Rob Smith started out growing before legalization in rural Maine. Hear his journey from the black-market to the legal market. Rob became a cannabis entrepreneur renting out trim machines, and now his latest invention a plant trainer that allows home-growers that are limited by plant count to get the biggest plants possible.
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– Finding your niche by serving the cannabis community around you
– Transitioning from the black-market to the legal market
– Which trim machines are the best for cannabis
– Why Rob created the Atlas Plant Trainer
– Lessons learned from trying to raise capital too early
Matthew: 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 cannainsider.com. Now, here's your program.
We often talk about the dominating cannabis markets like California, Canada, Colorado, and Washington. Today, we're going to hear from a rural New England grower and cannabis entrepreneur, Rob Smith, founder of Atlas Plant Trainer. Rob, welcome to CannaInsider.
Rob: Thanks for having me today, Matt.
Matthew: Give us a sense of geography. Where are you in the world today?
Rob: Well, like you said, I'm smacked up in the middle of Real Maine.
Matthew: Okay. What's the closest city that anybody would recognize?
Rob: So we're about an hour north of Portland and about 10 or 15 minutes outside of Augusta.
Matthew: Okay. And what is Atlas Plant Trainer at a really high level?
Rob: Atlas Plant Trainer is a new innovative product. It's focused on the home growers. It is a modular, customizable, quick together tomato cage allowing growers to maximize their legal plant counts.
Matthew: Okay. You also have another business related to trim, what's that?
Rob: We started Green Harvest Solutions about two years ago where we rent and sell trimming machines. Now, we're all across New England, but we were originally focused just in Maine.
Matthew: Okay. And tell us a little bit more about your background and journey and how you became a cannabis entrepreneur.
Rob: Well, like a few of your guests, I am a long-time cannabis consumer and enthusiast. I have been a daily cannabis consumer since about the age of 15. And all throughout my young adult life, I felt normal like I was supposed to be...cannabis made me feel the way that I was supposed to feel, and that was very hard for my parents to understand. Thankfully, now I have science in the endocannabinoid system to stand behind me to be able to say there was a reason for that. So after a couple of years of consuming cannabis and realizing the benefits of the medicine and the plant, I got into the black-market supply side, helping out my friends and family procure their cannabis and other items, so to speak.
And that occurred for probably 12, 15 years before the legal cannabis industry started calling my name. So about four years ago, I started growing my own cannabis for the first time besides a few outdoor grows that were trial and error, so to speak, and found I had a really a decently green thumb, and so we started growing a medicine for other people. We became caregivers in Maine. The caregiver program in Main was very liberal. We were allowed to grow for five patients per caregiver, up to six flowering plants per patient, and we could put both my wife and I underneath one roof. So add in our own medical cannabis plants and we could have 72 flowering plants under one roof at one point in time.
So we moved out of the basement grow and built our own grow exactly the way that we wanted it on the second level of our garage and expanded our patient count and really just maximized on the opportunity that was in front of us, growing amazing medicine for patients ranging from retired school teachers to veterans. One of my favorite stories that I love to share about the caregiving side is we had a veteran that started using our fairly high dosage caramels, and after three months of working with us, was able to go into his doctor and hand over his three bottles of prescription pills for his pain and he's been with us for about two years and is still off of those pain pills. So we love being able to help people overcome whatever ailment they have with cannabis.
Matthew: Wow. What did the doctor say? Did he tell you what the doctor...was he just like, "Hey, WTF? Like, what happened here?"
Rob: Yeah. So he goes to the VA and I'm sure we're all familiar about how some of those doctors feel and their stance. But the doctor told him that if at any point in time he needed to take a drug test and tested dirty for cannabis, that they wouldn't be able to prescribe him medication anymore. And my patient basically said, "That's fine, I don't think I'm gonna need your medication anymore," and turned around and walked out the office.
Matthew: Yeah. I hear so many horror stories about the VA and I know, you know, there's some people with mixed opinions, but that's what I think what public health care would look like if we went that route in the U.S. unfortunately. It's like, it's just...I don't know if that's what everybody wants and it's probably not optimal. I'd prefer to see state by state have a best crack at it versus at the federal level.
Rob: Yeah, I totally agree. I would like to see it have the medicinal effects proven on the smaller scale and before it reaches "Big Pharma" and changes the landscape of what we're working so hard at right now.
