Most Recent Interviews

  • Master Grower Shares Secrets of World Class Cannabis Cultivation and More (Encore)
  • Adina Leifer
    Ep 374 – Surging New Interest in CBD for Pelvic Pain, Physical Therapist Explains…
  • Jeff Sampson
    Ep 373 – The Rise of Cannabis Dark Stores
  • Cooraez Keshvani
    Ep 372 – Is Crypto the Answer to Our Cannabis Banking Problems? He Says Yes…
Browse All

Cannabis After Covid

7 ways the cannabis industry will change after covid-19 Read more
 

What is CBD

(Cannabidiol)? What is cbd cannabidiol See more
 

The Hottest Jobs

in the Cannabis Industry Read more
 

 

Ep 364 – New High Potency Pre-Rolls Are Taking Off in California

scott sundvor space coyote

After earning a spot on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list in 2018, Scott Sundvor left a decorated career in the medical device industry to start a new venture in cannabis. In just three years, Space Coyote has become one of the top extract-infused pre-roll brands in all of California. Hear how he did it in this episode of CannaInsider.

Learn more at https://www.spacecoyote.org

Key Takeaways:

[1:02] An inside look at Space Coyote, one of the best-selling high potency preroll brands in California

[1:46] Scott’s background in the medical device industry and how he came to start Space Coyote

[12:32] Differences between Space Coyote’s high potency infused pre-rolls and other pre-rolls on the market

[16:15] What customers are saying about Space Coyote

[17:26] How the company has developed strong brand loyalty through experiential events

[21:26] The pros and cons of a fully remote cannabis brand and how that influences work culture and performance

[25:27] Why Scott believes cannabis is an “infinite game”

[28:41] Space Coyote’s efforts in sustainability and the best packaging options for cannabis brands right now

[34:12] Space Coyote’s goals for the next few years, including a sativa preservation project and plans to expand to the east coast

Click Here to Read Full Transcript

Matthew Kind: Hi, I'm Matthew Kind. Every Monday, look for a fresh new episode, where I'll take you behind the scenes and interview the insiders that are shaping the rapidly evolving cannabis industry. Learn more at cannainsider.com. That's C-A-N-N-A insider dot com. Now here's your program.

Sinead Green: Today's guest is a serial entrepreneur, accomplished inventor, and Forbes 30 Under 30, who left a decorated career in the medical device industry to start his own cannabis brand. In just two years, this company is now one of California's top pre-roll brands carried in over 250 dispensaries across the state. I'm pleased to welcome Scott Sundvor of Space Coyote to the show. Scott, thank you so much for joining us today.

Scott Sundvor: Thank you so much for having me. It's great to be here.

Sinead: Give us a sense of geography. Where are you in the world today?

Scott: Today I am in Laguna Beach, California, so Southern California.

Sinead: Awesome, cool. What is Space Coyote on a high level? Can you give us an overview of the company?

Scott: Yes, Space Coyote sells-- we sell primarily infused joints, so high-quality, high-potency joints that are infused with the best extracts on the market, hash, live resin, diamonds, all infused, but really, we think of ourselves not just as a product company. We really are creating a brand that people can get behind. What comes along with that is creating this-- more of a dream of what California cannabis can be and the lifestyle that you can live being both an entrepreneur, but really in just anything that people want to do and how cannabis can be a part of that.

Sinead: Very cool. I know there's a really cool story behind the name Space Coyote, which I want to get to in a second here, but first, Scott, I want to backtrack a little bit. You only really got into the cannabis space a couple of years ago at this point. Can you share a little bit about your background and what led you to start Space Coyote?

Scott: Yes, my background before Space Coyote was in the medical device space as you mentioned. I got my engineering degree from MIT. About a year after graduating, I started a company called Nima that created the world's first portable sensors for people that had a food allergy. If you had a gluten allergy or peanut allergy, you could use our product to test your food on the spot and make sure that those allergens weren't present. It really just made eating for people who had food intolerances or food allergies a lot safer. The reason I came to that company was because I myself have suffered with a lot of gut issues through my life.

I have Crohn's disease, which is an autoimmune gut disease. Because of that also, I actually found cannabis was very medicinally helpful for me when I was in college. I ate some pot brownies that my roommate made one night, and I had been recreationally using for a while at that point. I just love the plant in general, but the first time I had those pot brownies, the next day my gut felt incredible.

After having a few more pot brownies over the course of the next week or two, I realized that there was a direct correlation between how my gut felt and how much cannabis I was consuming. When I was making the decision to leave my last company, and I was thinking about what to do next, I think there's a small percentage of people in the world that are crazy enough to be entrepreneurs multiple times in a row. I knew that I wanted to start something else.

My co-founder in Space Coyote, Libby, she was the creative director of Eaze at the time, who was-- at the time, they were the largest cannabis delivery company in California, I believe in America. Being able to just see what she was experiencing there, how quick the growth was, and knowing that I had this manufacturing and supply chain background that-- we weren't directly a medical device but we worked under a lot of the same scrutiny that medical devices do and very complex supply chain across three different continents, and taking that experience and applying it to cannabis where the entire supply chain has to operate within one state.

I mean an infused joint has maybe five different components in it, including the packaging versus the product that I was building that had several hundred components. I just thought that first of all cannabis was something that I loved and had helped me a lot both recreationally and medicinally. There was just a ton of opportunity at that time in the industry. I think there still is. The background that I had combined with the background that Libby had just was the perfect fit to get into the industry at that time.

Sinead: Very cool. Yes, just to paint a picture for listeners, you started at Nima when you were only 22, which then was named one of Time Magazine’s best inventions in 2015. You were then named Forbes 30 Under 30 at 27. You've gone on now to launch Space Coyote, which has seen great success over the last couple of years. Can you tell us a little bit about your experiences over the last decade and how you now apply those at Space Coyote?

Scott: Yes, definitely. I think that I look at it in two ways. One is from the management and the leadership side, and the other is from just understanding how products are built and how to successfully launch and scale a business. With my first company, I was very young when I went in. I mean I'm intelligent, I've always worked very hard to do my best in whatever role I'm at.

As part of my first company, that meant reading as many leadership books as I could, getting mentorship where I could. I ended up hiring an executive coach, which was extremely helpful, but the second time around, now with Space Coyote, I'm already seeing so many situations where I'm such a better leader, I'm such a better manager.

I treat my employees better. I understand them better, I have more empathy. That has been extremely helpful in building an organization that functions really well and I'm really grateful for having that experience when I was so young. I mean, most people-- I think the average age of a first-time entrepreneur is 28, something like that.

I had that experience much younger and I'm really, really grateful for that, but also with that company, we built extremely complex hardware that had chemistry built into it, we had a software development team built an app. Over the course of that company I managed-- I think the only department in the company that I never managed at Nima was finance.

I managed our sales and marketing team. I managed our engineering team, I managed our operations team. I got all this experience of just how to, first of all, build a product with a complex, a very complex supply chain and then how to commercialize that, how to launch a product and how to get other people on board and even the fundraising process how to bring cash in.

Being able to take all of that experience and then apply it to this industry has really just been so valuable because cannabis is definitely a complex industry. It's more difficult than your standard CPG or that type of thing, but I hear a lot of people in the industry, even investors talking about how difficult cannabis is.

Coming from basically a medical device to this, my perspective has always been like, yes, there's some challenges here but this is easy compared to what I was used to. I'm very grateful to have that education both from college, but then especially from my first company of really being put through the wringer.

Of course, there are still things that come up with Space Coyote that are very difficult and take a lot of manpower and brainpower to solve the issues but I feel like I'd just set up so much better having had that first-time founder experience with Nima before coming into Space Coyote.

Sinead: Very cool. It sounds like you really have the full gamut of experience when it comes to the inner workings of a company. Like you said, I feel like there are actually a good bit of overlap between cannabis and the medical device field in terms of regulations and compliance. I'm sure you-

Scott: Oh, definitely.

Sinead: - yes, really put through the wringer there and it's helped you a lot here clearly, that's awesome. Scott, getting back to-- I alluded to the story about the name Space Coyote earlier. Can you tell us a little bit about the experience that sparked the inspiration for that name?

Scott: Yes. It was a great weekend. It actually happened to be the day after my final day at Nima. I decided to leave that company, and my co-founder was taking overrunning everything. The company was in great hands. I left Nima had my last day there, which was very bittersweet, and the next day actually happened to be my birthday. I gathered a group of about 25 of my friends, we all went down to Joshua Tree. We're in the desert. It also happened that that weekend there was a new moon and a meteor shower, so no moonlight and just all these meteors. I brewed a big batch of mushroom tea, enough to feed everyone. We all drank some mushroom tea and then it was pitch black outside. You could see the Milky Way and you could see all these stars.

We were traipsing about the desert and climbing up on top of boulders. I've never had an experience where I so completely felt that we literally are on a rock just flying through space. It was just with how dark the sky was and you could see all these stars and every few seconds there were meteors flying through. Then we started hearing some coyotes yapping and one of my friends goes, “Oh, my God, we're space coyotes.”

Immediately then-- we kept saying that for the rest of the weekend and actually one of our taglines, at Space Coyotes, is Get Glazed. That actually came from a typo. We had created a Facebook event that invited all my friends to this. Libby had actually set this up, who's my cofounder. She had made a typo that instead of saying Scott star gazing birthday, it was Scott star glazing birthday. Get Glazed stuck, Space Coyote stuck. At that time, we didn't yet have a plan for exactly what cannabis company we were going to launch.

We knew that that was something that we were interested in and over the course of the next three to six months, we did the market research that we wanted to, thought about what type of products we wanted to introduce to the market. The whole time we knew that we had a name, the name was perfect. It was Space Coyote, guaranteed. We just had to create a product that really fits that Space Coyote, Get Glazed vibe that we had created in the desert that night.

Sinead: Man, what a serendipitous story. So many brands toil over-- they maybe have their product ready to go, but they then have to spend months and months toiling over a name. That's just amazing that you guys just happen to come up with that over a fun weekend. That's a great name, too. Very memorable.

Scott: Thank you.

Sinead: That's awesome. So cool. Getting into Space Coyote, can you tell me a little bit more about how you guys came up with your product? I know it's an infused pre-roll. How is it different from other infused pre-rolls on the market and how do you guys go about sourcing your flour and crafting each pre-roll that you now sell?

Scott: For us, it was a very research-based approach. We knew that we wanted to make something that one was a product that we wanted to use ourselves. Really, I believe that in order to really be able to stay committed while you're being an entrepreneur and a founder and to feel comfortable and excited to sell something, that has to be something that you would use yourself, that you would want yourself. That was the first criteria, it had to be something that we wanted to use ourselves.

Also, we wanted to create a product that we knew that we were going to be able to sell easily and that wasn't going to have a ton of competition right off the bat, that was more unique than just your everyday cannabis product. With Libby's background coming from Eaze, she had just observed the course of the market over the past couple of years before that. She knew that really one of the biggest things that customers look for is that price to THC ratio. They want as much THC for the lowest price as they can get. We really do see that dominate in the market.

It's honestly something that I dislike because I think that there's a ton of cannabis that is incredible, that is low THC and just the terpene content is what makes it really amazing. The metric that most customers look at is THC. We didn't want to fight an uphill battle. We wanted to make something that spoke to the way that customers are making purchasing decisions today. We looked at a few different things. We settled on infused pre-rolls partially because we were already rolling those ourselves. One of my favorite things to do at that time was to get some high CBD flour and roll a joint with some sativa indica hash mixed in. We just thought that that was an incredible product.

There were a couple of infused joints on the market at the time when we launched but they were all done in a different way than what we did where they basically painted their joints with distillate and then rolled them kief to create the infusion. From our perspective, that just is not a high-quality product. Distillate is the cheapest, lowest quality type of extract you can get. Kief can be high quality, a lot of times it's not. When the extract is on the outside of the joint, then a lot of it ends up just burning up or the smoke gets in your eyes instead of your lungs.

We wanted to do an infused joint where we were actually using high-quality flour. We have never used trimmer [unintelligible [00:15:41] in our joints and we never will. We always use very high-quality extracts. The first thing that we did was collaborate with a hash brand. We've now also done collaborations with live resin brands. We've done collaborations on diamonds.

That's because we want to show our customers that we're putting the best quality ingredients into our product. If they see Nasha Hash or field live resin or GIL diamonds in there, they know that that is a high-quality extract, and so they can trust that we're providing a high-quality product to them.

Sinead: That's awesome. For your various products, obviously, you've got a wide selection at this point, but what would you say when you get customer feedback, what are some adjectives that they give you for their experience smoking these pre-rolls?

Scott: That's been one of the great things about the way that we've built our product in that we just wanted it to be a high quality and we didn't even really think about how big of an impact this would have. Every time we give someone one of our joints, the reaction we get almost every time is, “This is the best joint I've ever smoked,” or just like, “Holy shit, this thing is potent,” or like, “Oh, wow. I smoke a lot and this got me super high.” We joke that, which it's not even a joke, it's real one Space Coyote can get 10 people high and it's going to be the best experience that you have.

In the early days, that was really helpful because we were this no-name brand that came out and would struggle to get meetings with buyers. All we had to do was get them to try our joints. If they tried our joints and they said, “Hey, you're right, this is a great joint. Let's bring into the store.”

Sinead: Oh, that's awesome. At Space Coyote, you guys seem to have just incredible brand loyalty among customers. Clearly, it's partly to do with just the quality of the product. They keep coming back for more. What efforts have you really made over the last couple of years to really secure that brand loyalty with customers?

