In this guest post from Grower’s Network, we listen in on a conversation with Damian Solomon, the Ag Technology & Systems Director for MedMen. Damian has a background in commercial agriculture, with an emphasis on commercial-scale, controlled-environment agriculture.
You can read the full conversation about their cultivation strategies and stats at Grower’s Network.
How many different plants are you growing?
The actual number of plants will vary depending on the square footage of each facility. Generally speaking, our flowering density is 2.0 plants per square foot. Vegetative density is 8.0 plants per square foot, and our clone density is 39.0 plants per square foot.
We choose strains based on customer demand and qualities such as aroma, flavor, yield potential, and shelf-attractiveness. We understand the importance of meeting customer demand and are always looking at new strains to trial in our R&D trial section. Currently, we have a set of eight core strains we are working with.
What’s unique about your growing style?
Our designs are based on commercial hydroponics, using our proprietary nutritional recipes. We do not use pre-blended, hydroponic store fertilizers. We produce our own fertilizers at a cost of $0.40 per gallon, using our own nutrient recipe for all life stages.
We also utilize Integrated Pest Management (IPM) protocols. We believe that early detection, coupled with the use of natural predators, is the best way to catch issues early and mitigate problems without using harsh chemical pesticides. Monitoring and controlling plant/leaf temperature, especially in the hours before “sunrise” is a key tool for controlling mildew and molds.
What kind of equipment are you using?
There are very few tasks performed by hand in our facilities. We are always looking for ways to incorporate modern robotics in our facilities. We use Hortimax to control lights, CO2, irrigation, cooling, heating, humidity, temperature, and even labor management.
Some facility designs also feature automated moving benches. All our inputs into the system are automated to reduce labor needs. We use drip irrigation, so each plant gets the same amount of water every time.
We are utilizing Fluence Bioengineering LED lighting technology for all of our projects. We use their RAZR series for propagation, their SPYDRx series for veg, and their SPYDRxPLUS series for flowering. With the LED lights, we’re using 40 percent less electricity compared to HID.
The MedMen Vision
What challenges have you faced?
Since we are working with a biological process, we have faced the normal agricultural challenges like pests and disease, nutritional issues, and even labor. However, by incorporating Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs), we can find issues early and mitigate them quickly to reduce any economic loss.
It’s also proving difficult to find suppliers and manufacturers from commercial agriculture that are willing to participate in the emerging cannabis industry, especially those from Europe that specialize in controlled environment agriculture.
What has been your biggest success?
Successful integration of modern technology into cannabis production. After all, a plant is a plant, and 90 percent of what it takes to optimize tomato production is the same for cannabis. And a good grower can easily adapt to the final 10 percent that is species-specific.
What advice do you have for future growers?
Rely on the experience and know-how of commercial agriculture/horticulture growers when designing your grow operations. It will be the way of the future for growing crops. Always look for better ways of doing things.
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