Matthew: So, tell me what you...where you feel like we're at right now. I mean, we have 30 states where cannabis is legal on some level, whether medicinal or adult use. How do you feel like...you've transitioned from, I love how you said, the supply side. That's a great way of saying it, "I'm on the supply side." But so you were sort of growing cannabis prior to full legalization and where do you feel like we're at? You made a transition from the black market now to the legal market. Where do you feel like things are at in terms of opportunity, challenges, what you like, what you don't like, and where the industry is headed?
Rob: Yeah, it's kinda crazy. I was, you know, talking about this with a really old friend just the other day, how we used to sit around and smoke joints at 17, 18 years old, and wonder if we were ever going to see legalization. And we used to place bets that by the time we had grandkids, we would be seeing legal cannabis. So the most remarkable thing in the change of the industry for me is how fast it has evolved and taken shape and changed the landscape. Like you said, it's 29 states with some level of legalization, and I believe 60% of the U.S. population lives in a recreational legal state. So, you know, the fast-moving aspect of the industry and how it's taken hold so quickly despite the best efforts of our government.
And the other aspect is the more that the industry does take hold and things get normalized, the amount of people that are coming out of the cannabis closet and are trying cannabis for the first time and experiencing what they...you know, feeling normal and what having cannabinoids in their system feels like. Whether that's THC or CBD, it's just remarkable the medicinal effects that this plant can have in the ailments that is taking over, and the more that we learn those effects, the more people that are going to continue to try it and have success with it.
Matthew: So even, you know, when I was a kid, or a kid at high school, in high school, there was...it was so hard to get consistent product. You would get, you know, ditch weed one week and then it was something with fungus the next week and it was just...you take for granted now that you can get this consistent product that's grown in a great environment and treated well. Before, it might've been grown in diesel fumes or in questionable places using questionable methods. So just that consistency is just something that's just...it's so welcome. And I think that we're...you know, I'm already taking for granted, but well put. I wanna talk a little bit about what you see in places like California and Canada. What do you notice that's different about those markets than say where you are in Maine?
Rob: Oh, man, the openness and the acceptingness, if that's even a word.
Matthew: We just made a word. Acceptingness.
Rob: Yeah, today it is, of the way that cannabis is talked about and, you know, being a grower and working with so many growers in our two businesses, it's still very hush hush to talk about growing plants or even consuming cannabis up here in Maine. Where when we were in Canada, it was talked about at bars and restaurants and like it was a beer or what you ate for dinner last night. And our experience is like that in some of the more legal states, that is, it's more accepted and it's part of everyday conversation as opposed to, in Maine, it's still very hush hush. I even go into the grow shops around here and there is still people talking about...hinting at growing tomatoes and, you know, "If I had a grow tent in my basement and if I had this light, what size of plant do you think that I could get out of this tomato plants? How many tomatoes do you think I could get?"
So it's really comical to see that, but I'd say we're very much wanting to be part of that change in the openness and accepting of cannabis consumption and growing.
Matthew: Now, for people...You mentioned you're also involved in the trimming business and renting out trim equipment. I wanna talk about that. First, for our new listeners, can you just describe what trimming means for the small part of the audience that's listening that doesn't know? And then perhaps, what are the most common mistakes you see both new and experienced trimmers make in regards to trimming?
Rob: Sure, sure. Absolutely. Drying, trimming, and curing was one of our first passions with cannabis and the differences that we could see. One of the biggest things that...so, let me get back to the original question, sorry. Trimming is the act of taking off the fan leaves and then the sugar leaves from around the bud of the plant. That leaves you with just the most potent product and the product that is actually considered the flower and doesn't have as much chlorophyll naturally in it, where leaves, we learned in biology class, leaves absorb the sun, create the chlorophyll, and feed the plant by processing the nutrients, etc. So trimming is after you've cut the plant down, after it's ready to harvest, is taking first the fan leaves off that don't have any trichomes usually on it, and then preferably, after drying the plant, then you would trim the sugar leaves off and usually save that for processing: edibles, concentrates, and that would leave you with just the bud, the smokable flower product.
