Award-winning Colorado boutique grower showcases its operations, equipment and practices
Growlytics is a relative newcomer to Colorado’s industry, but the award-winning boutique cultivator has quietly been gaining a following since it launched in Denver in 2019. Although Denver is perhaps the most established and among the most difficult markets to penetrate, the company has managed to find a niche for itself in the past four years as a white-label producer that now supplies about 40 retailers across the state — with just 4,000 square feet of canopy and on a shoestring budget.
“You don’t need $500,000 to startup,” chief operating officer Blake Floreani says. “You just have to be very creative. Problem solving is the name of the game.”
“We started small and just poured hundreds of thousands back into the operation,” owner John Dean says.
Just one year after launching, Growlytics started entering The Grow Off, a cultivation competition where contestants are given identical unmarked clones to grow and the winners are determined by the cannabinoid and terpene content. And the company started winning. Growlytics took home second place in potency in 2020, first place in both potency and terpenes in 2021, and most recently it was awarded first and third place in potency and second place for terpenes in 2022.
After achieving critical and commercial success as a white-label producer, Growlytics launched its own in-house product lines into the Colorado market.
Dean and Floreani agreed to give Marijuana Venture a walkthrough of the equipment and the DIY-solutions the farm has developed during its short, yet storied history.
Growlytics is adopting LEDs at its own pace. The company runs an assortment of lights inside its grow rooms, primarily because of the prohibitive cost to fully convert a room to one lighting source.
“I think it is easier to do more with less,” Floreani says. “This is a very capital heavy industry; just to get those [aftermarket] LED lights in that room was $55,000. So, it’s got to make sense.”
With the variety of full-spectrum lights being employed at the farm including LEDs, metal halides and high-pressure sodium bulbs, the company can’t simply follow a manufacturer’s recipe to dial in the optimal lighting, so instead it focuses on maintaining the right amount of photosynthetic photon flux density at every phase of cultivation.
“We definitely target high PPFD, but everything has to work together,” Floreani says. “And you can’t have it without the correct CO2, the correct humidity and the correct temperature on the leaf.”
Focusing on full-spectrum lighting and PPFD targets has also led the company to find its own unique solutions to maximizing space in each grow room, mitigating electric and HVAC costs and introducing more LEDs into its operation. The LED manufacturer Grower’s Choice has been particularly helpful in the transition as its TSL-800 LEDs were designed to be a 1:1 replacement for traditional 1,000-watt HPS fixtures.
“This has been our biggest game changer since we didn’t really have enough HVAC in here to crank our HPS lights to the required PPFD that we would want from week to week,” Floreani says. “We’re yielding about 20% more using about 40% less in electric and HVAC costs.”
Floreani says the company is getting more by running its LED lights at about 70% power than it was getting from running its HPS lights at full power.
“And then there’s the HVAC load, which is about 30-40% reduced in our LED room compared to HPS,” Floreani says.
Growlytics has also incorporated Grower’s Choice ROI-E420 LEDs into its veg rooms.
Growlytics has taken a similar piecemeal approach to HVAC as it does with lighting and uses a variety of different HVAC systems at its facility to set growing conditions and mitigate excess heat. For example, the company has multiple Quest dehumidifiers in different rooms, including its flowering room which uses a Quest Dual 225 dehumidifier, but it’s also running alongside three other dehumidifier brands, as well as two ductless HVAC units and two residential HVAC units.
“The Quests have been great for us,” Dean says. “They really work nicely, and we’ve never had a real issue with reliability.”
Of course, avoiding expensive installation costs was a major factor in Growlytics’ approach to HVAC.
“That Thermocore mini split HVAC system,” Floreani says while gesturing to one of the residential HVAC units along the wall of the flower room, “that came from my house.”
Growlytics uses the TrolMaster Hydro-X to control and monitor all the growing equipment and environmental conditions.
To measure the lights’ PPFD output, the company uses a handheld Apogee Quantum meter, which Floreani says is “just a little bit more accurate in measuring the PPFD output than the Grower’s Choice HPS app.”
The company also has CO2 monitors from Green CO2 Systems installed in each grow room to keep track of carbon dioxide levels.
Growlytics uses a crop charging method to feed its veg and flowering plants.
“Basically, the watering frequency is less when the plant is younger, so you want a higher feed EC [electrical charge],” Floreani says. “As the plant gets older and the water frequency increases, you want a lower EC feed.”
Crop charging feeds the young plants a higher electrical charge, so they have ample food to grow and store energy, then as its roots develop, the electrical charge is lowered and the plant uses the stored energy for flower production. Floreani says the method keeps media fertility in the optimum range, allowing plants to stockpile all the vital nutrients, carbohydrates and proteins without compromising day-to-day growth.
“It’s like a failsafe for the plant,” Floreani says.
The company’s batch-tank irrigation system starts with its GrowoniX GX 1000 reverse-osmosis system that treats water with a UV light feeding to the stock RO tank. From there, the water is pulled into a batch tank where it is mixed with about a three-day supply of nutrients. The water is then fed through a DAB Pump system through a solenoid valve that the TrolMaster opens on an automated timer.
“I had to build this because it’s too much money to pay for one,” Floreani says. “It’s automated — the next step is to automate it better.”
These green lights, or “emergency lights” as the team call them, are used during the final growing phase to allow workers access to the plants without interrupting their day/night cycle.
“The plants can’t see the green light, so it essentially allows us to go in and work without triggering them,” Dean says.
All the harvested flower at Growlytics typically dries for 10 to 14 days and then cures for at least a month, Dean says. The flowers are first dried on chains strung across a small insulated drying room that is cooled by dehumidifiers monitored by the TrolMaster controller. After the flower is finished drying the company begins its 30-day curing process and then the flower is moved to the trimming area where it cures again before it is trimmed.
Special thanks to John Dean, Blake Floreani and the entire team at Growlytics for providing an inside look at their cultivation operation. Do you have a cutting edge or unique cannabis operation? We want to hear about it. Email Patrick@Marijuanaventure.com to be considered for a future Inside Look.
Special thanks to John Dean, Blake Floreani and the entire team at Growlytics for providing an inside look at their cultivation operation.
Do you have a cutting edge or unique cannabis operation? We want to hear about it. Email Patrick@Marijuanaventure.com to be considered for a future Inside Look.