Scott: That's a great question. I'm going to answer this from a macro perspective first and then get into the details a little bit, but the way that we've always looked at our company and at the cannabis market as a whole is that at some point brands are going to become very valuable. That's because flour will get commoditized.

It has actually taken longer than we thought it would, but it looks like this year there is for the first time in California, there's an oversupply of flour, meaning that flour is finally getting commoditized. When flour is commoditized, when anyone more or less can get access to the same type of quality, then the only thing that really differentiates different companies is one, the uniqueness of their product, and two, the strength of their brand.

From day one, we knew that we didn't want to just build a product company. We wanted to build a brand. With that, the first thing that we did when we launched was we created an experiential event. This was, of course, before COVID when everyone could sit in a room and smoke joints together. There were no issues. We threw these series of events that really our goal was to make people feel what it was like to be a Space Coyote.

I mentioned it earlier, but really being a Space Coyote and the Space Coyote brand, it's about this idea of living the dream, or you could call it living the California dream or living your best life and being able to do that through both cannabis, but also what you love. Whether that's being an artist or you're, say, a tech job or whatever, but just living the best life that you can.

Part of that is the way that you recreate and using cannabis or working remotely or living somewhere beautiful. At these events that we would throw, there would always be art involved, typically music. Our first one was a live record listening party. We have a friend who's a DJ, who-- he tells stories along with every song that he plays. We would do a sativa set in the beginning where the songs are a little more energetic, and then we do an indica set afterwards, that we would pair it with the sativa and indica joints. We did a couple of events like that with music. Another one with an extremely talented musician from New York. It was truly the most psychedelic experience I've ever had with weed.

When we launched our first diamonds-infused joints, and he played-- with the indica set, he played this, just this set of music that it transported you to the bottom of the ocean, and then to the deepest, most green forest and then up into the sky.

Sinead: Oh, my Gosh.

Scott: It was so incredible. We've always tried to do things like that. Now we've built a Space Coyote bus that is touring the state and going to different dispensaries where people can hang out in the bus and smoke a joint there and just feel this Space Coyote vibe.

Libby and I also do a livestream on Facebook every week that typically gets between, 30,000 to-- we had a couple go viral that went up to over a million views, but really just sharing the way that we live our lives and the way that we've built the company and built this work-life balance and mental health for our employees and, yes, really just this California cannabis dream, and that's what we want to share with people and that's the brand that we're creating.

Sinead: Okay, very cool. If I'm not mistaken, Scott, is Space Coyote is totally remote company at this point?

Scott: We are, yes.

Sinead: Can you tell us a little bit about that aspect of the company, and maybe the pros and cons of being remote and how that influences the work culture and performance at Space Coyote?

Scott: Definitely. This was something that we talked a lot about when we founded the company, and even with our first set of investors, we told them directly, “Before you invest, we want you to know that we will make business decisions that put employee health and happiness above profits. We want you to know that and be okay with that before you put money into the company.” The response that we actually got back from our investors was, “Great. We actually think that that's going to end up making you more profitable.”

I think that that is completely true. Really, a lot of it came from, again, my experience with my last company, and just learning things that went well and things that didn't. This was the situation. The reason I ended up leaving my last company was actually for health reasons. When I started that company, my co-founder and I talked about, we said, "We want a culture where we are the hardest working company, and everyone is putting in 110%. That's going to be the culture that we have.”

That's very Silicon Valley, MIT, tech mentality. I was really proud of that, to begin with, but after being at the company for five years and running it in that way, I was building this company to try to help make other people healthy and my own personal health was completely deteriorating. I actually ended up having to take two medical leaves of absence from my company, because my Crohn's disease got so bad, I lost 30 pounds in a month at one point.

Sinead: Oh, God.

Scott: My doctors were saying that the only choice I had was to remove my colon. When that happened, I really had to take a step back and say, "Wow, okay, where have you gone wrong? Why has your health gotten to such a bad place that you literally cannot go to the office, you can't work, you have to take a medical leave?"

When I did really take a step back and focused on that, then I realized that this mentality of we're going to be the hardest working and putting in 110% all the time, that might work if you look at things in a sprint, or in this finite game perspective, and this is a concept that we can talk about more too. We're playing an infinite game here. We're playing a game where the goal is to stay in the game for as long as possible and to build a long-term successful company, not a company that executes and "wins" in two or three years.

If we wanted to do that with Space Coyote, I knew that we had to prioritize health and happiness above everything else because if we have a team that is healthy, and happy and focusing not just on their physical health, but also their mental health, that's how we're going to get the best performance out of employees. If you work 60, 70 hour weeks, but only 30 of those hours are productive, then you should only be working 30 or 40 hours and then resting the rest of the time because then you'll be really productive when you're actually working. That type of mentality has really worked well for us.

I think because of that, our employees are really grateful. I've had employees multiple times, say things like, "You're the best boss I've ever had,” or, “I've never worked for a company that actually cared about my health before," and things like that, which to me is like that's part of being an entrepreneur, is to build the best environment possible. It's not just to make money with the products that you sell.

Sinead: Absolutely. I love your entire model and the work culture that you've really fostered at Space Coyote, it seems like such a fun place to work, and something you said a few minutes ago about, “this is an infinite game.” I really agree with you there on that and something else that you have done at Space Coyote that really ties into that is, instead of jumping in the rat race and trying to compete with your competitors, you partner with them and bolster each other up to profit together and find success together. Can you tell us a little bit about those efforts and maybe one or two of your favorite partnerships today?

Scott: Yes, definitely. I'll explain the concept of the infinite gamer versus finite game a little bit for any of your listeners that aren't familiar with that but it's a concept that Simon Sinek talks about a lot. An infinite game is one where the goal of the game is to stay in the game as long as possible. Players can come in or out. There's no fixed rules and really, if you look at it life is an infinite game and business should be an infinite game.

Whereas a finite game is more of like a soccer game, where there's set rules, the players are defined, people can't come in and out, and somebody wins at the end. I think the way that most companies today, especially in America, look at business is in this finite game mentality. The issue is that companies aren't built to last two years, or five years or seven years, a company should be built to last indefinitely.

If we want to have that perspective, that means that in the infinite game that we're playing, we're not trying to win, we're not trying to just beat our competitor, we're not trying to have someone else lose, we're trying to for ourselves, and also for the good of the industry, we want as many companies and as many people to be successful as possible. That is part of what we did from the beginning was collaborating with extract brands, which, for example, our first collaboration was with Nasha on their hash, that's one of my favorite collaborations.

That was the first one that we did. We still work really closely with Baron and his team over there. Today, Nasha has their own infused pre-roll on the market. That's not something that we're upset about at all because it's good for his business and we have our market share, and our market share is still growing. There's room for more than one of us, there's room for many players.

We really want to help build up the industry as a whole. I think the more the industry as a whole is successful, the more individual companies can be successful and the best way to do that is to collaborate with other companies.

Sinead: That's great. I love what you said there. There's really a piece of the pie for everyone. I think the cannabis industry is becoming more and more collaborative. I love to see companies like yours that are really leading the charge there so that's awesome.

Jumping into another key initiative at Space Coyote, you make a lot of efforts towards being a sustainable company and really trying to pick the best packaging options and reducing your carbon footprint at Space Coyote. Actually, you commissioned a full review of packing options when you first started Space Coyote and you tried to take a look at their environmental impacts, you actually discovered that compostable plastics came out of the bottom, which I found pretty surprising when I read that.

What do you use instead of Space Coyote and how are you guys working to make your packaging even more sustainable?

Scott: That whole situation was a total mindfuck because I was expecting compostable plastics as well to be the best option. What we learned was that it was in fact the worst and this is a case-- We hired a friend who is an environmental consultant. She was equally surprised as us. I think it was just as difficult mentally for her when she delivered the findings to us, but really, when it comes down to it and as we've thought about this, and this is one of the other reasons why it's a bit of a mind, is that as a company that produces products, there is no way that you can't make a negative impact on the environment. That's something that I personally just had to sit with for a bit and just think about. There's no way that we're not at least going to make some negative impact. What's the best thing to do then? Do we shut down the business or what?

One of the people that I really respect as a businessman and the way that they've set up what they do is Yvon Chouinard, who's the founder of Patagonia. He talks about this a bit too. His perspective is that it's a company's responsibility to make as little impact as possible.

It's impossible to make zero impact. What can you do to make as little impact as possible? With this packaging review, what we found was really, the best thing that you can do is to reuse things. Anything that you produce, whether it's compostable plastic or normal plastic or glass or aluminum, the best thing that you can do is to reuse things.

That's why our five packs are in these aluminum tins that happen to be the perfect size to fit your credit cards in, or you can store your jewelry in there or condoms or medicine or whatever. We really encourage people to reuse our packaging as much as possible. The environmental study that we commissioned actually found that as far as greenhouse gas, emissions on the watershed, energy usage, that type of thing, plastic is actually one of the best options.

I am a huge lover of the ocean. I've lived near the ocean, my entire life. The way that I de-stress is by going swimming or going surfing and just spending time on the beach whenever I can. Whenever I see plastic on the beach, which is literally every time I go to the beach, it pains me. I spend part of, or I try to spend part of every month in Hawaii.

That was my home for the past couple years. I've had to rescue sea turtles from fishing line and I've pulled so much trash off the beach. Using plastic is just something that I want to get away from as much as possible. Our joint tubes have been plastic.

We kept them that way for a while because we really wanted to think about what we could do that was better. It's difficult to find an aluminum tube that is child-resistant and actually preserves the integrity of the product well through air [unintelligible [00:32:53]. We're actually moving to glass tubes very soon, which have their pros and cons.

They're a lot heavier than plastic. The energy usage to ship them is higher. From my perspective, the ocean, it's the largest thing on the planet. If we destroy the ocean, we're going to destroy the whole planet. Whatever we can do to help prevent that plastic getting into the ocean, I think is positive. We've looked at using plastic that was recycled and harvested out of the ocean, which I still would like to do at some point in the future.

That isn't at scale yet where it can make sense for a company like ours, but I think that there's a lot of options that can be good, but really when it comes to on to it, we just look at how can we make the smallest impact possible? How can we encourage people to reuse? What else can we do as a company beyond just the packaging decisions that we make to try to encourage others also to make as little impact on the environment as possible?

Sinead: That's great. How mind-blowing that compostable plastic is at the bottom there. I really did love seeing that you guys are moving to glass, which I know, like you said, has its pros and cons, but that's awesome that you guys are moving in that direction. If I'm not mistaken, you're now at in 250 dispensaries across California. What go do you have now at Space Coyote over the next few years? Do you have any big plans coming up listeners should know about?

Scott: Two big things. The first is we're launching a new project very soon, at the end of this month, that's called the Sativa Preservation Society. This is a project that is really near and dear to our hearts. It's an idea that Libby and I talked about from day one and we're just now being able to make it a reality. In the cannabis market today, you can buy sativas and you can buy indicas, but really everything that you buy is a hybrid. It's really difficult to find and pure sativas.

That's because the sativa growing cycle is much longer than the indica growing cycle. Typically, yields are a little bit lower. It might take sativas 14 weeks to flower, whereas it takes indicas eight weeks to flower. For a farmer it's just, it's difficult to make the same amount of money on something that takes almost twice as long.

Everything's become hybridized. That means that whenever you're smoking sativa, and for people that like those more energetic effects, what you can get on the market today is just not the same as what was available from the original genetics. We've been able to partner up with an incredible cultivator [unintelligible [00:35:44] impossible. We have exclusive access.

As far as I know, this is the first time these specific screens have ever made it to the legal market in any state. We're starting with three of the original haze strains that were brought over from the Netherlands by Nebel. They're the strains, that popular strains that you've heard of today like super silver hazes or Jack Herer or strains like that, blue dream.

These all originated from these haze strains.

They look funky. They have a smell that you probably have never smelled before in cannabis. It's like this and [unintelligible [00:36:32] scentsy just interesting smell, and the high, it's legitimately drinking two cups of coffee. It's just so cool. This weed, one of the strains is called Cuban Black Haze. It was known as the piff in New York for a while. People used to pay like $800 an ounce for this stuff in the black market because it's so unique.

We now have it at scale. We'll be presenting it to the California market at the end of this month. The high is just so incredible. I'm so excited to get that out there. That really speaks to what I was talking about earlier in that anyone can be a product company, but not anyone can build a unique brand.

Part of the way that we do that is by creating unique products. Even our infused joints, when we came out with them at first, we did them differently than the other infused joints, because we thought it was a better quality way to do it. With the Sativa Preservation Society, these are strains and genetics that nobody has, and is just so unique.

It's not your latest wedding cake or ice cream cake or gelato cross that is absolutely everywhere. This shit is unique and awesome. We're really excited about that. The other thing that we'll be looking to do very soon is to take our California brand and start bringing that across the country. We've seen a lot of the MSOs are taking more of the east to west approach.

What I think is really going to end up winning, winning is more from the finite game perspective, but what is going to be successful in the, I really do believe is California brands coming to other parts of America, because that's what people think of when they think of weed. They think California, they think smoking on the beach, they think about a brand like Space Coyote if they haven't even heard Space Coyote before.

We just really believe that we're setting ourselves up to be the perfect brand to bring back to the East Coast or to places like Arizona or the Midwest and to really sell that California dream and the joint. We're really excited to get that started. That's great, man. A lot of big things ahead.