One of the biggest mistakes and I kinda hinted at it, is we really push for every grower that we work with to do dry trimming. You know, one of the reasons we got into the actual business of renting out the trimming machine was we saw a lot of product that was grown really well and cared for throughout the growth cycle but was speed dried, not cured, wet trimmed and thrown in a bag. And we feel and there's lots of science behind it that, you know, 50% of your final product comes in after you're done growing the plant. You have to, you know, care for that plant throughout its cycle until you're consuming and even through when it's in a jar. So, you know, the science behind that is every leaf has chlorophyll in it and when you cut a leaf, that chlorophyll splits to the tip and back into the bud.
So with hand trimming, maybe you cut that leaf once to three or four times and it's not forcing a bunch of chlorophyll back in, but with a machine trim like we rent out, if you were to wet trim with those, those blades are cutting that leaf, you know, 1,000, 10,000, who really knows how many times, but every time, it's forcing a little bit of chlorophyll back into that bud. So I'm sure everybody's experienced, you know, opening up a bag or a jar and smelling that, and hey, that freshly cut long smell, that's usually that leftover chlorophyll smell from wet trimming. So when you dry trim, you dry all that chlorophyll out, so you can cut that leaf a million times and you're not forcing chlorophyll back into the bud to work out that smell while, you know, the curing process continues. So that would be the biggest thing that I would wanna change in the world of trimming, is to completely insist on dry trimming alone.
Matthew: And how long does that process usually take for drying and curing for your personal grow?
Rob: So, really, it varies. We shoot for about a 10-day, 14-day at max, and 7 days on the very low end. We keep our drying rooms at 50% humidity and about 68 degrees with good light-air movement. You don't want fans blowing directly on the buds, but you do want air moving around the room so it doesn't get stale. And the other aspect is keeping it as dark as possible. So we cut our plants down to about, I'd say forearm length stems, hang them on drying racks, and put them in our drying room. And as soon as the stem is snapping all the way through, starting at the hook that's hanging all the way down to the right underneath the top bud, then that's when we consider our product dry and ready to be trimmed or start the curing process by putting it into a jar or a vault or something like that.
Matthew: What are the economics of renting out a trim machine? How often are your machines rented out and how much do they cost per day? Do you deliver? How does that work?
Rob: Yeah, yeah. So, we have currently two different products available. We have the GreenBroz 215, which is a dry trimmer only and does an amazing job on dry product. And then we have a really great partnership with EZTRIM out of Colorado, and not only...we just started getting beyond just the trimming machines and now we have their DeBudder, we have their sorting machine, all sorts of postharvest or harvesting automation equipment. But the trimming machine is where we started and is definitely our main business driver. We do delivery, set up instructions, pickup, and cleaning on all of our machines because we don't have a store front, and that also provides us the security of knowing where our very expensive trimming machines are going, and working directly with the people. And we rent out for about 24 hours per rental and the rentals are...the GreenBroz is $350 and the EZTRIM is $600 for that 24-hour time period, delivery, setup, pickup, and cleaning, all inclusive.
Matthew: Okay. So, you can't really go to a bank. So this is all kinda personal financed or friends and friends and family financed when you buy a machine like that?
Rob: Yeah, it was personal finance. The cannabis industry...you know, the caregiving business allowed us to expand into this business as well and it has been super...it's done really well for us. You know, it's allowed us to see what other opportunities there are in the cannabis industry in Maine and across New England at this point
Matthew: And then, so you get to see a lot of different growers, what they're doing, what they're doing wrong. Do you see a theme at all with all the different growers you visit where some seem on top of it and do things a certain way and some, when they're doing things, sub-optimally, they're making some common mistakes?
Rob: Totally, yeah. Part of what I do is a little bit of guidance based on my experience. We've gotten, you know, a consulting gig so to speak out of it just trying to help people get better, that truly wanna get better. Right now, we see a lot of people getting into the industry that really don't have a passion for the plant and producing top quality product. So there are the people that are just looking to make a dollar and get in while the getting is good and maximize their profits and aren't really looking to make a long-term name or, you know, a brand or separate themselves from the rest of the market. They're totally okay with producing the same type of flower that everybody else is.
Matthew: There's a lot of people listening that either have a grow or are gonna have a grow and they're like, "Hey, how did Rob arrive at which trimmers?" I mean, you've probably tried a bunch and there's pros and cons, there's no perfect trimmer, but how did you arrive at the trimmers you did arrive at ultimately? What was the decision-making process? What do you like about each? And is there any words of wisdom about selecting a trimmer?
