so check your system components on a pre-established schedule. More clogging makes for a less effective or even broken system, so it’s vital to check and change these filters regularly.
Setting schedule reminders on your phone or going through a checklist to assess the components of the HVAC system between each crop is a good place to start. Consider attaching a form near the system to note when maintenance was last completed and by whom.
2. Turn the system off when you don’t need it.
Don’t currently need your HVAC system? Switch it off.
When running closed-loop systems activities such as transplanting, filling pots or otherwise handling soil, you create a lot of dust and airborne particles, which will be picked up by an HVAC system. Switching off the system during these instances can help to increase the lifespan of filters and avoid unnecessary wear.
3. Have a contingency plan.
Accidents happen, hardware breaks down, and growers without contingency plans can quickly lose an entire room if the lights stay on but the HVAC switches off.
Consider checking if you can connect your HVAC to a backup generator in the case of a power outage, then ensure you and your staff know how to make this connection. Invest in a separate dehumidifier in case the HVAC goes down. And if it’s an option, choose two smaller HVAC units rather than one large one, so you’ll have a secondary unit if one experiences issues.
4. Install an internal UV light in your HVAC.
All the air in a grow room will ultimately circulate through an HVAC system; take advantage of this by adding UV light sterilization to your system.
Beyond sterilizing the air in your cultivation area, UV light can help to combat fungal spores and bacteria that could result in plant diseases or a failed micro-contamination test on the finished product. Be sure the light is properly sealed into the HVAC ducting to avoid detrimental effects to plants and workers.
5. Think about air flow; use floor fans.
Cold air and carbon dioxide naturally sink to ground level if left unchecked. Use floor fans to help redistribute the air evenly. Angle fans so they redirect stale air toward the HVAC intake to help create a more uniform temperature at the canopy level.
6. Install HVAC systems above the canopy.
Hot and cold air should be mixed above the canopy—not at the same level as the plants. This way, plants can enjoy temperate air as it falls to their level, rather than experiencing hot and cool air in turns.
David Bernard-Perron is The Green Organic Dutchman’s vice president of growing operations and an agrologist with a Master of Science in plant sciences from McGill University. Bernard-Perron worked as the lead agrologist at Whistler Medical Marijuana Corporation and designed its certified organic growing system.
Transporting cannabis product from the grow or marijuana-infused producers (MIPs) to retailers effectively, efficiently and compliantly is a top priority. Failure to do so could deteriorate your product, pose potential compliance breeches for your company, and keep you from completing the sales cycle and bringing in revenue. Whether you have an internal distribution department or are evaluating a third party, below are four tips to help you close the sales loop and ensure you are getting your goods to market.
1. Focus on driver training and safety.
Safety programs for vehicles and drivers should include federal and state Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) best practices. These include cameras with 24-hour live feeds on the inside and outside of all vehicles, showing the driver and cargo area, as well as securable cargo space and communications equipment. Cameras can be helpful with vehicle accidents and traffic tickets. Cruise control is also a critical component in any delivery vehicle. By setting cruise control at the speed limit, drivers avoid exceeding the speed limit and reduce the risk of tickets and accidents, which increase costs to run the transportation team.
Purchase or lease new vehicles every few years to keep vehicle mileage low. The expense of a new lease or vehicle purchase is far less than maintenance costs—which increase exponentially for vehicles with more than 70,000 miles—creating a positive ROI. To deter theft, delivery schedules should be varied so they can’t be predicted.
All drivers should be required to take a self-defense and defensive driving course in case they are accosted or notice they are being followed. While it is sound policy to instruct drivers to walk away from a dangerous situation, some conflicts may become unavoidable. Drivers can better protect themselves by learning de-escalation skills and steps to be in control under adrenaline-enhanced situations. They should also follow the U.S. Department of Transportation rules and regulations for the number of allowed hours on the road.
Consider outsourcing wholesale cash pickups from your facility to a specialty armored car service to avoid putting drivers carrying large cash amounts in danger.
2. Stay compliant.Many state regulatory bodies, such as the Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) in Colorado, mandate that packages must be delivered to the intended destination the same day it was shipped. If the delivery cannot be completed because it is rejected by the receiver for any reason, such as quality or order error, the shipment must be returned to the grow or MIP the same day it was shipped. Vehicles must be completely unloaded each day as no product can be left inside overnight. It is also mandatory that manifests match the delivery, including METRC or other state-specific tracking-system tags. It also is advised that drivers remain on-site while product is checked-in at stores in case of discrepancies.
3. Package product effectively.
Dimensional packaging approaches can make distribution more efficient and cost effective, maximizing space both inside packages as well as inside vehicles. Ensuring that all orders are made in case-quantities makes certain there are no half-empty boxes being delivered. Efficient loading also improves time efficiency for delivery schedules; load last delivery in first and first in last.
4. Track shipments properly.
All tracking is done through the manifest but can be bolstered with a courier tracking software. These types of apps allow internal departments or separate clients to have their own portals for submitting delivery requests with specific fields of information. These can be assigned to specific drivers who can access all needed information as well as mark steps complete in real-time, as they are accomplished, providing emails to senders and receivers. This creates a digital stamp of all the hands through which the product has passed in its journey.
Theresa Ekman is the supply chain director for Native Roots in Colorado.
Cannabis Business Times’ interactive legislative map is another tool to help cultivators quickly navigate state cannabis laws and find news relevant to their markets. View More