Sinead: I'm really excited for you guys and excited to see you, like you said, expand across the country into the East Coast. Scott, pivoting into some personal development questions here, before we wrap up the show first question here is, is there a book that's had a big impact on you and maybe like your life philosophy that you'd like to share with listeners?

Scott: There is, yes. It's actually required reading for any new employees that join Space Coyote and it’s the book written by the founder of Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard, it's called Let My People Go Surfing. I read that book in between leaving Nima and before starting Space Coyote. It really had a profound impact on the way that I think about not just business, but also life, and really, this perspective of do as little harm as possible and treat your employees right, and prioritize health and happiness. It's really an incredible little story. It tells both his story of how he started Patagonia and the ethos that went into that. I think they had the first on-premise childcare of any major company in America. Then that ended up becoming standard in a bunch of companies. They've done a lot of things like that that really just prioritize their employees first. We can see today they're an insanely valuable company, have grown a ton. That really stems from their ethos and the way they do business. That book has had a really big impact on me.

The other book that I recommend to anyone who wants to be an entrepreneur is The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz. That is the most real business or entrepreneurship book that I've ever read. I think a lot of books, they give these concepts and these theories and all this stuff, but that book it's really just a set of stories from the battle trenches written by Ben Horowitz.

It's just a lot of really good lessons for any company, for any founder, you're going to have times when things are really difficult and you might be afraid of going out of business or you have to deal with some really difficult employee issues or that type of thing. That stuff can be really stressful and he has a lot of very good advice in there that is very empathetic with what any founder will go through.

Sinead: Ma, I'm going to have to put those on my reading list. I had actually listened to the Patagonia's How I Built This interview. I don't know, have you listened to that one?

Scott: I have not. I'm going to have to check it out.

Sinead: Oh, man. I highly recommend it. It's funny, when I was researching Space Coyote, I saw so many parallels and I wondered if you had taken maybe some inspiration from him.

Scott: Yes, 100%.

Sinead: That's awesome. So cool. Moving into our next question here Scott, you touched on this earlier, but you've talked about your personal connection between cannabis and music and how those two things are intertwined for you and they really enhance each other. What's a band or maybe a concert that you've been to where you found that especially true?

Scott: Oh, man, all of them. For me, the combination of cannabis and music is just so incredible. I think one of one of my favorite experiences was with a band called Kikagaku Moyo. I'll look up the spelling so your listeners can find that.

Sinead: Yes, that'd be good.

Scott: It's spelled K-I-K-A-G-A-K-U and the next word Moyo, M-O-Y-O. They are a Japanese psychedelic rock band. You can find their stuff on Spotify. It's good, but seeing them live is just one of the most incredible experiences. They have a guy who plays an electric sitar and they're all barefoot on stage and they have that long, perfectly straight Japanese psychedelic rocker hair. They're such a blast from the past, which I often joke with my friends that it's like, I feel like I was born or should have been born in the ‘60s. They just put on such a great show.

I remember the first time I saw them was in San Francisco. It was actually shortly after launching Space Coyote. Libby and I and a couple friends smoked the Space Coyote before going in and watching the show. It was just one of the best musical experiences I've ever had. Now they're starting to gain a little more name recognition. I think they're on tour in California this summer. I highly recommend people to find them and go smoke a Space Coyote and listen to some Japanese psychedelic rock. That has definitely been one of my favorite experiences.

Sinead: Awesome. Man, that sounds so cool. I'll have to check them out. Scott, wrapping up here, how can listeners find you online and connect with you at Space Coyote and how can they maybe try a few of your products if they're in the California area?

Scott: The best way to find me is on Instagram @scottsundvor S-C-O-T-T-S-U-N-D-V-O-R. They can find Space Coyote on Instagram as well @spacecoyoteofficial. Our website is a great place, especially because we will be launching a direct-to-consumer site within the next week or two. People can go to our website, spacecoyote.org, and order. If they're in California, in most of the major metropolitan areas, they'll be able to order directly from our site delivered right to their door, typically within the next 24 hours. That's at spacecoyote.org.

Sinead: Awesome. All right, Scott. Thank you so much for coming on the show. We really appreciate hearing from you. I really wish you the best of luck with everything coming up for Space Coyote over the next year.

Scott: Thank you so much. This was great being here, really enjoyed the questions and talking with you.

Matthew: If you enjoyed the show today, please consider leaving us a review on iTunes, Stitcher, or whatever app you might be using to listen to the show. Every five-star review helps us to bring the best guests to you. Learn more at cannainsider.com/iTunes.

What are the five disruptive trends that will impact the cannabis industry in the next five years? Find out with your free report at cannainsider.com/trends. Have a suggestion for an awesome guest on CannaInsider, simply send us an email at feedback@cannainsider.com. We'd love to hear from you. Please do not take any information from CannaInsider or its guests as medical advice.

Contact your licensed physician before taking cannabis or using it for medical treatments. Promotional consideration may be provided by select guests, advertisers or companies featured in CannaInsider. Lastly, the host or guests on CannaInsider may or may not invest in the companies entrepreneurs profiled on the show.

[music]

Please consult your licensed financial advisor before making any investment decisions. Final disclosure to see if you're still paying attention, this little whistle jingle you're listening to will get stuck in your head for the rest of the day. Thanks for listening and look for another CannaInsider episode soon. Take care. Bye-bye

Ep 363 – Cannabis Is About To See An Influx of Capital, Here’s What You Need To Know

scott berman jordan tritt panther group

With more states legalizing recreational cannabis and federal legalization on the horizon, the industry is gearing up for an influx of capital. Here to help us stay ahead of the curve is Jordan Tritt and Scott Berman of The Panther Group.

Learn more at https://thepanthergroup.co

Key Takeaways:

[00:56] An inside look at The Panther Group, a venture capital consulting firm for growth-stage cannabis companies

[1:42] Scott and Jordan’s backgrounds in cannabis and how they came to start The Panther Group

[3:08] How cannabis investing is changing and the different factors driving those changes

[5:25] When we might see federal legalization in the US and how to prepare in advance

[6:48] How the SAFE Banking Act could impact cannabis investing over the next few years

[8:06] The characteristics Scott and Jordan look for when considering investing in a company

[10:22] The most promising sectors in cannabis right now

[12:32] The Panther Group’s data-driven digital advertising approach

[15:44] The biggest pain points in digital advertising for cannabis companies and how to navigate them

[21:39] Interesting new gaps emerging in the cannabis marketplace right now

[27:05] Scott and Jordan’s tips on how to develop a successful pitch

[28:54] What investors should look for in a pitch deck and where to spot red flags

Click Here to Read Full Transcript

Matthew Kind: Hi, I'm Matthew Kind. Every Monday, look for a fresh new episode where I'll take you behind the scenes and interview the insiders that are shaping the rapidly evolving cannabis industry. Learn more at cannainsider.com. That's C-A-N-N-A-insider dot com. Now, here's your program.

Sinead Green: With more states legalizing recreational cannabis and federal legalization on the horizon, the industry is gearing up for an influx of capital. Here to help us stay ahead of the curve is Jordan Tritt and Scott Berman of the Panther Group. Scott and Jordan, thank you so much for joining us today.

Scott Berman: Thank you.

Jordan Tritt: Thank you so much, Sinead, for having us.

Sinead: It's great to have you on. The two of you are in separate states at the moment. Can you give us a sense of geography? Where are you in the world today?

Jordan: Yes, this is Jordan Tritt and I'm based in Atlanta, Georgia.

Scott: This is Scott, and I'm based in Philadelphia.

Sinead: Great, okay. What is the Panther Group on a high level?

Jordan: Yes. Panther Group is a venture capital advisory firm, started in 2020. Originally, Scott and I have been investors in the space since 2014. We've invested in about 40 companies alongside our partners. In early 2020, we saw an opportunity to provide more services to portfolio companies and other potential clients in the space. We look for fast-growing companies, typically in the Series C through Series B stage. We provide capital, business and strategic advisory, and data-driven lead gen in digital advertising services.

Sinead: Great. Can the two of you share a little bit about your background? What led you to start the Panther Group? Scott, maybe we'll start with you on this one.

Scott: Sure. My background is digital advertising. My previous company I co-founded was a digital ad company that did political and healthcare targeting online, using data-driven programmatic media mostly. I got into it through politics, through supporting the Marijuana Policy Project. That led me to the Panther Opportunity Fund, which Jordan mentioned. Then as we got going in the Panther Fund, we just naturally formed the Panther Group, based on our individual experiences and the collective group that we've put together.

Sinead: Okay, great. Jordan, how about you? What's your backstory like?

Jordan: My background is in accounting and finance. I've worked for a number of startups, over about a 10-year career, raising about 30 million in debt and equity for software and hardware companies. I joined Panther Opportunity Fund in 2017 with my dad, and then Scott, and a couple of other partners joined shortly thereafter. I've been running the Panther Opportunity Fund for the last four years day-to-day, evaluating companies, helping raise capital from investors, and then serving on the boards of different portfolio companies helping them grow.

Sinead: Okay, great. Can you give us a snapshot of the cannabis investing landscape right now, how things progressed in cannabis investing, and what's driving that change?

Jordan: Yes, like I said, we've been in the space for a while. We joke, but it's not a joke that six months in cannabis is like two years in the real world. We've seen a lot of those trends go in terms of- 2018, a lot of companies going public. More recently, we've seen the SPAC trend. We've seen a number of different things happen in the space that have influenced the investing landscape, as Scott I'm sure will talk about at some point. There's really just never been a better time in terms of investing in cannabis. Companies are the largest, we have the most-- More and more states are expanding all the time. Politically, there are a number of things happening. There's just a lot of excitement.

Also, the reality is that real estate and stocks have performed extremely well. Hopefully, they'll continue, but there are always real investors who recognize the opportunities to take some chips off the table, and put it into other exciting growing spaces. We feel like cannabis, as much as ever, is prime for a lot of new capital to come in. Particularly at the Panther Group, we spend a lot of time uncovering interesting pockets of capital and liquidity for our portfolio companies.

Scott: I just want to add to that. I think politics, it always comes back to that. In the last six months, actually, there's been a lot of movement in many different states, and when things open up politically, then more capital comes in. These markets need money to develop. There's a lot of investors coming out to the East Coast that have been out there in Oregon and Washington and California for years. They've done very well and now they're setting their sights on new markets. That really is changing the investing landscape, and providing a really unique opportunity now to get in while it's still relatively early.

Sinead: Absolutely. Going off that, what are your thoughts right now on the federal legalization timeline? How do you think things are going to pan out over the next few years in regards to that?

Scott: Well, I'm very optimistic when it comes to politics, more so than most. I also understand that in politics, some things take a very long time and then they take a short time. We've seen this happen with many other issues in our country that have not really been right, and they've been fixed over time. What we've seen as far as federal legalization goes, we still need one to two more election cycles. Every two years, things change a lot in our world. I think in '22 and '24, we're going to have a new Congress and maybe a new White House, and that's when I think we have a very good shot of getting federal legalization.

However, also, what's happening is that the states are changing so rapidly and coming online, that a large majority of the country already has access to legal cannabis. That could make the federal changes happen quicker. That's what I'm banking on, and speaking of banking, there's a lot going on with that as well. I think politics sometimes is not seen by everybody every day, and then all of a sudden, there's a bill on the floor, and things can change quickly.

Sinead: That's great. You just mentioned banking, what thoughts do you have on the Safe Banking Act? How do you think that could influence cannabis over the next couple of years?

Scott: Well, I think it's going to have a seismic impact. There's a lot of trouble right now when you're operating on any level in the cannabis space. Banking is difficult. There's also a lot less liquidity available to companies that are trying to borrow money to build their cannabis business. It's actually an opportunity for us as venture investors to get in with some of these companies when they can't typically go to a bank and take out a loan. They also can directly pay suppliers and payroll and everything else that a normal business does. It's just more complicated. There certainly are many solutions today, but there's still a lot of cash and there's a lot of security issues.

There's just a lot of things that would make it easier. For example, companies that operate in multiple states frequently have to have separate entities and banking relationships in each state where they operate. That's a problem for them as well. I think from a bottom-line profitability standpoint and security and compliance standpoint, a lot of things are going to get better after the banking bill goes through.

Sinead: Okay, great. Getting back to the Panther Group, you mentioned earlier, since you guys started, you've got about 40 investments to your name. What characteristics does a company need to pique your interest? What are maybe one or two investments that have really stood out to you over the years that you're most excited about?

Jordan: Yes, that's a great question. We've had two funds. In the funds, we've had investment theses that have guided a lot of what we look for in companies. Some of those criteria we look for is a really strong management team, especially one that's coachable. At Panther Group, like I mentioned, we're involved in a number of different areas. We find that entrepreneurs who are open to feedback and open to expertise in different areas tend to perform the best. An openness and willingness to receive support and help from other people is one thing. We're looking for leaders in particular spaces.

Within the 35 or 40 companies that we've invested in, that's been across more than 20 sectors, including obviously, a heavy concentration in ancillary companies and also a fair amount of plant-touching companies. We're looking for some of those leaders within particular sectors in cannabis. Like I said, we're typically in the Series C through Series B stage. We get involved with companies that have revenue, ideally at least a million in revenue, and that have a clear exit plan over the next, realistically, five to eight years. Those are some of the criteria. We also look for companies that can expand and have applications outside of cannabis.

We've had some companies that have done really well expanding beyond cannabis because one of the exciting and interesting things about the cannabis plant is it's a very high-valued crop. A lot of technology has been developed that can be justified when it comes to the impact it can have on producing a better crop, a safer crop, et cetera. Some of that technology is now pouring over into other industries, which is really exciting.