Rob: Sure, sure. Absolutely. We went with the EZTRIM Satellite at first. It offered the most versatility and functionality in our opinion. It does both wet and dry trimming, and very gentle on the product in both of those trimming stages, and that machine particularly has kief separating bags where the trim sits in. So it's fan driven and your trim goes down into four different micron screen bags, and throughout the trimming process and that fan is circulating the trim, the kief is separated from the trim. So it does a little bit of the extraction work for you and, you know, definitely, provides value on that end. So that was a huge selling point for us, and from a business side, it seemed easy to set up, break down, and transport because it comes with its own carrying case and very easy to get dialed in and provide a good trim for every customer.
Some of the other trimmers on the market that we looked at didn't provide that ease of use that we knew that we were going to need if we wanted to make it a business. You know, part of our business is going and setting up and giving instructions. So, you know, time is money. So if I have to spend a lot of time dialing in a machine, it just wasn't part of our business model. We also didn't want to be somebody that, you know, was rented out with the machine and stood there and trimmed for them. So, then we added in the GreenBroz because we saw that at a trade show and really loved the trim quality that it provided and thought that, you know, they would be great partners for us. As this business has gone along, GreenBroz has been great for us, but EZTRIM, the CEO, Joe Black, has really taken care of us and provided us with lots of opportunities, and now we have half of their products here in-house and can do demos and rentals for a lot of their equipment now.
Matthew: Great. Well, let's turn to the Atlas Plant Trainer, your other business. Can you give us a brief introduction? Or you already gave us a little bit of an introduction, but can you tell us a little bit more about what it is, how you created it, and why you created it, and maybe anything else you'd like to share?
Rob: Sure, absolutely. Thank you. Atlas Plant Trainer was designed after a couple years of trying to maximize my plants footprint. Being limited by legal plant counts and wanting to stay inside the law, and as a caregiver, we have to register our patients and pay $240 a year. So I always, even from the very beginning of growing six plants, wanted to grow my plants wide and maximize what I can get out of each plant. And throughout starting to grow and getting a little more experienced, I tried everything that was on the market, all the do it yourself items. So I went from bamboo stakes to tomato cages to...I had suspended ceiling wire that I cut and bent with hooks in it for training. We have, you know, cut the tomato cages to fit around plants. We've done the trellis netting, PVC piping, all of it.
And I was really growing frustrated at the fact that there was no commercial solution that was made for an indoor gardener, and so started doing some drawings and showed it to a few friends and that feedback was enough to talk with a product designer, and then Atlas Plant Trainer was born. So Atlas Plant Trainer is, like I said before, a customizable click together modular tomato cage. Our pieces are vertical stakes in a horizontal connector. So you start off, the vertical stake has a male and female end with a 360-degree locking push button rotation in the center of that stake, and you start off with those stakes in the soil and they can attach to the plant with our patented plant clips that will attach to the assembly and then around your plant, not to your plants so they actually open up.
So instead of using wire ties or the clips, you will never have to worry about the plant being strangled from attaching something too tight to it. So then you can start ratcheting your plant to start growing wider instead of taller, right out of the plant pot. And as your system grows, you would insert the next vertical stake into the hollow end of the existing vertical stakes, and then the horizontal connectors connect at 270 angles to the vertical stakes all the way around your plant. Now, you can picture it like a build your own tomato cage. They extend and are able to connect at varying lengths and angles. And then the best part is the horizontal connector is actually detached from each other, the male and female ends, and then will interchangeably connect with the vertical stakes. So instead of being limited to about 20 inches in length with the horizontal connector, you can actually span any length by inserting vertical stakes in the center of that and then having the horizontal connectors kinda bridge that gap and connect the system all the way around the plant, above the plant, across the plant, whatever you'd like.
So our goal is to give growers everything they need for training and supporting their plants based inside their plant pot so they don't have to tie off to lights, walls, ceilings, PVC pipe, anything like that. So they have the flexibility to move their plant around the room, continue to work on that plant if they are trying to maximize their space, and really grow a wider plant so that the light penetration and increased yields. Obviously, you get more yield off of a wider plant. And there's a lot of health benefits that come from plant training like increased airflow, light penetration, and plant growth hormone manipulation.
