One thing we wanted to do when it came to growing our cannabis is to use high-tech, cutting edge methods to grow really high quality plants. For this, we’ve hired a lot of industry experts, like Jolyon, our facility designer, and people like Jorg, an expert legacy grower.
Because it’s cool, and we thought y’all might be interested, we wanted to take some time to dive into how we’re growing our cannabis. The tech and methods affects the products we’re making, and it’s all pretty fascinating stuff. While we’re going to be tackling our lighting system at a later date, we thought soil would be a good place to start. After all, it’s kind of the core of what we do here.
The information in this post was gathered by chatting with both Jorg and Jolyon, with a few extra links to back up some of the more science-y things being discussed.
Ways to Grow Cannabis
With origins in the black market, cannabis is mostly grown with full hydroponics. For those who don’t know, hydroponics is a system of growing plants in water. Think tower gardens, though there are lots of different kinds of hydroponics systems. It’s a great system in the sense that it gives growers tons of control over everything. It also tends to lead to bigger plant yields, and in the case of cannabis, produces plants with higher percentages of THC. However, since it relies heavily on technology, it’s a bit expensive to get up and running, and if something breaks down in that tech, the whole thing kind of crashes.
In hydroponics, you have to feed the plants directly, using chemicals that are readily available for the plants to soak up.
Alternatively, plants can be grown in soil. This isn’t regularly done within the cannabis industry, but it’s the system we decided to go with for a whole bunch of reasons. For some of our legacy growers, this was a bit of an adjustment, but Jorg mentioned that the benefits of soil are really apparent in the quality of plant being produced.
So why soil when it’s not really done in the industry? Great question.
All About Soil
The thing about living, organic soil is that it’s incredibly complex. When chatting with Jolyon about this, he said “there’s more life in a teaspoon of soil than stars in the galaxy.” It’s one of the most complex and important things on the planet. “If you can imagine the planet as a basketball, covered in plastic wrap, the wrap is the soil,” Jolyon said. “It’s responsible for all life, so it’s really important. And there’s a lot we still don’t understand about it.”
Soil is made up of tons of compounds and micro-organisms. All these compounds go towards feeding the plant the nutrients that it needs. Because of the complexity of these nutrients, they allow the plant to be its best genetic self and develop in a more complex, rich way. As Jolyon says “that’s how nature does it, so why change what’s already perfect?”
When we feed the soil instead of feeding the plants directly, we’re also taking a much gentler approach. Instead of being force fed, the organisms in the soil break this food down into compounds the plants can soak up. It’s up to the plant to decide what it needs – not us. So it’s more about working with the relationship between the roots and organisms living in the soil. While it takes a little bit to understand soil health and ensure the stuff you’re using is good quality, once the system’s up, it’s very easy to maintain. There’s also less risk, because even if some of our fancy tech systems go down, the soil will keep the plants alive and sustained whereas a pure water system won’t do that.
The Impact on Our Plants / Products
When it comes to the impact of using soil on the actual plants, legacy grower Jorg said that “the biggest difference has to be the smell and taste of the living soil cannabis; it’s brighter and more complex.” Using soil is also noted to be easier to grow with because you don’t have to keep mixing hydroponic solutions.
Living, organic soil tends to grow plants with not only more complex terpene profiles, but more actual terpene content. This is why Jorg noted the difference in smell between plants grown with hydroponics and those grown in soil. However, this is a bit of a double-edged sword when it comes to the cannabis industry. Because weight is used to measure the amount of compounds in cannabis, more terpenes ultimately means less THC, which can make consumers a bit wary. However, due to how vital terpenes and other cannabinoids are to the overall experience created by a product, measuring THC alone is not necessarily the best indicator of product quality. This goes back to the idea that more complexity = better quality, instead of measuring only in THC levels.
However, what the public sees as great cannabis seems to be changing to better align with higher terpene content and quality. As more time passes, we hope the science can evolve and more folks learn about the importance of terpenes and other cannabinoids to a product’s particular effect.
When it comes to soil, there’s a ton to know. A lot of it we’re still learning. What we can say, however, is that when it comes to growing high quality, complex cannabis, having the right soil is definitely the key. While there are some pros to full hydroponics, and we value their impact on the cannabis industry, we’re also excited to try newer, closer-to-nature methods of growing.