Sinead: Great. Going into that, at the Panther Group that you have invested in a lot of companies across multiple sectors in the industry, what maybe two sectors do you find yourself most gravitating towards right now, and what do you think is maybe an up-and-coming sector at the moment?

Scott: I think it's interesting, the vertically integrated operations in limited licensed states, or new-ish states, states that are coming on and that are really underserved at this moment, that's a really exciting thing for us, so we're looking at several [unintelligible [00:11:01] opportunities. Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, these are not fully developed markets, and there's a lot of opportunity with the right location and a vertically integrated situation. I think that's really interesting for us.

We're always interested in technology. Certainly, data, any company that's collecting data on cannabis consumers and deploying it certainly is interesting to us. It's a tough question because we see a lot of opportunity in the lab sector actually. There's a lot of states that start to build grow capacity, and they don't have enough labs, or they don't have quality labs. There's opportunities for rollups in the lab side of things. I would say that those, going forward, they're all going to still be relevant for a couple of years to come for sure until these markets are fully served like the Western markets.

One other thing I'll just add is there's a lot of opportunity on brands, on the brand side of things. We're so early in the branding of cannabis products. There's only one brand, maybe Cookies, and there's few others that are really going to multiple- many markets right now. I think that over the next couple of years, investing in a brand that's doing well like on the West Coast and bringing it to the East Coast is an example of where we see a lot of opportunity and rolling brands together.

Sinead: Okay, great. I want to shift gears here to the digital advertising side of the Panther Group because you guys are not only a venture capital firm, but you also do digital advertising. I've read you have a very data-driven approach. Can you tell us about that and what you do for brands on that front?

Scott: Sure. We work with first and third-party data, sometimes from the brand itself. Taking their customer data, onboarding it and matching it to cookies and device IDs and cable boxes, and we do a [unintelligible [00:13:05] media to first-party data sets. Then we also look in the third-party data world to target people with different demographics; age, geo, gender, what type of car they drive, what type of community they live in. We look at all these signals and we apply them into programmatic media channels, and we work-- As the Panther Group, we're agnostic as far as who we use. We work with a lot of different folks, and the idea is we're going to understand who's buying edibles in Northern California and who's buying flower in So-Cal, and really trying to focus in on these audiences and then geo-fence.

There's a lot of data that goes into geo-targeting. Where are the stores? Where are the stores that carry your brand? How can we find people and open up new markets? We want to sell more and drive more traffic in this store where people ask for your brand or their website, but we also want to open up and sell into new places. There's a lot of data coming in from the beginning and a lot on the other side, on the metric side, we can measure a lot.

Jordan: Just to add to that, what we're able to do, and we're seeing a lot of interest in now, is co-brand or co-advertising between brands and retailers. This is something that's exciting for a few reasons. One is brands have been struggling for a long time to get that first-party data and understand who is actually buying their products because a lot of times they just put it on the shelves of retailers, and that information is captured by point-of-sale companies.

There really aren't good-- There aren't solutions out there right now looking to solve that challenge which is how do we bring together the brands, the retailers, the point-of-sale data, analyze that, and then work together to drive traffic into the store featuring particular brands, et cetera. This is one of those things where everyone wins. That's what we look for as opportunities where we can-- Because we're connectors and we have lots of conversations across different types of companies, we're able to bring together otherwise disparate conversations or companies that wouldn't otherwise come together, but we're able to connect them and bring tools to make it all work.

Sinead: Okay, great. Cannabis right now, the digital advertising, things are a little tricky with the Google and Facebook off the table obviously. What are the biggest pain points brands are facing right now? How does digital advertising-- How is it different in our industry than it is in most other industries at the moment?

Scott: The first big problem obviously is Google and Facebook account for about 60% to 70% of most small business advertising in this country, and they are off-limits almost to all cannabis advertising. Some CBD might be possible now. That's the biggest challenge. They've made easy of the years for the average small business structure without a big marketing team to do that. Without that, there's a big challenge on how do you drive traffic to your website without those two tools. That's number one.

Number two is really, I believe, a lot of brands don't fully understand who's buying their product. Part of it is because of the rapid growth in this industry and the brands are starting to be in the 50 or 100 stores, and they're selling out and they're barely keeping up with the demand. They really don't have a handle on who's buying what, where, and when. That's a big problem too is really selling more to the same people or selling more to that same store.

Now, what we're trying to do is help them corral this data, understand their audiences, and then find look-alikes, and sell more to the same people. Retargeting is a very popular tactic, and most of these folks have never tried this before on their website. That right there can help a vendor, a brand really get more brand awareness.

Sinead: Okay, great. Going off that, what thoughts do you have for how things will change for digital advertising in the industry when we do see federal legalization and the industry is no longer segmented by state?

Scott: I think you'll certainly see a lot of the bigger players open up the advertising and there will be a lot more inventory available. That'll definitely happen, but I also think there'll still be restrictions somewhat. You really can't do alcohol ads a lot on-- Google AdWords is really not for that either. There's definitely-- It's going to be nuances here and there, but I think more of the big players will open themselves up to digital ads for cannabis.

I also just wanted to add one other thing too though is you're going to see that there's going to be a crossover between mainstream-- Let's face it. Cannabis is getting to be mainstream very quickly, so you're going to start to see ads on television and you'll start to see ads on digital-- We do a lot of digital video advertising, like pre-roll video on apps and websites, and I think you're going to start to see that being a lot easier and a lot more available to cannabis brands and then they'll start to build those national followings.

Sinead: Okay, great. Are there any particular pieces of the cannabis ecosystem right now that the two of you are most excited about?

Jordan: That's a great question. I think what Scott talked about in terms of the brands moving from the West Coast to the East Coast and the new consumers, I think there's just a very ripe opportunity to help companies- both companies, both the license holders on the East Coast and brands and experts on the West Coast to come together and make seven, eight years of learning out in Oregon or Washington, Colorado, take that and bring that expertise day one. The same thing like we're talking about with the data and knowing who's buying their products.

We say the same type of person that drinks red wine on the East Coast kind of looks the same as the person on the West Coast that drinks red wine. It's the same product. If we know people, like Scott's saying, or fit certain demographics, then we can target them as new markets come online. I think the acceleration of cannabis mainstream into the new markets including how the legislation and regulatory pieces roll out, that should happen a lot smoother hopefully than in the past. I think that the pace at which the growth is happening, and what we can do to facilitate that is probably the most exciting thing for us.

Maybe one other thing I think about is the entrance of family offices into the space because there's been a shortage of capital for the space and family offices because they're not prohibited by any governance or whatever so that they can invest how they want to invest. They are really taking to the opportunities to get in [unintelligible [00:20:57] big way. When you're launching a new vertically integrated company like Scott's describing, that's 15, 20 million of capital. That's not easy to raise on cannabis VCs in mass being able to write $15 million, $20 million checks, that's not where cannabis VCs have played, so the opportunity and the need for it is critical.

The entrance of family offices and what we're doing alongside Family Office Networks and the Cannabis Investment Club, we're really excited about being an entry point for those ultra-high net worth individuals to come into cannabis in a responsible way.

Sinead: Absolutely. Great. Going off that, do either of you see any gaps in the cannabis marketplace emerging that listeners should maybe be aware of?

Scott: Yes, [chuckles] every day. Yes, there's definitely gaps in-- Also, I look at it geographically too. If you go to the western states, the states that have had cannabis, there's not many gaps, there's not as many. There's people filling every sector of the industry and filling it with quantity. There's a lot of edibles brands in California right now. There's none out here in PA, and New Jersey, and New York, so that's a big gap in this part of the country.

As the industry keeps evolving, those gaps get filled because more capital comes in and businesses are developed. A couple of years ago, there were no point-of-sale systems for metric or seed-to-sale tracking programs. Now, there's 30 of them. I wouldn't want to start a business doing that today. I think a lot of it is based on where the business is developed and which state at this point.

Jordan: I think another interesting opportunity which we're seeing come up and it's the early days is this feedback loop between companies, let's just say manufacturers to keep it simple. The ones making products, and the consumers, and what are the effects that the consumers are having from taking particular products. Then where we get excited is on the lab and the analytical side.

One of our companies, Abstrax Tech which can analyze cannabis and they've identified up to 400 compounds within the cannabis plant. This is a really, really complex plant medicine and we don't know yet because it's been federally illegal, and the research and all that stuff have been minimal, we don't know the impact that this can have. What I'm seeing happen in the real world is that cannabis entrepreneurs, and operators, and stuff are not waiting for federal studies to be allowed.

We're trying to create our own feedback loop and bring in companies that conduct clinical trials. We've got the research side, we're looking at technology and platforms to gather all this data and make it usable. Then obviously, you're looking at the companies that are making the product and the ones that have the information on the consumers that can give us access.

That to me is a major thing in terms of trying to understand the impact of the plant is to get some feedback on how are people handling this and how are they getting affected by it. That's something that's pretty interesting from my standpoint.

Sinead: Great. Awesome. Getting back to where the Panther Group is at the moment, like we discussed earlier, you have invested in about 40 companies at this point since you started in 2014, and lots more to come I'm sure. What goals do you have at the Panther Group over the next year? Do you have any big plans coming up that you want to share?

Jordan: Yes, thank you for that opportunity. The number one need in the space, in general, is capital. We're doing a couple of things to solve that. One is we're going to be launching our new fund. The Panther Micro Fund targeting raised up to 10 million. We're out in the market coming up soon with that. Like I mentioned, we've got a partnership with Family Office Networks and the Cannabis Investment Club where we're bringing together a lot of active high net, ultra-high net worth family offices to come together and fund a lot of cannabis deals, so we want to bring a lot of deal flow into their group and get a lot of deals funded that way. Those are a couple of areas we're focused on.

Scott: I just also want to mention that in October, MJBizCon is in Las Vegas. We'll be there with- one of our investments is MJ Unpacked which is the first brand and retailer-focused show like a buying show. It will be at the Mandalay at the same time as MJBiz. I know a lot of your listeners will probably be in Vegas during that week and we'll be there often or all week and we'll be doing a lot, so please look for us when you're out there.

Sinead: That's great. That's funny. We actually just had George Jage, the founder of MJ Unpacked on the show. Listeners are all up to date on MJ Unpacked, but yes, that's an exciting event.

Scott: Yes. We're big fans of George and Kim and everything that they do. We're very excited to get back out there. We missed everybody last year.

Sinead: Absolutely. I think everyone's excited to get back in person there. That's great. Awesome. I wanted to ask you guys a few things. The two of you at this point, you've heard a lot of pitches, you're probably the cannabis pitch gurus in the industry at this point. If you were sitting down with a founder who was prepping his or her first pitch, what do's and don'ts would you give them?

Jordan: Definitely be yourself. Definitely, be prepared. Know the expected points of conversation, know the deck so that you can be able to walk through it and not have any issues if there are any technical difficulties, those things come up. Definitely, be prepared. Do your research. At this point, the space is pretty small, so if you can find someone who knows that person, it can give you a little bit of insight into what they're looking for.

Each group has its own buttons that get ticked. I would say along those lines, just use advisors and people who have been there. Know your strengths. If you're naturally a great operator but not a great fundraiser, that's okay, know that that's an area that needs to be improved, and either focus on it or make sure that you can cover it with other capable people.

At Panther Group, we're very transparent, and honest, and stuff, so we want to see and understand who you are. We're looking to invest in you, and the person, and the team, so we want to understand, really get to know you. That's important. That's from my vantage point, but I assume from other investor's vantage points, they look the same.

Sinead: Great. I love that you really played a very active role as an investor which is something that's hard to come by in the cannabis industry right now. That's definitely a unique characteristic of yours, of the Panther Group, and one that a lot of businesses look for in an investor, so that's great. On the flip side of that, what would you say should an investor look for in a pitch deck to really discern whether or not it would be worth their time, and what are maybe a few red flags there?

Scott: I just wanted to add to your last comment. It's really important, is us being there and along the journey, this is a journey, we're in for the long haul, and we like to help people along the way. It's really important for us to not just be a capital source and just a quiet-- We want to help. We want to help them realize their dreams and that's really exciting for me, and us, so personally.

As far as what we look for in a pitch deck, I would say certainly a lot of detail on what the plan is and what the projections are. Really show that you have an in-depth understanding of the numbers behind the idea. Lots of people have a good idea. What's your business model? When will you be profitable? How much capital will you burn until that time? That's one thing.

Some red flags are pitch decks that talk too much about the cannabis industry. My one suggestion to anyone is don't put too many slides in about how big the cannabis space is. All of us know already. We know it's big, we know it's exciting. We're already here because of that. Really focus on your business, and yes, the addressable market is important, but focus on how your business fits in.

Then I'll just add one other thing. A red flag is if you're not looking at the competition because if you come up into this space and think you have a brand new idea, you're probably not there. You really need to understand who's done this before, have they been successful, how much market share they have, how much money they raised. What I look for is someone that understands the landscape and how they might fit in and how they might win over time.

Jordan: I'll add a couple of things because I think this is interesting and probably informative for the listeners. For me, an exit strategy. I mean, it's generic, but for us, we need to know how you're planning on getting out of this business. We are not investing in any lifestyle businesses, they're all here to grow and exit, so we want to know how you're planning on making that happen. The team is extremely important, so make sure that you're talking about the team and sharing people's specific talents that make them uniquely qualified for that position.