Matthew: Okay. And so just a reminder, the reason that why Rob is doing this is is because there's a limit on the plants, how many the number of plants you can have. So if there's a limit on the number of plants you can have, you wanna make those plants as big as possible. So that's what Rob's invention, the Atlas Plant Trainer, is designed to help with.
Rob: Yeah. So for example, Maine and Massachusetts are getting ready to institute their recreational cannabis laws. And what was proposed was a plant count of 6 plants per person and 12 per household. And throughout the legislative process, they have reduced both of those in both states, Maine and Massachusetts, down from 6 per person to 3 and 12 per household down to 6. So if you are trying to stay legal and have to grow half the amount of plants, the only way to attain the same yield out of half the amount of plants is to grow wider plants and fill up the same space underneath the same lighting that you did with the original plant count.
Matthew: Right. I can just imagine when you're given a limitation like this, your plants look like "Jack and the Beanstalk," they go to the sky. It's like, "Still one plant, Mr. Regulator, nothing to see here."
Rob: Right. Yeah, we're trying to fill up a whole room. You know, we have four plants that we are currently growing out under 6,000 lots of lighting. So that is a...it's a 12 by 16 room, so it'll work out to be about a 14 by 10 grow space with four plants.
Matthew: Okay. And so for people that are trying to get a visual of what this looks like, it looks like a connector set or Lincoln Logs or something like that, parts that connect together in a way that's easy and manageable.
Rob You got it. We say where the connects or the erector set for growers, we just can't use that in advertising for obvious reasons. But yeah, it's depending on the age of the audience, you know, some of our older demographic doesn't know what connects are, but both of those are very applicable.
Matthew: Okay. So if I were trying to do this with a bamboo or tomato cages, it's just...it's not a purpose-built solution there, so I'm always kind of duct taping together little bits of more bamboo or like breaking the tomato cage and moving it around a little bit and it just becomes a pain because it's not designed for a cannabis plant that you're trying to make as big as possible.
Rob: Right. So the biggest benefactor that we start off with is Atlas Plant Trainer grows with your plant. So in a vegetative stage, it's important to keep your veg lights close to your plant. And if you're trying to train that plant to grow wide, it's...you can't put a 4-foot-tall tomato cage or a bamboo stake in with a 12-inch-tall plant and try and keep your lights close. It just isn't going to happen. So if you do that, your plant is gonna stretch towards that light, the nodes are gonna get further away, and it's going to become flimsier because it's stretching for that light. So Atlas allows you to grow wide immediately out of your plant pot getting a lot more plant closer to the light source, and then it grows with the plants' modular and just clicks in as your plant gets bigger. And then as your plant stretches when you transition into the flowering stage, you can just add in another piece instead of adding in more bamboo stakes or longer bamboo stakes.
One of the kickers right before we were making the decision on whether or not to move this project forward is I had a sour Kush strain that was two and a half feet tall when I put it in the flower and it was seven and a half feet tall by the time it was done stretching. So I only have four-foot-tall bamboo stakes around. So I went and bought six-foot-tall bamboo stakes, and when it stretched past that, I went and bought eight-foot-tall bamboo stakes and had to cut six inches off of them because I only have under eight feet between my floor and my lights. So to support these really stretchy, heavy flowering plants, now I have really long bamboo stakes sticking around my garden that I will never use again because I don't wanna grow plants that tall. With that list, I would have just added another piece and supported the whole structure as it went just another foot taller.
Matthew: So the market for this is more of the home growers you mentioned, but do you think commercial growers will want this at all for maybe an experimental lab or R&D or anything else they're doing?
Rob: Absolutely. We feel we have a home in a few commercial markets and a few applications everywhere. We were at MJBizCon in the fall with a booth and we always knew or thought our market was strictly home growers. And one of the first commercial growers that we talked to was like, "I think you're selling yourself short, my friend." He's like, "What about growing your mothers?" He's like, "A mother plant, you wanna grow really wide and have really great light penetration so you have healthy cuttings across the entire plant." And he's like, "I can absolutely see growing a four by four wide plant, you know, two-feet-tall, and then you can just chop all of those tops right off."
