State-of-the-art hydroponics system allows Washington grower to produce up to three pounds of cannabis per light every 80 days
Commercial marijuana farms mostly come in two flavors these days: Cool and really cool. Whether it’s a big field of outdoor plants, heavy with colas and swaying in a warm autumn breeze or a factory-style indoor operation that dazzles the viewer with its uniform sea of green, today’s modern cannabis grows rarely fail to impress.
That said, one of the more interesting things about cannabis farms how different they all are. In fact, unlike practically every other form of agriculture, today’s marijuana operations are so varied in their techniques, it defies logic. Why has this happened? Because in almost all other industries, from manufacturing cars to harvesting wheat, established production techniques dominate. To put it simply, once you’ve seen one apple orchard or wheat field, you’re seen them all.
Of course, there’s a simple reason for the vastly different growing styles and practices found in commercial cannabis production: Legal, commercial marijuana production is, at best, four years old; despite what some might like you to believe, no one has yet come up with the numbers to prove that their method — indoor, outdoor or greenhouse — can demonstrate a level of productivity and profitability that is unquestionably superior to all other grow styles and techniques. This will change in the coming years. As with all industries — especially in agriculture — common practices that prove to be the most effective will dominate, and eventually, all marijuana farms will start to look the same. In the meantime, the cannabis industry will rapidly evolve and the most efficient players will rise to the top as they do in all other businesses.
Located near the Port of Tacoma in Washington state, THC Farms is a prime example of the rapidly evolving cultivation business. Its methods are decidedly high-tech and its management team encourages innovation and experimentation to improve overall efficiency and productivity. That willingness to try new things has led to several strategies to lower costs and increase efficiency.
The company’s modern, state-of-the-art grow facility uses controlled-environment agriculture techniques to produce a consistent, reliable product. A visitor can’t help but be impressed with the gleaming white grow racks, spotless clean rooms and hospital-like feel in the cultivation and extraction spaces.
Marijuana Venture spent several hours with the THC Farms team and interviewed Shon Camenzind, the company’s production manager and head of design. Camenzind is a believer in pure water cultivation and he’s developed an extremely effective system that produces a continuous supply of high-grade cannabis.
Marijuana Venture: What made you decide to go the indoor hydroponic route?
Shon Camenzind: Growing indoors gives you much more control of the environment. I also believe that water growing is more cost-effective than growing in soil or other mediums. It’s very capital-intensive up front, but once the system is in place, the return on investment starts to become apparent fairly quickly.
MV: Did you design the system yourself?
SC: I have grown in many different mediums in my 30-plus years in the industry. I always envisioned that growing in purified water would produce the best plants and bud. One of my earlier experiments was NFT (nutrient film technique). It was not up to my standards and I eventually rejected that practice.
MV: Did you base your system on other existing cannabis production facilities?
SC: To the best of my knowledge, there is no one else growing the way we grow anywhere in the world. The system we have now was created both by design and by trial and error.
MV: What types of nutrients do you use?
SC: We purchase the most expensive nutrients on the market. We call them “pharmaceutical-grade nutrients.” They have less than 5% metal content. As to our exact formula or regimen, if I told you, I’d have to kill you. It’s a highly guarded secret.
MV: Are some strains better suited for pure water hydroponics than others?
SC: Yes. We have found that there are some strains better suited to a pure water grow environment than others. We have experimented with many strains and retained only a few. Currently we have seeds for more than 800 strains, and we regularly test for compatibility with our grow system.
MV: What type of grow light do you use?
SC: We use only 800-watt double-ended HPS. We believe they are the best lights for our application.
MV: Do your retail customers express a preference for indoor hydro bud over other methods?
SC: Our experience is that retailers prefer indoor grown bud over outdoor and that on average it is of better quality. Our goal is to bring superior hydro pure water flower to our retail customers on a consistent and reliable basis, and to that end we are constantly working to improve our methods and techniques.
MV: Are you able to quantify your production numbers?
SC: Absolutely. Currently, based on our tightly controlled environment and real-time measurements, we are able to produce between 2.5 and 3 pounds of closely trimmed and cured bud every 80 days from start to finish per 1000 watts of HPS. Those 80 days consist of taking the cutting, 10 days of rooting, 10 days of veg and 60 days of flower. Start to finish.