Growing cannabis and getting it processed for retail sale is an ongoing learning opportunity to find the sweet spot of quality and efficiency. Even though there are professed protocols, books, videos, blogs, forums and lots of self-proclaimed “master growers,” there is no blueprint to follow with confidence. A constant tweaking of the systems through trial and error is necessary as every grow operation is unique. There are so many variables in the manufacturing of commercial cannabis that to fully rely upon other growers’ experiences could lead a business down a very long and costly road of non-success.
Our experience in business stems from the home remodel industry where we found the same thing to be true: we had to find the sweet spot. When we took on too many projects the payroll went up, the quality went down, the stress increased and the profits suffered. We found that juggling three jobs was just right for us to maintain quality work, a healthy profit margin and a lifestyle that kept us on the fun side of living.
I think we are close to the sweet spot in our cannabis business. It has taken four separate build-outs, seven different lighting types, five unique HVAC systems, four soil changes with eight pot size experiments, six nutrient line regimens, three different types of air conditioning units, multiple dehumidification trials, various pest and mold management protocols, four cloning methods, too many strains to count with just as many pruning techniques, about a dozen different trellising set-ups, multiple tests and seven years to create the optimum combinations to coax the best out of our plants.
The last harvest numbers showed how far we have come. Eighteen 1,150-watt lights over 240 plants created nearly 70 pounds of nicely formed, extremely resinous buds. That comes to about 3.8 pounds per light or 1.53 grams per watt of power. That is darned impressive! And it took no more labor or costs to make it happen; just refining the program and paying extreme attention to the details. The exciting part is that it is fully duplicatable on a 28-day harvest cycle.
The processing has been another long learning curve. Each step in the procedure has been reviewed, refined and (almost) perfected. How to buck the plants most efficiently and hang them for drying evenly; what to store the curing buds in; which trim tools to best help the hand manicuring; and what is the fastest way to weigh, bag and tag? Then add all the stickering that needs done in preparation to bring our cannabis to market (in one two-week time frame we placed more than 17,000 stickers!) and you have a glimpse of the steps required. Add to the mix new package design changes required to meet new rules and we walk a delicate balance that can mean the difference between being in the red or the black.
Over this time of perfecting the garden and processing protocols, we have continued to add retail partners that value the clean results of the pesticide and heavy metal testing we began last year. As production has increased, not only have sales-per-store increased but also the number of stores that want our products. We regularly serve about 20 stores and with this increased production, target another dozen or so. Currently, we are trimming to order from six- to eight-week-old lots of flower, which seems to be the sweet spot of current harvest date balanced with a proper cure.
Growing our business organically has been just as vital to us as growing cannabis organically. It takes time, it takes money and it takes dogged tenacity, but the results provide a solid base of reliable processes, steady business partners and repeatable consumer sales.
Finding our sweet spot has its rewards, even if it has taken its toll. It cannot be taken for granted. Now to convert some time into regaining a fun and healthy lifestyle; that is the sweetest spot we seek!