So that is definitely an avenue that we're interested in exploring, but also any place that is limited truly by plant counts instead of square footage that they can grow in. New Mexico, for example, they're allowed to have a maximum of 450 flowering plants with, from what I know, no limitation on the square footage that they can grow in. Colorado, they're limited by plant counts, but it's like thousands of plants. Our product is not as impactful with those numbers as we can have the impact on smaller numbers and growing a wider plant.
Matthew: Okay. What's your sense on how big the market is for home growers overall? I mean, do you have any...when you were making the decision to go, no, go, what are your kind of back of the napkin type of numbers?
Rob: Yeah. As I'm sure you can imagine, the market is hard to pinpoint because not every state is legal and not everybody is willing to share whether they're growing cannabis at home or not. We think that with the innovations that are happening in soil and lighting, and Grow 10 technology, that coupled with products like Atlas Plant Trainer, are making it easy for growers to grow at home, that market is going to continue to grow. Some Canadian estimates that we've heard are as high as 25% of Canadians are gonna be interested in growing at home. We like to settle around, you know, 3% or 4% of cannabis consumers will regularly grow their cannabis at home. And that number might seem small, but, you know, 60% of Americans regularly consume cannabis. So we're looking at millions of home grows.
And part of our mission is making it easy for people to grow at home. So we do a lot of education and helping people get over their fears of ruining a plant or how hard it is to grow a plant at home because it's really not that hard anymore. A lot of the innovations in the space has taken that difficulty away and we really think that along with the benefits of growing your own medicine and knowing what goes into it, you also know what goes on it, meaning that you don't have to worry about pesticides being sprayed on in a commercial application. You control your medicine and the type of plant and what you get out of it. So we really wanna be part of championing that message and helping people feel the benefit of growing their own cannabis.
Matthew: So you pitched at The Arcview Group, the Cannabis Investor Forum. Can you tell us about your experience there raising capital or trying to and provide any suggestions to entrepreneurs that are out there thinking about raising capital?
Rob: Sure, sure. So, we were really early. We thought we were a lot closer to having a finished product than we were. So we pitched in September in West Palm Beach in 2017 and we just launched and started bringing in revenue at the beginning of April, you know, just about six weeks ago. So we had lots of iterations between, you know, presenting and actually having revenue. So we did lose a bit of the traction that we gained there with the delays that we were experiencing. Now, we've learned that everything, you know, takes a little bit longer and costs a little bit more money than you can initially expect. But now that we have revenue, we're re-contacting those investors and look forward to sparking those conversations and are actually looking to get to one of the future Arcview events and maybe even present again on stage. But now, we're in a much better position to be raising capital.
So my advice for entrepreneurs, be ready, know your numbers, have some revenue, and be unique. I guess the other suggestion is be creative with how you're willing to raise money and asking...and what you're willing to give up for your company. The cannabis industry is new and very tumultuous, and from our experience, investors are looking for ways, creative ways to get their money back instead of just putting money in an equity and, you know, crossing their fingers that in 10 years that they'll have an exit because the future of cannabis is still unknown. It's definitely not the tech space where, you know, they're betting on unicorns. From our experience, cannabis investors are looking for not just equity stakes, but creative ways to get some money back out of the company while still helping us get off the ground.
Matthew: Yeah, know your numbers is good especially...I mean, there's a wide spectrum of different types of investors, but typically, what I like to call the agitator, that's the type of investor that comes over and is like wants to get you on your heels that you don't know something and they've got...and that they try to shame you for not knowing everything, and with the goal of getting you to give up more of your company or just because they like to shame you a little bit and want you to know your stuff better which is useful, but still doesn't feel good.
Rob: Yeah, that's interesting you say that. One of my experiences, and I'll be honest, I would much rather focus on building my company and selling my product, and raising capital is a necessary evil in my opinion, but I've learned a lot in the process. And one thing that I'd like to say is not everybody that seems like they're asking crazy off the wall questions is asking you to throw you off your game. I've learned a lot about they're trying to test your reaction and it's okay if you don't know something, but how you handle not knowing something and respond and follow up is just as important in knowing or not knowing some of the questions. It's important to be able to react to everything instead of getting thrown off your game if somebody is asking you those off the wall questions. Which was a big lesson for me to learn as this process has gone on.
Matthew: Good points. Now, you have some connections to growers, incubators, and LPs in Canada. Can you tell us a little bit about that and maybe compare and contrast the Canadian market a little bit more than we have so far?