The deck needs to flow. It needs to really tell a story. The number one thing that I always look for and try to get out of it is to walk away and say, "Okay, I get it. This is where they are, this is what they need, this is why they're going to be successful." It needs to just pretty easily compute and go together. If it's really complex and it doesn't flow nicely and stuff, then that's- I wouldn't say it's a red flag, but it's something that's going to probably make us not interested. Even worse than a red flag, it may end the conversation. Again, it gets into that preparation. The reality is you only have one chance to make that first impression.

Sinead: Absolutely. Well, thank you both so much for your words of wisdom there. That's super helpful for our listeners who are just getting going with their own ventures here and really appreciate those words of advice there. I'm going to jump to some personal development questions here, but after that, we'll get into your contact information and how people can connect with you guys and work with you if they're interested. First up, is there a book that has had a big impact on your life or way of thinking? Maybe we'll start with you on this one, Jordan.

Jordan: Yes, there are a few. I'd say on the personal side would be Eckhart Tolle', The Power of Now and also A New Earth. I think just the importance of living in the present and really just focusing on the moment that you have now. I think that's been something from a personal side. From a professional side, there was a book I think Patrick Lencioni wrote called Selling Naked. That was something that always stuck with me, a very good book. It's not what it sounds like. Another one recently that I've been reading is Dare to Lead by Brené Brown, also a very good book on leadership and willing to rumble as she says, and just being able to have tough conversations and open honest conversations.

That's something- I'll just add about this, the cannabis space that we love, the people are so genuine, and 99% of it, at least we found, the people we interact with and want to do business with are genuine and open. One of our salespeople, he's always amazed every day when he gets on the phone at how open and honest people are. Within a couple of minutes of the conversation, they're sharing all these details. That's just something that Scott and I, we're people-first, we're families. Just doing things the right way, and this thing is part of our lives. That's what's unique about the cannabis space. We're fortunate to be in it and to be able to weave a lot of the personal and professional things all in one.

Sinead: That's great. Yes, that's something I love. I'm fairly new to the industry. I've only been in the space for a couple of years now, but it's such a collaborative community, and like you said, very transparent with each other, which I love. That's a great point. Scott, what about you? Any good books that you--

Scott: Sure, lots of good books on the pandemic because I'm home a lot. Actually, The Power of Now. Our senior advisor is Dr. Ramy Tritt, who is Jordan's dad, and right before the pandemic, he gave me that book, The Power of Now, and it was very important, I loved it. Then I started reading a lot of other things and I'm really into learning about Buddhism. The book that I thought was the most important was by Thich Nhat Hanh and it was The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching about transforming suffering into peace, and it was just very powerful. I've read a lot of books like that in the last year and a half and I'm trying to work that into my personal and business life, all the things I'm learning there.

Sinead: Great. Awesome. That sounds fascinating. I'm going to have to add a few of these to my reading list. It's already a long one, but I'm going to put these up there. That's great. Next question here, what is your favorite unhealthy comfort food? This can be West Coast, East Coast. I know you guys have been all over the map in the US, but what would you say is your favorite- maybe a fast food joint?

Scott: Favorite fast food joint out West would have to be In-N-Out Burger for me. Jordan?

Jordan: I'm going to give the most boring answer, but it's an honest answer, which is I keep kosher, so I do not have a lot of fast food options, but I can tell you foods and stuff, my go-to, I have lots of foods ready, Oreos are just a personal favorite, a family favorite as well. Oreos, the regular ones are not dairy actually, so with the kosher thing, you can eat that after you eat-- I'd say go-to is Oreo.

Sinead: Nice. I'm vegan and Oreos are thankfully vegan, which is pretty amazing there. We keep them well-stocked in our pantry.

Jordan: Yes, there you go. Lots of different flavors, all different options, and [unintelligible [00:37:40].

Sinead: Awesome. Well, as we wrap up here, Jordan and Scott, how can listeners find you online and maybe get connected with you at the Panther Group if they're interested?

Scott: The best way is LinkedIn. I mean, it's the easiest way to find us on LinkedIn. Our website is thepanthergroup.co, we just relaunched it actually, and it looks great. You can come to the site and put your name in there. We are on Instagram, so you can follow us a little bit there. Also Clubhouse, we're doing a Clubhouse tonight at [7:00] Eastern about cannabis and politics. We're trying to get a little bit of audience there. For me personally, I'm easy to find on social media, Twitter, and feel free to reach out. I love making new contacts. As Jordan said, I just want to second what he said, we really do enjoy all the people and the interactions that we make every day. It's really a big part of what we do, and we're grateful. We also want to thank you officially for having us on, Sinead, and really appreciate the time today.

Sinead: Thank you both so much for coming on, we really appreciate it. Listeners definitely got some great words of wisdom in this interview, and definitely, some actionable things that they can take with them, so thank you both so much. All the best for the Panther Group and what you've got going on for the rest of the year.

Scott: Thanks very much.

Matthew: If you enjoyed the show today, please consider leaving us a review on iTunes, Stitcher, or whatever app you might be using to listen to the show. Every five-star review helps us to bring the best guests to you. Learn more at cannainsider.com/itunes. What are the five disruptive trends that will impact the cannabis industry in the next five years? Find out with your free report at cannainsider.com/trends. Have a suggestion for an awesome guest on CannaInsider? Simply send us an email at feedback@cannainsider.com. We'd love to hear from you. Please do not take any information from CannaInsider or its guests as medical advice. Contact your licensed physician before taking cannabis or using it for medical treatments.

Promotional consideration may be provided by select guests, advertisers, or companies featured in CannaInsider. Lastly, the host or guests on CannaInsider may or may not invest in the companies, entrepreneurs profiled on the show. Please consult your licensed financial advisor before making any investment decisions. Final disclosure to see if you're still paying attention. This little whistle jingle you're listening to will get stuck in your head for the rest of the day. Thanks for listening and look for another CannaInsider episode soon. Take care. Bye-bye.

Ep 362 – They Turned Their Small Delivery Service Into a Cannabis Empire

marie montmarquet allen hackett

On a mission to enter the cannabis space, siblings Marie Montmarquet and Allen Hackett left their homes in Tennessee to join the action in California. Just a few years later, they’re now co-founders of MD Numbers, one of the most successful vertically integrated cannabis brands in the country.

Learn more at https://www.mdnumbersinc.com

Key Takeaways:

[00:57] An inside look at MD Numbers and its subsidiaries, from MD Farms to Marie’s Deliverables

[1:17] Marie and Allen’s backgrounds in cannabis and how they came to start MD Numbers

[3:56] How Marie’s Deliverables has evolved since its start in 2015

[6:24] Why Marie and Allen decided to launch MD Farms and how this has helped them better compete in the Socal market

[7:33] Consumer preferences in Southern California versus Northern California

[9:56] The types of strains and wholesale services provided at MD Farms

[12:41] MD Farms’ mixed-light greenhouse facility and their plans for an extensive new indoor facility

[17:52] MD Numbers’ third company Legacy Coterie, a full-service cannabis consulting service focused on developing equity in cannabis

[18:44] The biggest compliance challenges cannabis brands face today and how to go about navigating them

Click Here to Read Full Transcript

[music]

Matthew Kind: Hi, I'm Matthew Kind. Every Monday, look for a fresh new episode where I'll take you behind the scenes and interview the insiders that are shaping the rapidly evolving cannabis industry. Learn more at cannainsider.com. That's C-A-N-N-A-insider dot com. Now, here's your program.

Sinead Green: Today's guests are Marie Montmarquet and Allen Hackett, the Tennessee-born sibling duo that moved to California on a mission to enter the cannabis space. A few years later, they're now co-founders and owners of MD Numbers, a family of vertically integrated cannabis brands headquartered in the Bay Area. Marie and Allen, Thank you so much for joining us today.

Allen Hackett: Thank you so much for having us.

Marie Montmarquet: Thank you so much, Sinead.

Sinead: It's great to have you here. Can you guys give us a sense of geography, where are you in the world today?

Marie: I'm in San Francisco.

Allen: I am currently in Los Angeles today.

Sinead: Great. What is MD Numbers on a high level?

Marie: MD Numbers is a vertically integrated brand in California that encompasses cultivation with 50,000 square feet, greenhouse facility, distribution, processing, we have a nursery as well, and a delivery company.

Sinead: Awesome. Can you both share a little bit about your backgrounds in cannabis and how you came to start MD Numbers?

Allen: Sure. I'll start us off. I've been gravitating to the plant, cannabis, early on in high school, something just recreationally doing, not necessarily had a vision or making a career or even trying to go to lengths of fighting legality. Coming from the South where we're from, it's highly illegal, that pushed us to come to California. It was more Marie that made the initial push that got us to California. She came out with other business ventures, and then eventually, wanted to start a delivery service, then I followed suit. We saw the opportunity and then we doubled down on it. Six years later, we built up MD Numbers that encompasses all the businesses we had built in this time period.

Sinead: Great. Marie, you're from Nashville, is that correct? What got you into cannabis originally?

Marie: Yes, I'm from Nashville. When I was in college, I began getting a lot more educated on all the benefits of cannabis and just the understanding of the free-mindedness of not necessarily letting a law control the benefits of the plant. In Tennessee, of course, it's still criminalized, so I knew that I needed to leave Tennessee. That's the main thing that brought me to California, but in Tennessee, I definitely learned a lot. Allen and I were both affected by the criminalization of cannabis in Tennessee, and we're super driven to leave and be somewhere we could sustain a legal cannabis business.

Sinead: That's great. MD Numbers, that's really just the umbrella for multiple companies you guys now own, but can you tell us a little bit about your start in California and how you got up and running in that market?

Marie: Yes, for sure. This was back in 2015 when we originally got started and everything was still under Prop 215. Back then we knew that we wanted to get started, whether it was distribution or delivery, and delivery was the lowest hanging fruit, so to speak. We had someone that we could easily get really premium well-crafted strains. Back then, there was only about 10 deliveries in the county that we started in. It was a lot less saturated than today, but just being an early adopter was one of the main things that allowed us to compete even today and transition from Prop 215 to Proposition 64.

Sinead: Awesome. Then delivery service, it was Marie's Deliverables, which you started in Redwood City, which at the time was a dry county with zero dispensaries. What was that experience like and how has Marie's Deliverables evolved since then?

Marie: It's definitely a good question. Back in 2015, when we started, that was the city that we originated in and Redwood City is actually still a dry county when it comes to retail. Allen and I have applied for one of the first retail licenses in Redwood City. We applied in February. Fingers crossed, that will be one of the six licenses that are the first in the county to turn it from dry to wet, so to speak. That experience taught us so much, and a lot about business intelligence because we touch pretty much every part of the supply chain, inventory, purchasing, logistics, marketing, managing employees, managing a fleet, and was really able to establish the needs for what we wanted to develop in the future and get into cultivation and a lot of other things.

That was in 2015 when we started and established it in Redwood City. In 2016, we were launching in LA. We went to Los Angeles and transitioned into opening up down there. That's when we had a big revolution or a revelation rather about needing to get into cultivation. 2016, we launched MD Cultivation and we were putting flower that we were growing into the delivery service. Then the end of 2017 is when everything transitioned from Prop 215 to Prop 64. We went from Redwood City and to San Francisco and launched there in 2018.

We went through a lot of different product scarcity issues and all the compliance and regulations really put a lot of small businesses out. Then in 2019, there were a lot of different tech integrations and just continuing to build the business. Now, going into 2021 after COVID last year, of course, everyone saw a spike in business due to e-commerce and delivery being the go-to during COVID, and I would say, still is the wave of the future. Now, we're also still in business and planning to do a relaunch in the future with a new call center and collaborations with in-house product.

Sinead: Great. You mentioned MD Farms a second ago and that you had a big revelation to start cultivating your own product. What sparked that revelation and how has that better enabled you to compete in the SoCal market?

Marie: What we learned when we went to LA was there was a lot of competitors down there with delivery services that are all cultivating their own product. Because of that, they were able to have a really low cap. Really low max price, which was around $30. At that point was really the future that we were being able to see but in real-time that we were going to need to have control of a piece of the production somewhere to compete. Not just be in the supply chain, but own a piece of the supply chain.

In cannabis, there's just been a race to commoditize this plant and bring down the price as fast as possible with a lot of corporate cannabis. We wanted to grow premium flower and create a premium brand and that would enable us to compete in the California market anywhere as long as we could own a piece of the supply chain.

Sinead: Great. I've read when you entered the SoCal market, you discovered that the consumer preferences, there were a lot different from the NorCal market. Can you talk a little bit about the preferences there and the differences in the flower market in each part of the state?

Marie: It's crazy. I always say there's a lot of microclimates in California, and it's a joke, but not really a joke that you really do have to sell cannabis differently in each area of the state because in Southern California specifically, there's a lot of strains that they prefer down there that aren't necessarily really popular in the Bay Area. Southern California is really known for ocean grown and OG strains. When we went to Los Angeles in 2016, we didn't have necessarily all the OG strains that the preference was down there. We had a lot of cookie strains. We had a lot of different varieties of sativas and non-OG strains, but for whatever reason, they just have a lot of different preferences and are really OG-dominated down there.

Allen: To add to that too, I think people don't realize that LA is so big too. I mean, there's a lot of tourists there compared to the Bay Area, which is really small. It's really a lot of niche smokers in different communities whereas Los Angeles is really wide open, a lot of tourism. With tourism, you're looking at close to 30 million people annually that visit and travel in Los Angeles. A lot of that comes with people not necessarily educated on cannabis. When you tend to get uneducated people, they tend to like strong candidates, something that gives them a really strong effect. They want to feel that high, compared to what I'm noticing in the Bay Area.

