Growing weed will soon become an everyday thing in Canada as every citizen is entitled to at least 4 plants, but the real question is how will they grow them? We talked to two experienced growers to find out how they’re doing it.
Ever since cannabis became illegal in the early 20th century people have had to avoid the law in order to grow it. This often meant having to grow it indoors, as growing outdoors meant that you could be seen and possibly reported to the authorities, which would lead to your certain arrest.
With that in mind, many cannabis growers moved indoors and started to experiment with growing their plants under LEDs, CFL and other types of lights to various degrees of success.The biggest impact we’ve seen this make is the new “type” of cannabis grown in a totally synthesized environment, called Dro.
Dro is short for hydroponic and this new weed was being grown in hydroponic systems usually made from buckets and plastic tubs in someone’s garage under a heavy set of powerful lights.
Hydroponic weed quickly became a hit and everyone started looking for ways to scale up the “bucket systems” into full-size factory-scale operations. That is what’s happening right now in Canada.
Since cannabis became legal again, commercial growers took the hydroponic idea made by small-time growers and did exactly what everyone was trying to do. They created huge greenhouses which are moderately automated and capable of producing hundreds of kilos of weed every week without having too much work.
But, according to many advocates of organic cannabis, these big companies are doing it all wrong.
I interviewed two very experienced growers that are deeply immersed in the cannabis scene in order to find out why everyone is so focused on growing hydroponic cannabis while the global trend is to move towards more organic practices.
Good soil and genetics are the key
Che LeBlanc is a second generation grower who has taken genetics that his father worked on and greatly improved them. He can trace the genetics of some of his seeds up to 50 or 60 years in the past. That’s especially important when it comes to acclimatized genetics which need to fit the weather in Canada.
He is also the CEO of Rosebud Cannabis Farms, a company which is currently in the process of applying for a cannabis production license. He is helping to guide the company in the right direction, not only as its CEO but as the grower with the most experience in the firm as well.
Compared to some of the more well-known producers, Rosebud could be considered a craft grower, as they plan on having about 50,000 sqft of canopy in their 2 sites. However, they will be a step above craft growing when it comes to licensing and paperwork.
Alex: How is Rosebud different from other growers?
Che: I could explain it in only two words—living soil. With living soil, we are basically mimicking natural systems that work in nature on much bigger scales, such as in a jungle. We’ve developed our own soil mix over the last 10 years, which is a water-only recipe and we constantly improve upon it as technology advances and we learn more about it.
We are really focused on demonstrating better productions methods which will influence other growers to follow suit. We plant a guild on the understory of the cannabis plant with a diverse number of species which work together to keep things in balance. We will be mostly focusing on the craft experience.
Alex: I hear you have an outdoor facility in the works?
Che: Yes that’s right. We have an outdoor facility which has around 40.000 sqft of canopy, and we can produce up to 25.000 clones per month from the nursery, as well as 25.000 seeds from that same nursery. We will also have an indoor greenhouse facility which spreads over 10.0000 sqft of canopy and the plants in there are also grown in soil.
Alex: Why grow it outdoors?
Che: Cannabis is the only crop that has been grown indoors for a period of time. The only reason for that is the legal issues which would have ensued if you were caught in the past.
We see the return to growing outdoors as an obvious solution to many of the issues plaguing the industrial growers. Growing in the sun causes a lot less of an environmental impact, but it also cuts on the costs of the energy. But, it also produces a potentially better quality product as our lights still can’t compare to the sun.
Alex: Have you seen the Tantalus Labs’ Sunlab? Would you compare your indoor operation to that?
Che: Yes, our operation is very much similar to the SunLab. We have a greenhouse facility which is supplemented by lights in real time. We are also taking advantage of geothermal heating/cooling and we’re collecting and processing rainwater to keep everything cheaper. At a later time, we might go into alternative energy – biomass generators, solar panels and windmills at one point.
Alex: How does your bud compare in quality to indoor hydroponic weed?
Che: Outdoors grown weed is usually a fluffier and leafier product which doesn’t have the “bag appeal”. So, it’s mostly used for vapes, oils, and other extracts but a part of the harvest can also be sold just the flowers on their own. We plan on having 2 harvests throughout spring, summer, and fall. In the first harvest, about 75% will have the “bag appeal” and 25% is used for extraction. The second harvest is vice-versa.
Some of the genetics we’ll be using are up to 50 or 60 years old, so there’s no doubt in the quality of genetics. We’ll be growing mostly hybrid strains with a lot of autoflowering genetics that finish in 60-70 days from seed to harvest, and that way we can have two harvests every year outdoors, and even more indoors.
Alex: What is the business plan for Rosebud once you’re licensed?
Che: We are gonna sell clones and seeds to micro producers and recreational users. We do that by helping them decide what type of genetics is best suited for their needs, as we have a wide variety of site-specific genetics. We possess over 450 different strains, many of which we crossed and developed over the years, but we grow only between 5 and 15 in a rotation per market demands.