Rob: Yeah. So we just recently completed the Leaf Forward Sprint to Pitch program, which was great. We did a six-week long program where we met a couple of days a week for three hours, met with different mentors, went through different presentations, and fine-tuned our pitch. And then we got together in Toronto for a group...it's not really a pitch competition because there was no award, but it was an investor meeting, so to speak. And what I learned is obviously there's lots of capital that is going around cannabis in Canada, but the angel investor community might be very shy in getting involved with certain U.S. companies which was something that we hadn't heard about, but we had talked with a couple of different angel investors and they seem to think that there were some concerns in their groups about putting their money in U.S. companies because of the volatility and the unknown future for us.
However, on the flip side, with the right setup, you know, company wise, it seemed like there was lots of Canadian money that was willing to get into the right companies and the right establishments in the U.S. as well as lots of interest from LPs, Licensed Producers, and the money that they seem to have available. Getting involved with brands such as ours in the U.S. and Canadian space. Beyond that, you know, like I said, the openness and the upfront talk about the industry being an industry and not just it being consumers and potheads where there's still that stigma that associates around especially, you know, in the New England area where we are, that doesn't exist from what we saw in Canada. Everybody, you know, the waitresses, you know, the Lyft and Uber drivers, concierges at the hotel, the Airbnb hosts, like that type of stuff, everybody knows that cannabis is on the forefront and it's an exciting time. It's something new. And I think Canada has always had a little special affiliation with cannabis, so it's good for them to get it out in the open market as it is.
Matthew: Yeah, the puritan streak in America runs deep and it can be frustrating at times. Like we'd rather make it a legal than secretly do it somehow. It's a weird pathology. I don't really understand why we do that, but we do.
Rob: Yeah, totally.
Matthew: At this point in the interview, I like to transition to some personal development questions to help the listeners get a better sense of who you are personally. With that, is there a book that has had a big impact on your life or way of thinking that you'd like to share?
Rob: Yes. So I took some time to think about this question because I'm not a huge reader. If I were to read a book, it's in bed and it's two pages to put me to sleep usually. I do a lot of audible listening and podcast consumption. The book that looking back on my life that I always end up going back to is "Awakening the Buddha Within," by Lama Surya Das. My grandmother passed away shortly after my 18th birthday and shortly after my high school graduation, and she was kind of my rock. And I was obviously in a transitionary period of my life and was having a really hard time with her passing and turned to Buddhism and this book and meditation to get me through those times.
And many times, throughout my life since then, I will gravitate back towards that book and even if it's just a chapter or two and kinda remind myself of why that was important to me, and I'll meditate and not a huge meditator, but when I feel like I need it, I will definitely dig into it for a couple of weeks or a month at a time to bring myself back. But that book is beating the heck and it's traveled everywhere with me, but it's one that I will forever hold on to. So I'd have to say "Awakening the Buddha Within."
Matthew: Okay. Is there a tool besides the Plant Trainer that you consider vital to your productivity that you'd like to share?
Rob: I use Upwork a lot. Upwork is great for hiring contractors to do pretty much anything that you don't want or can't or aren't really good at for your business. And I have spent...I've learned to focus a lot on my strengths and not trying to improve on my weaknesses. So I use Upwork when I'm hitting the wall with a project and I need somebody, you know, to bring it across the finish line or I just can't squeeze in hours in my day to edit videos that I wanna put up on YouTube. So I find a couple of contractors, put out the job description. And now, I've kinda built my own contractor team that I work with for web development, content, and video editing, and I couldn't be happier with them, and I found them all through Upwork. So it is a critical part of our businesses.
Matthew: Cool. Well, Rob, as we close, how can listeners learn more about the Atlas Plant Trainer and connect with you?
Rob: We are pretty much every social media, @atlasplanttrainer or atlasplanttrain when there weren't enough characters allowed, and atlasplanttrainer.com, or growbiggest.com. So they can find our contact information all across there. And again, that is atlasplanttrainer.com or growbiggest.com.
Matthew: Well, I'm glad you're finally starting the thought there in Maine and I hope you have a great summer. We appreciate you coming on and telling us about the Atlas Plant Trainer and about trimming and educating us, and we wish you all the best.
Rob: Awesome. Thanks so much, Matt. Thanks for having me.
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