There's a lot more functional smokers, people that like to be high, but want to be able to work and do things. A lot more sativas, a lot more hybrids, a lot more flavorful strains, I would say, up North in the Bay Area compared to in Southern California. It's more of a preference on THC content, how high is the THC, how stoned do I feel? That's where you get into more of the ocean-grown stuff, the OGs, which tend to be a little more stronger and gassier than your traditional hybrids or exotic flowers.

Sinead: Great. That makes sense. Touching on what you were talking about with the strains there, right now, you have your own in-house brands in the works I've read, you're in the research and development phase there, but right now you provide wholesale and private labeling at MD Farms. Can you tell us a little bit about all of the different strains you grow and who your typical client is?

Allen: Yes. For us, being able to have the delivery service and having all that data there, what people are buying and what people are liking to smoke and also what our competitors are doing as well because we can see everybody's menu on the same search engines that we have, we use that with our farm trying to make sure that we're growing strains that are popular, that are sought after, and that quite frankly are easy to sell.

We tend to grow a lot of hybrids, a lot of exotic strains there. We don't necessarily dive too much into sativas or sativa-leaning products. One, it's a little harder to grow. The climate that we have in Monterey County, it's a lot easier to grow some of those exotic strains. To name a few, for instance, we have a nice Gelato #41 cut, Gushers, Chem Cookies, Lemonade. We have a lot of Kushmans and different things that we got from different breeders throughout the state. We work with a few different geneticists and a few different breeders to try to curate strains that work well in our climate with our style.

Getting into cannabis and cultivation, we've seen a lot of people's shortcomings and a lot of people fail. We had those same struggles going into it. We were just on a smaller scale, so we can take those punches and keep moving. In a lot of those things, we're trying to build out a brand. It is very expensive to build a brand out in today's market. That was something that Marie and myself just did not want to focus on. We really wanted to focus on getting better at cultivating, getting better at offering delivery to our customers, and getting better at building relationships with different distributors throughout the state. We held off on that.

Now, three, four years later, we're looking to add a brand to our resume and have that in-house brand for our customers to be able to get a product straight from the farm straight to them, to the consumer. It's something we're working on now, and hopefully, with our new retail applications in line and with the farm expanding, we'll be able to create that brand and have it in the market and be able to provide it to our customers.

Sinead: Great. You said the cultivation side is just hugely important to you at MD Numbers and you've placed a lot of emphasis on it and it's clearly been a huge benefit to you guys that you have total control of that part of the supply chain there. Tell us about your mixed-light greenhouse facility and the new indoor facility that you are currently working on.

Allen: Very blessed to be able to have and got into the county of Monterey early when we did in 2016 and locked down a facility there. It's really hard to find a property in that regard. We currently have a 50,000-square foot greenhouse, 30,000-square feet of flowering space, and 20,000-square feet of nursery. We produce on average around 500 to 600 pounds per month that we wholesale and offer white label services for.

We have about 15 to 25 employees. That ranges depending on [unintelligible [00:13:25] [tremors?] and things like that. We operate year-round, 365 days a year we are open and those plants are getting fed and they're getting sunlight and they're getting nutrients and we're catering to those plants year-round. That was a big benefit for us, especially when we launched the delivery of having this other sector that we could, one, build relationships within the cannabis community, have insight into different strains and different things like that, and just have more data to be able to provide a better end product to the user that we're servicing.

With that, we decided to launch an indoor facility. In Greenfield, California, we were recently approved from the City Council for all of our regulatory permits and building permits to build out a 20,000-square foot indoor cultivation facility there. It'll be 200 lights when completed with a tissue culture lab and an R&D nursery as well as distribution as well. The main reason we wanted to launch that is because, like I said, going back to the delivery, we have all the data. We sell all types of product from high-quality indoor product to low-quality indoor, to greenhouse product, to mixed-light, to outdoor product. There is something for everybody. There's not just one strain or one type of cannabis that everybody likes. With that, we're purchasing indoor product from different distributors and different brands throughout the state.

We were like, "All right, if we can replace that with our own brand and then launch that brand and have indoor and mixed-light and greenhouse products, then we'll have a better chance of making better margins for ourselves." That's been my focus for the last year is trying to get that up and running and launch that, raising funds for it as well, then this will all coincide with the distribution and delivery that Marie's overseeing in the Bay Area, so our product will flow up north and hopefully be sold through our delivery through our stores.

Sinead: I've read you've got a huge philosophy about paying it forward, which I love. Part of what you use your cultivation facility for is demonstrations and educating equity candidates who want to get into this space. Can you share a little bit about that aspect of MD Numbers and the different projects you have and why that’s so important to you guys particularly in cannabis?

Marie: For sure. Allen and I definitely come from a background that's been very relatable to a lot of the people that we mentor and coming from a place where cannabis obviously is criminalized and the war on drugs was so big. We definitely take it upon ourselves to use the farm and any other educational resources we can to provide assistance. We partnered with Success Centers about two and a half years now. Angela White there is the manager of the Equity Program and she's definitely been really impactful on Allen and I.

Currently, we have a grant from the Office of Cannabis in San Francisco and the state to provide technical assistance and we provide mentorship and one-on-one counseling for those going through the Equity Program, making sure that they're educated about the supply chain, business economics, and brand creation or where even they want to start in the supply chain and how it fits in with anything they're currently doing and hopefully have the most success because a lot of these things are un-funded and the Equity Programs are currently underfunded when it comes to the larger capacity of capitalization. They might give you a little micro-grant here and there, but they have to really make sure they understand.

We use the delivery and we use the farm, we do a monthly tour on the farm to bring down all the equity applicants with Ms. Angela White, and we give them a live workshop there.

Allen does an amazing job and takes them through the entire farm from nursery through flowering, into our harvesting, processing, showing them the full post-production, everything from start to finish. It's a beautiful tour. Then we offer virtual workshops as well. Every other week, there's a job fair. In the week that there's not a job fair, there's a virtual workshop that we bring in professionals from all around cannabis and the supply chain, accountants, attorneys, all sorts of people to give workshops to those that are underneath the Success Center umbrella.

Sinead: That's amazing. In a few minutes here, we'll talk about how listeners can maybe take part in that because that's an amazing list of resources you guys have there. Going off that, can you tell us a little bit about Legacy Coterie and the work you do there as well?

Marie: Yes. Legacy Coterie is more along the permitting and distribution side of consulting underneath brand development. We have a lot of people that have built really large brands in California that can help with launch strategy, how to take over different areas, and into different brands, into retailers. We do operations consulting. Equity advising is wrapped up in there, just pro bono work that we do for a lot of equity. We bring in the same tools and resources to wrap it all together as a wrap-around service.

Sinead: Great. I'm going to shift gears here a little bit and ask you guys about the cannabis industry at large at the moment. What would you say are the biggest challenges brands are facing when it comes to compliance and legality and how would you advise them to go about navigating those challenges?

Marie: I would say a lot of the compliance and legality comes down to this just being such a brand new industry that's created and overseen by the Bureau of Cannabis Control. You have to make sure that you're involved with all of your local- your city or county and your state regulatory agencies. With that being said, permitting, of course, could be the largest challenge. The timeline for permitting is very long. You might be paying rent on a property far before you're able to even begin the build-out on that property, which is one thing that keeps a lot of people from being able to enter the marketplace, as well as zoning.

The zone, like Allen was speaking, we were very fortunate to be in Monterey County. A lot of people were put in a zone that didn't offer the type of permits that they needed to support their business. Maybe they offered cultivation but didn't offer processing. There's a lot of challenges just being in an area that's not friendly towards the process of coming into Prop 64.

Taxes. Of course, there's so many layers of taxes when it comes to all the pieces of supply chain, but not only that, 280(e) would be where we could start with some progress when federal legalization does happen and we can have normal business write-offs. Currently, that's one huge challenge. We're getting involved with industry because not only do you have to calculate all of your operation's overhead, but a lot of that has to do with things that you wouldn't be able to write off that you normally could write off in another business.

Sinead: Great. Something else working against brands right now is banking. As the Safe Banking Act hopefully gets approved here, what are your thoughts on that and what do you think that could mean for the future of cannabis?

Allen: It's huge. That would literally make or break most people's cannabis careers. Just simple banking on any regular level, you have a relationship with the bank. If you need a loan for something, whether it's short term or long term, you want to expand your business, you want to go buy a piece of property, you want to collateralize money that you have in the bank with a lot of credit or anything like that to help build your business, it literally is the infrastructure with what our economy has been built on with some small businesses getting started.

To have that completely removed from the cannabis beginning in California, it's been very challenging, to say the least. Hopefully, that's something that we could get implemented and then have the current operators and businesses that have been able to stand the test of time, have those resources available, but not having those resources was very, very challenging. It will definitely help new businesses that are getting started, new individuals that are looking to get in the business.

Look, cannabis is very volatile. It's hard to raise money in cannabis without giving your life or soul away to some investor somewhere far off that knows nothing about what you're really doing, or maybe knows a lot about it, but doesn't have the infrastructure in place to actually build it out. With banking, it eliminates some of the predatory lending that people have had to do or deal with thus far.

Sinead: Absolutely. That's a great point about the lending as well. Speaking of capital, where are you both in the capital-raising process, and what are your goals for the year ahead?

Marie: We are currently towards the end of funding what we're hoping to be about $3 million for these next cultivation projects which encompasses the indoor as well as four acres of greenhouse that we have currently in Salinas as well. We want to build that project out and fully fund it. That will be about $3 million total.

Sinead: Great. Awesome. Let's turn to some personal development questions here because you guys, while you live and breathe cannabis, I know you've got other things going on in your lives. First question, is there a book that has had a big impact on your life or way of thinking? Marie, maybe we'll start with you and go to Allen after that.

Marie: Definitely a big person on a lot of nonfiction and just backgrounds for those that have been really, really influential in the past. One book that's super cool that I've read a very long time ago is called What Makes the Great Great. It's by Dennis Kimbro. It's a really, really good book when it comes to strategies for those that have had extraordinary achievement throughout life. It's got a lot of anecdotal stories in there. They're really inspiring.

Sinead: Great. Awesome. How about you, Allen?

Allen: For me, I'm a big article reader. I read a lot of articles, I read a lot of news, I'm really big on current events. I would say different publications that I would gravitate to would probably be different Harvard Law studies. There's some on organization and different ones on being competitive in the workplace and things like that. They're super short and to the point. I've used those to help bridge my lack of business intelligence in this arena. I would definitely say any Harvard Law reviews, studies, or books. I don't have a specific one off the top of my head, but I've definitely read a few that have been gifted to me that have been very beneficial to us.

Sinead: Awesome. Moving on to the next question, what is one thing going on in the industry that you think might have a big impact in the future but might be a little underappreciated right now?

Allen: I will start that. For one, I would say women in cannabis. This industry has been dominated by White men, to start. Very few minorities have had their opportunity to get in and position themselves the way that Marie and myself have. Even fewer women. I would say that is definitely going to change. Like any industry, in any commodity, once women usually tend to get in, it usually gets a little better. I would say that is definitely something that's going to be big for cannabis once it legalizes across federal.

Sinead: Great. I couldn't agree more. How about you, Marie? Anything that you think might be going under people's radar at the moment?

Marie: Definitely what Allen said would be the first thing I would think of. The next would probably be something along the lines of national export, which of course has not happened yet because of the federal laws, but once we are able to export into other states from California and just the difference that will make on the supply chain and distribution and the impact that that will have abroad, I'm very interested to see from national export to global export, what that would look like.

Sinead: Great. Awesome. This can be West Coast or East Coast. I know you guys, you're born and bred in the East Coast and there are some good fast food joints on the East Coast as well. What would you say is your favorite unhealthy comfort food?

Allen: Oh, man. For me, that would have to be barbecue. Whether it's brisket or pulled pork and all of the sides and fixings that would come along with it. That is definitely Southern comfort food that can put you in a sleep coma.

Marie: I would say definitely going along the lines of fried fish, spaghetti, meatloaf, those would be the top three.

Sinead: Oh, man. Those are some classic comfort foods. Awesome. In terms of barbecue, that can be a bit of a controversial topic. Allen, are you more of a mustard-based sauce kind of guy or vinegar-based? What's your preference there?

Allen: Yes, that is very controversial in the South, I will say. I will say I'm probably more of a vinegar-based. I like sweet and sour a little bit. It's crazy you brought that up. Coming from the East Coast to California, I've yet to find really great barbecue in California.

Sinead: That's a shame.

Allen: It doesn't exist. They use more tri-tip and things out here they get away from the pork and the sauces and things like that. For me, I'm definitely more of a vinegar-based than a mustard-based, but sweet sauces are good. I love a good pulled pork sandwich.

Sinead: Being from South Carolina, I'm a little biased. I think South Carolina barbecue is the best, but my boyfriend’s from Texas so we have arguments about this all the time.

Allen: [chuckles] South Carolina is definitely up there.

Sinead: I agree. [chuckles] Awesome. As we wrap up here, you guys, how can listeners find you online and connect with you?

Marie: They can find us at www.mdnumbersinc.com and on Instagram @mdnumbers.inc and Farm is @md.farms.ca.

Sinead: Great. All right. Well, thank you both so much for coming on this show. Really appreciate you taking the time and wish you the best of luck with everything going on this year.

Marie: Thank you so much.

Allen: Thank you for having us. We really appreciate it. It's really cool.

