Nadia Sabeh got her nickname — and eventually the name of her company — while working on her Ph.D. in controlled environmental agriculture at the University of Arizona.
She was being interviewed by a local TV station when a reporter told her she was referred to as “Dr. Greenhouse” around the studio.
Sabeh knew it was “marketing gold” as soon as she heard the phrase.
Today, her company has consulted on projects in more than 20 states and multiple countries. The Sacramento-based firm now employs an additional engineer and an administrative assistant and Sabeh is looking to hire another engineer this winter.
She credits cannabis for getting her out of commercial construction and back to her first love of designing controlled environment agriculture (CEA) facilities. She was working as a mechanical engineer when she had the opportunity to work with a company seeking a cannabis cultivation license in New York. The company was ultimately not successful in its application, but Sabeh says the application reintroduced her to the agricultural community and showed her that her skill set was in demand, particularly in the burgeoning cannabis cultivation community.
“Really it was cannabis that helped me step out of the commercial building world,” she says. “At the scale of designing facilities, cannabis is what brought me back to CEA.”
Sabeh is an expert in HVAC systems for greenhouses of all sizes and has worked with some of the largest names in the industry, both in the United States and Canada. She is also a sought-after speaker at conferences and conventions in both the cannabis and traditional indoor agriculture sectors, which created enough potential work for her to launch her own company.
“It’s been really fun to work with both sides of the indoor agriculture industry to see where the gaps are between them,” she says.
Sabeh says that in her previous work, she was often “the only woman in the meeting,” but used that to her advantage as everyone would remember the female voice in the room. She says cannabis has been very welcoming to her and to other women and she believes women should have a central role in the industry.
“I have rarely felt outcast or mansplained to,” she says.
She is also encouraging to other women looking to get involved in both cannabis and the engineering fields.
“We need you. Please stay in this industry,” she says. “We need your perspective. We need your relationship-building skills.”