Welcome to another episode of WeedBudz Radio! Today we have the pleasure of speaking to returning guest; Ryan Douglas, Author of “Seed to Success”. Ryan is here today to introduce his new book “Secrets to Maximizing Success in the Cannabis Industry”. Join me in learning about propagation and other factors that affect cultivation and production in the cannabis industry.
Transcription from the episode below: This is a new Feature for us, please forgive any mistakes as we dial in our subtitles and transcriptions.
Welcome to another episode of Weed Buzz Radio.
I’m your host, Ry
And today, I’m really
excited because you might see a familiar face,
a guest we’ve had on before.
Ryan Douglas was on to talk
about his book From Seed to success.
And I’m guessing it was a success because we’re
here to talk about his next book, Secrets to
Maximizing Profits in the Cannabis Industry: Contemporary and
Pragmatic Tips for Improving Your Cultivation Business.
And that is something that, as a retailer, I
know I’m very curious about, because if the cultivators
can become m ore efficient and more pragmatic then our
prices go down and if our prices go down,
then you, the consumer, will hopefully be able to
pay a better price at the dispensary.
So we’re going to hit Ryan with some hard questions today,
but before we do that, I want to just ask you,
Ryan, for those that haven’t checked out, From Seed to success yet,
can you hit us with a quick kind of summary, if
you will, of what you got into in that book before
we talk about kind of the next step, if you will?
Yeah, of course.
And thanks for having me on again, Ry.
It’s a pleasure to be here. Awesome.
We appreciate it. Yeah.
So, about a year and a half
ago, I published From Seed to Success.
And essentially it’s a manual
for launching licensed cultivation startups.
And so that’s geared towards anybody from
any industry that’s interested in participating in
the cannabis industry through cultivation.
And so it’s essentially a manual, kind of a
step by step guide on how you go through
the most important parts of launching a cultivation business.
And so, having kind of covered the
basis of startups, what I wanted to
do was publish something on guaranteeing profitability.
How can companies really thrive and survive
now that they’ve launched their business?
And we’re kind of in an industry where there’s
plenty of challenges, you’ve got supply chain challenges, you’ve
got, in some places, increasing competition, increasing supply, and
the future is pretty much unknown.
So the question is, now that I have
a cultivation business, how can I guarantee that
it’s profitable for the near future?
And so what I wanted to do was
kind of create a more direct, more succinct
way of getting some information to readers.
Instead of writing a 285 page book,
this ebook is more like 30 pages.
And so I’ve just chosen a handful of topics that
seem to come up repeatedly when I speak to groups,
when I speak to cultivation business owners about the challenges
and concerns they have on a day to day basis.
So that’s why I chose to publish this new ebook.
I wouldn’t call it Spark Notes because there’s
so much value in there, but the way
that you describe it, it’s very succinct.
And for somebody like me who gets overwhelmed with big words
and lots of pages, it made a lot of sense.
And there was a lot of principles in
there that somebody who is not skilled in
cultivation like myself was able to see.
If there’s enough detail in there, you can
kind of see how one thing impacts another.
So I wanted to mention it is just
a perfect way to kind of get into
the weeds of things without being overwhelmed.
Yeah, and that’s the idea really.
Like I mentioned, there’s three or four points
that I cover in the book and they
come up repeatedly when I speak with clients.
So no point in trying to fluff
up a book to make it bigger.
Let’s just get right to the point.
And that was the goal.
I appreciate that.
And we talked a little bit prior to
the show and earlier that you kind of
helped push me when you launched From Seed to Success.
I was working on a book about my experience with the
Saco Drive in movie theater and it was something that was
kind of, I guess perking in my mind for a while.
But I was like, man, there’s all these amazing
authors in the cannabis space and I’m not going
to be a good cannabis author unless I practice.
And I really don’t have a lot of
expertise other than podcasting and studying the experts.
So I need to practice.
Got to get that muscle going.
And so I wrote a book called Relic
to Icon about saving the drive in.