[music]

Matthew: If you enjoyed the show today, please consider leaving us a review on iTunes, Stitcher, or whatever app you might be using to listen to the show. Every five-star review helps us to bring the best guest to you. Learn more at cannainsider.com/itunes. What are the five disruptive trends that will impact the cannabis industry in the next five years? Find out with your free report at cannainsider.com/trends.

Have a suggestion for an awesome guest on CannaInsider? Simply send us an email at feedback at cannainsider.com. We'd love to hear from you. Please do not take any information from CannaInsider or its guests as medical advice. Contact your licensed physician before taking cannabis or using it for medical treatments. Promotional consideration may be provided by select guests, advertisers or companies featured in CannaInsider. Lastly, the host or guests on CannaInsider may or may not invest in the company's entrepreneur's profile on the show. Please consult your licensed financial advisor before making any investment decisions.

Final disclosure to see if you're still paying attention. This little whistle jingle you're listening to will get stuck in your head for the rest of the day. Thanks for listening and look for another CannaInsider episode soon. Take care. Bye-bye.

Ep 361 – Cannabis Greenhouse Growing – Expert Dispels Myths

ryan douglas august 2021

How can you use greenhouses and technology to take your cultivation to best in class? Here to tell us is Ryan Douglas, author of From Seed to Success.

Learn more at https://douglascultivation.com

Key Takeaways:

[00:43] An inside look at Ryan’s cultivation consulting company, Ryan Douglas Cultivation

[00:58] Ryan’s background in cannabis cultivation

[1:41] The benefits of using a greenhouse to grow cannabis

[10:56] Why so many growers experience problems with mold and how to avoid this

[16:24] New greenhouse technologies in cannabis to look out for

[20:46] How to budget for an optimal greenhouse environment

[22:28] Tricks of the trade Ryan has brought with him to cannabis from his long background in cultivation

[30:32] How Ryan sees greenhouses and automation changing cannabis cultivation in the next 3-5 years

Click Here to Read Full Transcript

Matthew Kind: Hi, I'm Matthew Kind. Every Monday look for a fresh new episode where I'll take you behind the scenes and interview the insiders that are shaping the rapidly evolving cannabis industry. Learn more at cannainsider.com. That's C-A-N-N-A insider dot com. Now here's your program. How can you use greenhouses and technology to take your cultivation to best in class? We're about to find out with today's guest, Ryan Douglas. Ryan, welcome back to CannaInsider.

Ryan Douglas: Hey, thanks for having me on again. It's my pleasure.

Matthew: Give us a sense of geography. Where are you in the world today?

Ryan: I'm currently in Maine, in the Northeastern US.

Matthew: Okay. Remind us, what is your business, Ryan Douglas Cultivation, at a high level?

Ryan: I'm a cultivation consultant, so I help newly licensed cannabis businesses come to market quickly and spend less money getting there.

Matthew: Okay. Can you give a snapshot of your background in cannabis cultivation for new listeners?

Ryan: Sure, absolutely. In 2013, I was hired to direct cultivation for Canopy Growth Corporation, which at the time was one of the largest legal producers of cannabis in Canada, but prior to that job, actually, for 15 years, I was a commercial greenhouse grower of ornamental and edible crops. That's really my background and training and it helped to build the foundation upon which I became a commercial cannabis grower.

Matthew: Okay. You're steeped in this stuff, so it's second nature to you.

Ryan: It's all I know [laughs].

Matthew: Okay. What are the primary benefits of using a greenhouse to grow cannabis?

Ryan: Well, probably the biggest benefit is energy savings and the ability to minimize an operation's carbon footprint. We're in a bit of an interesting predicament with the cannabis industry because fortunately now we have more and more states legalizing cannabis, but unfortunately, the majority of those operations are indoor grow operations. These facilities are large and they can crank out a lot of cannabis and high-quality cannabis, but they use a ton of electricity and as a result, they have a huge carbon footprint. Probably the biggest benefit of moving towards greenhouses is allowing a grower to continue to produce a lot of quality cannabis at scale, but at a fraction of the cost and at a fraction of the electrical consumption as an indoor facility.

Matthew: Okay. We're seeing a lot of this emergence of the ESG directives, environmental sustainable governance, which is essentially shorthand is, reduce your carbon footprint or else, or an or else in most cases is penalties or you can't get investment from investors whose charter says, "Hey, we don't invest in companies that aren't looking closely at their environmental impact." When you make the case for a greenhouse, you can really show kind of a black and white difference in terms of sustainability then, is that right?

Ryan: Exactly, and this issue goes beyond just the US because just as you mentioned, as other countries begin to implement their plans for either reducing their carbon footprint or becoming carbon neutral, we all know that that they're first going to look at the industry. Unfortunately, we don't have a ton to be proud about when we look at electrical consumption and carbon footprint for cannabis growers. You might even have heard there's some rumors that it's possible that cannabis producers are going to take on a trend from some other food products where there'll be implementing consumer-facing labels that tells the consumer exactly what kind of a carbon footprint their product leaves.

At the moment, that would be quite embarrassing for the majority of cannabis growers, because like I said, most are indoors and most are producing really good cannabis, but they're doing so with a ton of electrical consumption.

Matthew: A non-sequitur here, but have you seen these micronuclear fusion reactors that can power four or 500 homes and they're incapable of having a meltdown, which is the big fear, like Three Mile Island and all these like a Fukushima and Chernobyl, those were kind of the big worst-case scenarios. Now they're making these tiny ones that could power a subdivision and really have just, there's really no downside. The only downside is there's such a stigma from the word nuclear, everybody instantly, the hair on the back of their neck go up and they don't want to try that, but it looks like there's something emerging here, which could be super powerful if we harness it. Have you heard anything about that?

Ryan: I haven't heard about that, but it sounds very interesting.

Matthew: Yes. Yes. We talked about the upsides of greenhouses. Is there any downsides or trade-offs?

Ryan: Yes, I think there's an assumption among cannabis growers that the quality of cannabis that comes out of a greenhouse isn't equal to that of an indoor grow. I find that opinion to be most strong among growers that have never grown in a greenhouse. When we think about quality cannabis, it really comes down to the genetics and the grower and the ability of the facility to maintain the optimal growing parameters. When you think about an indoor facility, the reason it's so attractive is that the grower really plays mother nature. They can control down to the point temperature, relative humidity, carbon dioxide, and so they're really in complete control of the whole grow up.

If you take a grower that's acclimated or accustomed to growing indoors, and now you put them in a greenhouse, there's a little bit less control, and there's a big learning curve in terms of learning how to use all of the equipment in a greenhouse to create the ideal growing conditions. In my introduction, I mentioned actually my background and training is in greenhouse production so I'm a lot more familiar with the methods and equipment that greenhouse growers use to create the perfect growing environment for their plants. Just as an example, anytime a greenhouse heats up, literally the greenhouse effect, there's options to use a natural ventilation or a forced ventilation with the sands.

We use evaporative cooling, which is simply providing water vapor into the greenhouse, through either a high-pressure fog system or something called a wet wall. The evaporation process actually cools down the greenhouse. We also use shade curtains that let us select how much of the sunlight we let in and as a result, we can cool temperatures that way. Instead of running to the air conditioning unit to turn it up or turn it down in a greenhouse, we actually use four or five or six different methods for cooling the greenhouse.

I think probably the biggest concern for growers, the reason a lot of commercial operators do not want to head into greenhouses, it has to do with humidity. For anyone that's not a cannabis grower, the flower is very susceptible to mold, especially in the last few weeks of the crop cycle, and because we're growing something that's consumed directly or inhaled, we're really limited, as we should be, to any protective fungicides that we could apply to the flower to prevent mold. Really the only tool we have is creating an environment that isn't conducive to mold growth.

Indoors, growers are installing massive dehumidification units and they do the job. They can, even if it's raining outside, which is essentially a hundred percent humidity, they can get down to maybe 40% relative humidity which is really dry, inside of the grow room. That's what protects the crop, but we don't really have that ability to dehumidify a greenhouse efficiently. I think that's probably one of the reasons that a lot of growers actually would prefer not to explore greenhouse production, but the good news is that there are ways to manage humidity in the greenhouse because cannabis is not the only crop that runs the risk of mold.

For decades, we've been growing in greenhouses and we've been managing the environment to grow the crops, so just briefly as an example, what we've been doing for decades, and I did this when I was growing flowers is utilized heat and vent cycles. As we know, heat rises in a greenhouse and as the air rises, it takes along with it moisture. Then once it hits the roof of the greenhouse, we simply open the vents for a short period of time and this air escapes. By using a combination of fans inside the greenhouse and these heating and ventilation cycles, we actually can adequately dehumidify greenhouses in the majority of the growing regions in the US.

The problem, one of the challenges greenhouse growers have is in places like Florida, where you have a booming cannabis industry, but most of the year it's too humid to grow crops in greenhouses. That's why you find a lot of the big producers in Florida are growing indoors. In that instance, unfortunately, there's not an easy solution. What a lot of growers do is actually utilize a chilled water system, which is essentially hooking up the greenhouse to an air conditioner. As we're talking about electrical consumption and carbon footprints, that's not ideal, but at least in that situation, you're still taking advantage of the natural sunlight.

You might be spending as much money and consuming as much energy as an indoor grow to manage the humidity and temperature, but you're still getting the light for free which is a step above a typical indoor grow. I think there's a number of fears that are justified but if you're not a greenhouse grower, then the idea is completely foreign and you wouldn't consider it. I think as an industry we really don't have much of a choice, I think growers are going to come under increased pressure to not only reduce costs but comply with environmental regulations in the future. I think you'll see more and more commercial operators start in a greenhouse or if they're currently indoors, as they expand, they'll be expanding into greenhouse production.

Matthew: You mentioned that the cannabis plants are-- You can get mold especially during the last few weeks of the grow and before harvest there. Why do most growers fall into that trap? They don't have a dehumidifier that can keep up with the amount of moisture in the grow and they think it's not going to get to you a point where- so they have too small, the humidifier, and then the last few weeks like sneak up on them and surprise them, is that what happens?

Ryan: Yes, so you're referring to greenhouse production or cannabis production in general?

Matthew: The cannabis production, in general, it's like what- like that mold the last few weeks.

Ryan: Yes, it's less common indoors because that comes down to a basic mathematical calculation. Depending on how you grow the crop, the density of plants inside the grow room and the volume and frequency with which you're irrigating your plants, you can get an idea of how much moisture you need to strip out of the environment. Plants will transpire or will evaporate 95% of the water that they receive in an irrigation. Mechanical engineers, especially in these big commercial facilities, mechanical engineers need to take care to do calculations to determine how much moisture in the air they need to strip in a 24-hour period. If you're not involving these skilled tradesmen or engineers in the production of your facility, then you might just be eyeballing it or estimating.

In that instance, if you are equipped to grow up with an insufficient capacity to dehumidify the environment, then indoors you certainly could run into mold issues by simply not having enough equipment or enough dehumidifiers or strong enough dehumidifiers that can strip that moisture from the air rapidly, and not allow the creation of an environment where mold spores are going to germinate and propagate and potentially ruin the crop.

Matthew: Yes, and this is where we see growers get into a pickle where they don't have a backup plan but they've got mold in their grow and they're upside down on their expenses and revenues, and then they resort to like eagle seven or something. They spray on there and they think, "Oh, I just did - just this one time", and then they might get caught and get into trouble. It's just better not to be in that pickle to begin with.

Ryan: Yes, especially since the majority of states require a laboratory analysis of the final product before you can sell it to a dispensary or sell it in your own dispensary. One of the things they check for in addition to different bacteria and fungus and heavy metals is the presence of pesticides or fungicides. There is really no chemical pesticides or fungicides that are allowed to be used on cannabis crops, so all of these laboratory tests, they need to show that the product falls well below the threshold. It's usually if not parts per million, sometimes parts per billion. It might be a quick fix to save the crop but if you can't sell the product, then you really haven't helped yourself at all.

Matthew: Then where doesn't it make sense for a greenhouse? Is there a latitude where you say, "This really doesn't make sense?"

Ryan: Well, we can get around it being too cold, so there's a number of ways to efficiently heat a greenhouse, and just by the nature of the greenhouse effect, if there's even moderate sunlight, that goes a long way. There's a number of ways to cool the greenhouse, so really warm regions, it can be challenging but it wouldn't be game over. I think the most challenging is going to be places where it's extremely humid all of the time because then you might reach a point where the cost of outfitting your greenhouse with a chilled water system, that decreases the temperature and also causes the moisture in the air to condense so it can be removed.

Air conditioning in your greenhouse is really inefficient and really expensive. You might reach a point, if you're in a place like Southern Florida for example, or maybe a tropical island that legalizes cannabis production. It just might make more sense in terms of capital expenditures, and then ongoing operational expenditures, to grow indoors. Again, that's because we can't wash the flour prior to consumption. A lot of other crops that are susceptible to mold, it's common to use fungicides on these crops because they're either washed prior to being packaged, like if you think of ready-to-eat lettuce or tomatoes, they go through a rinsing process before they're packaged.

It can be done at the production facility and then we as consumers can wash it again prior to eating and preparing it but we don't have that option with cannabis. There's really nothing we can apply on the plant, the best we can do is modify the environment, so the plant is less susceptible to a disease infestation.

Matthew: Okay. Are there any innovations or automations occurring inside the greenhouse that people might not be aware of that you think are cool or helpful?

