In this Growers Spotlight, we interview Mike Leibowitz, one of the three leading partners of Veritas Cannabis. Veritas Cannabis recently doubled their grow operation’s size, and we explore this process in the interview.
About Veritas Cannabis
We started as a white label company because Colorado’s market was saturated with generally low-quality cannabis. We knew we were doing something unique because our end results stood out.
We initially occupied half of a 24,000 sq ft building. It had small rooms where we could employ our boutique style of growing. The modularity of multiple small rooms meant that we could scale it up by building out more rooms.
A year ago we signed a lease for the other half of our 24,000 square foot building. We completed renovation and construction in November, 2016. Currently we have 15 flowering rooms, and each room contains approximately 24 lights. Every room has roughly 600 square feet of space.
In our new expansion, we decided to use a computer system to collect analytical data. Now we get alerts when an air conditioner or other equipment goes down.
We planned it out internally for months. We knew exactly how we wanted to build, how we wanted to focus our efforts, how we wanted to scale up, and it was all very natural.
Ramping up to a full-scale environment requires a significant time investment. You have a much tighter schedule. We had to maintain a rigorous schedule to not fall behind or let plants spoil and die.
Colorado is a relatively small industry. We generally find new hires through word of mouth.
Now, anybody can cook an egg. But it’s challenging to cook a perfect omelet. We feel the same way about cultivating marijuana. You can easily grow cheap weed and smoke it. But to grow great cannabis is a labor-intensive project.
We look for passionate people, often younger, who know they’re going to do hard work for a long time because they love the challenge. They love taking a small plant and watching it grow.
We switched from single-ended 1000W HPS bulbs to the new HID DE HPS bulbs, which allow more coverage. Each room also has its own growing atmosphere:
- We have a dedicated air conditioning unit for each room.
- We employ CO2 monitoring sensors.
- We exhaust air via exhaust fan during the night cycle to reduce humidity.
- We dehumidify mostly towards the end of the flowering cycle.
We hired an architect, electricians, HVAC companies, and a construction company to design and build our facility. However, the initial planning and legal work was all done internally.
Agencies and regulations can hamper your growth. Some agencies and departments have overlapping, contradictory rules. For example, the MED (Marijuana Enforcement Divison) may want locks that open a specific way, and the fire department wants the doors to open another way.
You will also run into unexpected timing issues, which lead to increased costs and lost profits. For example, you’ll wait for a bunch of lights and when they get installed, you realize you need a power upgrade. Then you have to wait for the power company.
We could not have done it better on this buildout. We’ve been through the process several times, and we know what we’re doing now.
When you have a new room that you’ve never grown in, you don’t know if anything will work at first. In our case, we’ve occupied our new place for only a month and 75% of it contains plants.
Advice for Growers Seeking to Scale
I would advise any business owner to curb their expectations. You will need to explore the needs of growing and balance them against your budget. Expect delays. Expect price increases. Expect to spend more than you have budgeted.
Throughout the process, communication is critical. Uncertainty and unpredictability have become the status quo in the industry. That’s why we conduct regular, biweekly meetings. We’re constantly making sure we’re growing properly and correcting mistakes.
You should start the scaling process by asking yourself some questions: What is your business model? Where are you located? Do you want quality cannabis or lots of cannabis? Your budget and your preferences change how you grow your business.
Also, what is everybody else doing? If you have one of 10 licenses in Massachusetts, you don’t have much competition. You can focus on quantity over quality and be successful.
If you’ve never expanded before, take the time to learn how to build a grow. You’re going to have a lot of trials and errors. If you don’t have the time or money to learn and make mistakes, then hire a consultant.
This article has been paraphrased with permission from Growers Network.
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