But I’ll tell you it was a workout as we discussed,
like every 5, 000 words was like okay, well this is it.
And sometimes I felt like I was writing for
the sake of writing and I didn’t like that.
I like business books that are to the point.
And so it was kind of a hard balance between
what I’m being told it should be in length versus
what I think is value to the consumer.
And so this is just a great kind of add
on to From Seed to Success of kind of taking those
fundamentals of great, you’re here or you need to get
here and this is how you do it.
And now that you’re here, let’s talk about
how you dial some of that stuff in.
And that kind of leads me to my next question
because I love innovation and I love innovation specifically in
this space I’ve seen just where soil to, hydroponics to
some of the kind of I don’t know what they’re
called the aeroponics that I’ve seen. Yeah.
So there’s so many different things.
And so I’m curious just in the last year
or two, what some of the technology and innovation
that you’re finding interesting in the cultivation space?
Yeah, so what we want to look at is I
mean, I’m a big proponent for technological innovation and automation,
but when we’re talking about maintaining profitability, we don’t want
to automate just to say that we did.
The reason we do it is
to really increase our bottom line.
So we’re either producing more or we’re
increasing the quality of what we produce,
or we’re producing it for less.
And so when we look at new technology or new
automation, we want to make sure that it hits one
of those three items, because otherwise it might not be
an appropriate expenditure for some of these cultivation businesses.
And so that’s why in my new book, there’s
one chapter that covers new technology, and the goal
is really to present this technology that can help
growers reduce their cost of production.
And so, just briefly, I can mention a couple.
The first, even though it’s not new
technology, it’s becoming more and more popular
with cannabis growers, and for good reason.
And that’s tissue culture propagation.
So I can’t tell you how many times
I’ve walked through a cultivation facility that was
state of the art, but right away, they
had insect or disease problems on their crops.
And if you’re starting fresh, you’re starting new.
Really, in any industry, you shouldn’t
have problems for a while.
But there’s nothing worse than dropping ten or
$12 Million on a cultivation facility, staffing the
thing, and you start running it.
But you acquire essentially dirty genetics.
And even if the person has the best intentions
of providing you with really high quality genetics, unless
these are propagated inside of a lab and the
process of propagation is sterile, they can’t guarantee you
that what you’re receiving are completely clean starter plants.
And so what happens is essentially every
insect and disease infestation any grower has
ever encountered, nine times out of ten
comes from infected cuttings or infected plants.
cannabis growers have always had to deal with insects.
But since more and more states and
countries are legalizing cannabis, you have more
greenhouse production, you have more outdoor production.
Not only do you have the traditional insects
and disease we need to battle with, you
have new diseases and insects that are jumping
from traditional crops to cannabis and hemp.
especially for greenhouse growers and indoor growers, outdoor growers,
a lot of that is up to mother nature.
We really don’t have much control at
all, but indoors and greenhouse we do.
And so what you have is more and
more growers turning to these tissue culture companies,
and what they’re doing is outsourcing propagation.
So for anyone listening, propagation is
essentially cloning or taking cuttings.
So traditionally, companies keep stock
plants from other plants.
Every so often, they take cuttings, they
root them, and now they have a
genetically identical plant to the mother plant.
So you can imagine if you took 100 cuttings,
now you can fill a grow room with a
hundred similar plants to that mother plant.
And that’s how we that’s how we
establish kind of a constant harvest schedule.
The risk is multiple.
One is that the longer a plant stays in production,
the more likely it is that it gets something.
And if we’re propagating plants that are
infected, inevitably this pathogen will show up
in production in the flowering space.
So you risk contaminating the crop, but
you also risk contaminating the entire facility.
But also, not every grow team
is excellent at rooting cuttings.
So whether you’re taking ten cuttings or
10,000 cuttings, generally we try to shoot
for 80% or more should root right.
So some just won’t root.
Some are going to die off, some will dry out.
So you determine what you need and
you take more cuttings than you need.
So if you have 20% die
back, you still hit your numbers.
But not every grower, not every cultivation
team is good at taking cuttings.