Ryan: Yes. The interesting thing about cannabis is that the value of the crop is so high that the industry in my opinion is ripe for new technology or new inventions that can help a producer lower their Carbon footprint or lower their production costs, or actually increase crop quality. One technology that I'm interested encircles-- It has to do with carbon dioxide supplementation. Plants utilize carbon dioxide for photosynthesis. What happens in grow rooms and in greenhouses, I mean semi-closed greenhouses, is that if the crop is photosynthesizing and growing at a rapid rate, it can actually deplete the level of carbon dioxide lower than ambient levels.

Where you and I are right now it's roughly 340 parts per million carbon dioxide in the air, but if we were to load up the room I'm in with the plants, that level is going to drop dramatically, and as a result, the plants are going to slow their growth and they'll be less productive. What cannabis growers do indoors and in greenhouses is they supplement the environment with carbon dioxide gas to not only maintain ambient levels but research has shown that actually if you increase two or three times the ambient levels of carbon dioxide, the plants will actually grow faster and produce more.

The challenge is. if you read some reports about the carbon footprint of the cannabis industry, there's some attention that's being given to carbon dioxide supplementation. It's not the carbon dioxide that's released into the environment that causes the carbon footprint because the plants consume it. It's actually the process of condensing this gas into a liquid and keeping it cool and transporting these massive tanks to facilities that actually increases the growers' carbon footprint. There's one technology that really interests me. Instead of buying these massive tanks of liquid, CO2, plopping it outside of the facility and then bringing that gas into the grow room, what they've done is found a way to combine this carbon dioxide with water and they deliver it to the plants through a high-pressure fog system.

What happens is this high-pressure fog really creates a fog or a mist, it settles onto the plant temporarily and within a few minutes, it evaporates. During that time, it remains in a liquid form long enough to provide the needed CO2 to the plant, but it evaporates fast enough that it doesn't create a mold risk for the crop. What they're finding is that this method provides the crop with the needed levels of carbon dioxide for healthy growth but using 95% less carbon dioxide than traditional methods. As a plus, as the mist with the CO2 is evaporating off of the leaf, it temporarily acidifies the leaf surface.

One of the biggest risks to growers is a mold called powdery mildew. If you're not familiar, you haven't seen it before, this mold looks like someone sprinkled Talcum Powder on top of the plant and it can destroy a plant in the crop and it can spread rapidly, but in order for that mold to take hold, the pH of the leaf surface has to be just perfect. If it's too low or too high, that mold isn't going to take hold. What they're finding is that with this novel method of carbon dioxide delivery to the plants, they're using much less carbon dioxide and as a result, it's acting almost like a preventative fungicide, which is fascinating because seldom do you invent something that has a side effect that is just as important as the reason you invented the thing.

There's an example of a new up-and-coming technology that is going to help growers lessen their carbon footprint, lower their production cost and actually potentially increase the quality of the plant by helping to eliminate the risk of powdery mildew.

Matthew: Let's say I'm an investor, business owner, or cultivator, how do I go about budgeting appropriately for creating an ideal greenhouse environment?

Ryan: That's an excellent question. Unfortunately, it's going to differ dramatically depending on the region of the country. If we look at the US, if we look at the farther outside of the optimal growing range, the more expensive it's going to be to build a greenhouse. Currently, I'm in Maine. We have a beautiful summer but it's short. It's only 90 days. For growing a crop like cannabis that likes warm weather and strong sunlight, we need to invest a lot in order to maintain the right temperature, maintain the right light levels, and maintain the right humidity levels as well.

You could be looking at building a state-of-the-art greenhouse in the Northeast for $400 a square foot. That actually rivals the cost of building an indoor facility but if you go to another place in the US, maybe we'll look at Arizona where it's much drier and you have much more sun year-round, it's going to be less expensive to build there. Maybe you can anticipate budgeting $250 a square foot for a greenhouse down there. It really comes down to how much you need to modify the environment to create the optimal growing conditions. The farther outside of those conditions, the more expensive it will be to build a greenhouse.

Matthew: You've mentioned, Ryan, that you were in the general horticultural business before getting into cannabis, is there any tricks of the trade or tools or ideas that you brought over from that part of the industry into cannabis that you feel is like not as widely used that's helpful to you?

Ryan: Yes. In my experience, growing any commercial crop, whether it's flowers or hydroponic vegetables, 80% or 90% of the principles, the concepts apply directly to cannabis. I'm not saying that growing a tomato plant and growing a cannabis plant is exactly the same thing but what I believe is that when we're talking about commercial-scale production, when we're talking about planning production, managing production, managing the environment, managing people, managing the facility. A lot of these principles are exactly the same so I was fortunate in that I had 15 years of experience growing flowers, potted ornamental crops on a commercial scale, and growing hydroponic vegetables on a commercial scale, prior to tackling cannabis on a commercial scale.

What I found as a consultant is that when clients call me in to look at a crop problem, they bring me over to where their problem is and they point to the plant. As I begin the process of troubleshooting, oftentimes it leads back to a lack of experience in the cultivation leadership, which is to say the Head Grower or the Master Grower simply doesn't have the experience to pull off a grow of that size. When you ask about a specific technique or anything that's underutilized, there is one practice that is not very well known in cannabis that is common to traditional horticulture which I think has a lot of potential for cannabis growers, which is the use of plant sap analysis as a way to manage nutrients.

Just briefly, if you think back to our junior-high botany classes or plant science classes, the xylem and the phloem of the plant is what brings the water and the nutrients up and down throughout the plant. Plant sap analysis extracts this sap and it allows the grower a way of instantly seeing what's going on in the plant, so they can make real-time adjustments to their fertilizer regime. The reason this is important is that if you think about nutrient management, nutrient excesses, if you use too much nutrients it can result in burnt plants or increase susceptibility to insect diseases or extra costs that you really don't need to be applying that much fertilizer.

On the flip side, if you don't have enough fertilizer, then it can result in sick plants, low yields, and again increase susceptibility to insects and disease. As of now, what people usually do, if they see a problem in their crop, they'll take some samples of leaves and they'll ship it off to a lab for a dry tissue analysis. The problem is that is really the equivalent of a post-mortem exam because once you get that information back, let's say, you realize it was low in potassium, there's not much you can do because the crop has already suffered some amount of economic damage and the best you can do is try to prevent it from the next crop. When we're talking about cannabis, there's so much money at stake that growers really can't afford to wait to find out what's going on.

The beauty of this process of plant sap analysis is that you can instantly see what's going on in your crop and determine whether or not you're using excess nutrients or not enough nutrients. What that means, in the end, is that the grower can prevent using too many nutrients so they can dial back certain nutrients if they believe that the plant doesn't need it. Essentially, it lowers the cost of production but it can also result in a higher quality more productive plant because the plant is getting exactly the nutrients it needs at exactly the right time.

In my experience, actually in my opinion, I think a lot of cannabis growers are over-fertilizing their plants. They're just pounding the fertilizer to the plant when a lot of that is unnecessary. At the beginning of this call, we spoke about the beauty is that you've got more and more states that are legalizing cannabis which means there's more and more states that are cultivating cannabis. The majority of these growers are pouring the leaching from these grow-ups either out the back door or into the municipal water system so there's very few growers that are using these closed-loop systems that capture the leachate or the runoff, the drain that comes out of the bottom of the pot.

There's very few growers that have a closed-loop system that captures that and reutilizes it again. When we look at trying to comply with environmental regulations, all of this fertilizer somehow is going to find its way into the environment so it causes algae blooms and all sorts of things. I think, right now, it's still under the radar but as more and more states grow cannabis, I think it's going to come under the same kind of scrutiny that any other farming, so a lot of farmers have to be careful about how they irrigate, where the runoff goes to, what are they running off.

Just coming back to the plant sap analysis is that not only does it help the growers spend less money on fertilizer they would need, they also potentially can grow a much healthier crop. They're also much more environmentally friendly in terms of what is leaving their production facility.

Matthew: You mentioned a lot of growers, they have a knowledge gap just like we all do. No one can know everything and sometimes there are some unknown-unknowns, how can you hire a Head Grower and come up with a way to at least understand that grower's gap in knowledge or make sure that they're at a critical level, bare minimum, how do you measure those things and know you're getting a grower with the right skill set?

Ryan: That's tricky. Since you have more and more states legalizing, you've got fewer and fewer experienced cannabis growers available to hire. Naturally, we need to look for growers that maybe are outside of the cannabis industry but still bring that skill set that I mentioned where 80% or 90% of the principles directly apply. For anyone that's looking to hire a grower and interested in hiring someone from traditional horticulture, I think it really comes down to experience. You want to find someone that has at least 10 years of experience growing any crop on a commercial scale because they'll have well ingrained in them skills such as production, planning skills, people management skills, facility management skills, and the remainder, the crop-specific details of cannabis can be taught to a commercial grower through either a cannabis subject matter expert or a consultant. These commercial growers are trained to learn new crops quickly. Whether it's a different kind of a poinsettia or a different kind of a vegetable or a cannabis for the first time, they've already got a solid foundation of understanding of how to organize and execute commercial plant production. It's just simply a matter of filling in those crop-specific details, which they would do regardless of which crop they're growing. I think one of the biggest benefits growers from a traditional horticulture can bring the cannabis industry really comes in terms of helping the operation produce at the lowest cost possible.

With increasing competition, we've got to anticipate, eventually, there's going to be some price pressure, and so these companies that can produce cannabis for the lowest feasible cost possible are going to be some of the most successful. When you think about crops like tomatoes, you're buying them for a couple dollars a pound at the grocery store, which means they've got to be produced for half of that. When you look at cannabis, some places are selling it for $4,000 a pound wholesale to dispensaries. When it comes to minimizing costs, growers from commercial horticulture, they're hyper-focused on optimizing energy and work efficiencies, because the margins are razor-thin in the world where they come from.

If you hire a commercial grower from a vegetable or a flower range, from day one, they're already looking at ways to minimize the amount of times that you touch a plant, or the workflow of people, just how things are done. I think it's a tremendous benefit to being able to hire a grower from that world, because immediately you can begin to realize cost savings on an operational level.

Matthew: How do you see greenhouses, automation, technology, changing cannabis cultivation in the next three to five years?

Ryan: I think a lot of it's going to be focused on doing more with less in the sense that we're requiring less energy in order to do what we're already doing. Less electricity to run lights, which is why LEDs are so popular, or less energy to be able to cool or dehumidify the growing environment, or like the example with carbon dioxide, less energy in order to provide the plant with exactly what it needs. We can't change how much fertilizer or water a plant needs. We can't change the temperature it needs to grow, but we can change the manner in which we deliver those to the plant. I think that's where the greatest opportunity is in terms of inventions and new technology, is just becoming more efficient at the way that we grow plants on a commercial scale.

Matthew: Ryan, I'd like to move to some personal development questions to help listeners get a better sense of who you are as a person. What is your favorite unhealthy comfort food?

[laughter]

Ryan: I like chips and salsa. I think that might be healthy, but I like it.

Matthew: Do you really put a lot of stuff on there too, besides just the salsa, and some guac, some cheese or anything like that?

Ryan: As long as it's fresh, that's the most important thing. I think fresh salsa beats jarred salsa any day.

Matthew: Yes. What was the last song that made you sing out loud while you were driving or otherwise?

Ryan: It would have had to been a Spanish salsa song and I don't even know what I was singing, but I think I listened to it enough times that a few of the Spanish words stuck in my head and I just couldn't resist [inaudible [00:34:02]

Matthew: Okay. [laughs] Now I'd like to end with a quick tip, Ryan, before you give out your website and we close. What is it--? Cannabis plants love light, but part of the plant does not, which part of the plant doesn't?

Ryan: That would be the root system.

Matthew: Right. You got to be careful not to have certain kinds of pots. Right?

Ryan: Right. You want to be careful about anything that's transparent or even white plastic pots or white bags. Those are pretty common, but the problem is the light penetrates and really roots do not like to be exposed to light at all. Really the best rule of thumb is above the soil as much light as possible, but below the soil line, it needs to be dark.

Matthew: Great little helpful tip there. Ryan, as we close, how can listeners find your book and reach out to you if they need help with their cultivation practice?

Ryan: Sure. I recently published a book called From seed to success, how to launch a great cannabis cultivation business in record time. That can be purchased on Amazon or through my website at douglascultivation.com.

Matthew: Great, Ryan, thanks so much for coming back on and educating us. You got a lot of knowledge trapped in your head there. I'm glad you could come out and share some of it.

Ryan: Oh, It's my pleasure. Thanks for having me on.

[music]

Matthew: If you enjoyed the show today, please consider leaving us a review on iTunes, Stitcher, or whatever app you might be using to listen to the show. Every five-star review helps us to bring the best guests to you. Learn more at cannainsider.com/iTunes. What are the five disruptive trends that will impact the cannabis industry in the next five years? Find out through your free report at cannainsider.com/trends. Have a suggestion for an awesome guest on CannaInsider? Simply send us an email at feedbackcannainsider.com. We'd love to hear from you. Please do not take any information from CannaInsider or its guests as medical advice. Contact your licensed physician before taking cannabis or using it for medical treatments.

[music]

Promotional consideration may be provided by select guests, advertisers for companies featured in CannaInsider. Lastly, the host or guests on CannaInsider may or may not invest in the companies with entrepreneurs profiled on the show. Please consult your licensed financial advisor before making any investment decisions. Final disclosure to see if you're still paying attention. This little whistle, jingle you're listening to will get stuck in your head for the rest of the day. Thanks for listening and look for another CannaInsider episode soon. Take care. Bye-bye.

[00:36:55] [END OF AUDIO]