And the problem is in these production facilities
where you have a very tight production schedule,
if you are short, you basically have to
go into production with half empty rooms.
Or if we wait and take more cuttings
and wait until they root, now you’re looking
at production bottlenecks, which is just as bad.
So the reason people are going more and more
towards tissue culture and the reason more tissue culture
companies are starting to cater towards cannabis is one
these growers can outsource propagation entirely.
They don’t need to hold onto stock plants.
They don’t have to worry about propagating and taking
cuttings, and they can dedicate that space to flower
production, which is really where the money is that
when we talk about cannabis growing.
But probably the biggest reason is that these companies
will deliver hundreds or thousands of plantlets guaranteed disease
free to your doorstep on a set schedule.
So it takes some planning at the beginning of
the year, but, you know, every Monday at 10:00
in the morning, you can expect a FedEx delivery
or a truck to pull up to your facility.
And now you have rooted plantlets
that you immediately put into production.
And stuff happens during the course of a crop cycle,
but at least, you know, you’re starting 100% clean.
And that’s going to become more and more critical
as growers face newer diseases and newer insect infestations
that we don’t even have to worry about today.
So tissue culture, I think, is one of
the not necessarily a new advancement, but it’s
new for cannabis growers, at least.
And I’m sure the systems to which you preserve that is
only going to get better and improve over time as well.
You mean how these companies preserve their
genetics, how they hold on to them? Yes.
And in terms of, like you were saying, 80% in
terms of rooting on your own and such like that.
So I’m sure they must have systems in play, right, where you
can kind of get closer to maybe a 90 or 93%.
So even inside of a lab, everything isn’t perfect.
So naturally they’re going to duplicate more plants than
you need, so they can guarantee that they’re going
to deliver the numbers that you need.
But it’s also a long process if there’s one.
Well, it’s not really disadvantaged, but, I mean, taking
a cutting and rooting, it at home would take
about two weeks in a tissue culture lab.
The process can take 90 days, but that’s not a
big deal as long as you’re scheduling production accordingly.
But sorry, you had mentioned something about preservation,
which is what I thought you were getting
at, but I think I was wrong.
But this is really interesting regardless, please,
is that growers typically want to hold
on to a lot of different genetics.
Even if they’re only growing a few and selling
a few, they’ve got stuff that’s special to them,
stuff they want to breed within the future,
stuff that might be special to other people.
And so they end up holding onto
these plants that aren’t in production.
And inevitably what happens is they get
attacked by something, a disease or insect.
And so another benefit of tissue culture companies is they actually
can store genetics for you and they do it in a
form where it takes up hardly any space at all. Right?
They’re essentially freezing needs or getting them
as close to freezing as possible, and
they just halt the life cycle.
And it’s almost like a genetic library.
But in six months, if you decide that in nine
months you want to bring the bubble kush back into
production, you tell this tissue culture company they’ll take it
out of storage, they’ll start producing it and growing it.
And again, it’s guaranteed disease free.
You don’t have the hassle of it and all
you’re doing is giving these folks a date.
I need 1,000 bubble kush cuttings on September 1.
And if you’ve done that far enough
ahead of time and you’re working with
a competent propagator, it’s a done deal.
Can you transport that right now legally?
Is that different than like,
transporting clones across state lines?
So that’s an excellent point.
Some companies will not ship out of state.
So there are some large, very competent propagators that I
would love to refer to clients I work with.
But these folks will not ship outside of state.
And they do that under the guise of hemp.
So they have a hemp license.
And if you think about it, it’s completely legal.
When you think about what is the definition of hemp,
it’s that less than 0.3% THC of dried weight.
And so a plantlet, even if this is like a 35%
THC flower, once it’s harvested, a plantlet, once it’s dried is
going to have almost a negligible amount of THC, if any.
So in theory it’s hemp.
If it’s tested in a lab, it’s hemp.
So these companies that do ship out of
state are doing it under a hemp license.
But like everything else
in cannabis, everything fluctuates.
It’s kind of a gray market.
So fortunately in more market yeah, if you
think Michigan, Colorado, California, within those states, there’s
propagators in Maine, they’re slowly coming online.
So we’ve got a few options
in Maine and Massachusetts as well.
And that’s going to happen over the
next few years across the US.
As states more and more states legalize, as those
markets mature, you’re going to see more tissue culture
companies pop up that service cannabis only because these
other companies that have been propagating agricultural crops for
decades, a lot of them won’t touch cannabis.
And you can understand why. Absolutely.
So one question I had was in terms of
the standard cloning process, is there a concern for
dilution of that kind of starter plant or that
mother plant, whatever that is referred to as?
Can that be kind of trimmed off of for eternity?
Is there an expiration to that?
I guess, again, as a retailer, I’m just so kind
of fascinated and ignorant, I suppose, to how that works.
So there’s opinions on both sides of the aisle.
And honestly, I’m not even sure where I
land on that because you have growers that
say you’ve got growers that have held onto
the same genetic material for years, sometimes decades.
And some people will say that there’s
something that’s called genetic drift, that the
more you propagate the plant, the more
drifts away from the original characteristics.
And you’ve got other folks that are taking
cuttings from the same plant for years, and
they say it’s the same, if not better.
So in my experience, I think the biggest risk
is that what you can have occasionally are mutations.
It’s not genetic drift, it’s just a sport
or a mutation, and that could create something
that’s genetically different from the mother plant.
But in my experience, and granted, I haven’t been growing
for 40 years, but I’ve been in cannabis for approaching
ten years, and so I haven’t seen it myself.
But the second I say that, there’ll be
ten other growers that will contest what I
say and say that absolutely, there’s a difference.
So, hot topic, but I can’t give
you a solid answer either way.
And before we wrap up, I probably
have another hot question for you.
But I’m curious because on the retail
side, I know systems like Metric, all
of our sales transactions goes into Metric.
We finalize those transfers from our
vendors, the cultivators, the processors that
comes to us, we receive them.
For us, Metrics a minimal hassle.
So can you help myself and some of
the other retailers maybe have a little empathy
on the cultivation side on what really goes
into the kind of track and trace program?
Because I hear it a lot, but when it’s
four buttons for us, it’s hard to empathize. Yeah.
So it can get tricky because as growers, we
need to track plant material from the get go,
even from the initial cutting of the stock plant.
And if there’s any problems or if any plants,
for whatever reason don’t make it, we need to
be very clear about removing those from inventory and
being specific about why those were removed from inventory.
So on the growing side, the better technology you
have, the easier your life is, which I guess
we could say about a lot of things.
But I’ve worked in facilities where we were using barcodes
and traditional barcode scanners, and those labels would get wet
after a couple of weeks with soil and irrigation, and
then it would be hard to read.
And sometimes standing inside these big
facilities, there’s so much equipment, the
WiFi signal isn’t that great.
So then the scanner isn’t reading, and you’re running
around the grow room trying to get a signal,
trying to read a barcode that isn’t clear in
the first place, and it’s a real headache.
But with RFID tags, life can be a lot easier.
Now, the infrastructure is a little bit more expensive,
but what it allows you to do essentially, is
instead of a barcode, it’s like a mini computer
chip inside of a tag on each plant.
And so you could literally walk into a grow
room with this handheld RFID scanner, do a scan
of the room, and within seconds, you’ve inventored literally
hundreds of plants if you’re within range.
Now, a step up from that
would actually be mounted stationary readers
throughout the greenhouse or production facility.
So you’re no longer scanning.
What happens is automatically, once these
plants move into or out of
a grow room, they’re automatically recorded.
Their movement is recorded.
Some facilities take it a step higher than that
and connect the RFID tag readers to their cameras.
So you could call up a certain idea of
a plant, and you could either visually or on
the computer, literally see it’s moving throughout the production
facility for the entire crop cycle.
And the goal here is one, to minimize labor.
So you’re not running around trying to get signal to
read bar codes, but you’re also complying with the state.
And that you know, where everything is at any moment.
And should you have an unannounced
audit, you can answer these folks’ questions.
You can tell what you have, where it
was, who moved it, all of that.
Do I want to know how much a system like that costs?
I don’t even know how much it cost.
No, I don’t have that number off the top of my head.
But I mean, this is technology in other
industries, so it’s not necessarily prohibitively expensive.
Perhaps given the size of the production
facility, it might be more of an
appropriate recommendation for others than maybe craft
growers that might not be so critical.
That makes sense.
So, Ryan, my last hot button question for
you, and this was a debate all morning,
so there’s a lot riding on this question.
So the question was, in regards to trimming, I
don’t want to work this with any bias.
So I’m trying to think of how the fight went down
and think of the most unbiased way to ask this.
In regards to trimming, is there a preference?
I guess it’s two parts.
Is there a preference to trimming when the
flower is cured or when the flower is fresh?
And if there is a preference, is there a
preference that is cost preferred to the cultivator versus
is there a preference on the consumer side?
So is there one way to do
it where the consumer is happier?
Is one way better because
the cultivator thinks it’s cheaper?
Or is there just a flat?
This is the best way to do it.
All the pressure is on you.
So in terms of quality, I think the best cannabis
flower is produced when you cut the plant and you
hang it dry and then you trim it by hand.
Or you mentioned curing, some people cut the
plant, they dry it, they cure it, and
then they do the final term by hand.
But regardless of which combination, in my experience and in
my opinion, because I’ve done it several ways, we dry
the plant first and then we trim it by hand.
Best quality is that way.
Now, not every cannabis production facility can afford that
because here’s the number we want to work with
one employee trims about a pound of dried cannabis
flower in an eight hour shift.
If you have a small outfit, that means you
and your buddies and maybe your mom for a
couple of days and you take care of it.
If you’re running a big facility, you need to either hire
the entire town or we need to automate the process.
So that doesn’t mean that if we can’t afford to
do it by hand, we’re just going to grow crap.
My recommendation is that we still dry the plant
first, and then we use an automated trim machine
that is built for handling dried cannabis flour.
Is there a difference between dry and cured?
Yeah, of course.
It’s essentially cured is a
more elongated period of drying.
What do we consider dry?
Oftentimes that’s determined by a lab.
It’s determined by the moisture
content inside of a flower.
And so that range is roughly nine to 13% moisture.
And so once your plant dries down to the point where it’s
9% to 13% moisture, you can package it and sell it.
If you smoke the flower, it
will burn easily in that stage.
Now, curing we could do that for a
few more weeks or a few more months.
And so it’s essentially you’re drawing it out a little
bit more, but it has more to do with the
change of the chemistry of the plant that happens.
Are you running for governor?
No, I don’t think I’d want that job.
That seems like a very diplomatic answer.
And if I was set it’s dried, it’s not
necessarily fresh, but it’s not necessarily cured.
Kind of in the middle. Right.
Think about curing almost as degradation,
but in a good way.
The flower degrades into slightly different chemical
structure, but it’s to our benefit.
It improves the flavor, the aroma.
Sometimes the color changes as well.
But you really reach a point where the
process should stop because it’s like anything.
If you hold on to it too long, it’s going to go bad.
So you really wouldn’t want to
cure anything longer than six months.
And as a grower, I don’t know if you had
some amazing flower, how you could just sit there and
look at it for six months without consuming it.
Yeah, that’s very true.
That would be a challenge.
Well, I will see if that answer suffices the debate
here with the team, but I greatly appreciate it, Ryan.
It is an incredible pleasure.
And now that your home base is not too far from
me, we’re going to have to grab lunch soon.
I can’t believe that the last time we talked was,
I think, right when the pandemic was really a thing.
That sounds right. Yeah.
So that’s just amazing to
kind of follow everybody’s journey.
So thank you so much for joining us today.
Oh, it’s my pleasure. Anytime. Awesome.
And thank you all for tuning in
with another episode of Weed Buzz radio.
We’ll catch you in the next show.