How does this family-owned business stay competitive in the Colorado cannabis market? As owner Nic Borst says, "people talk a lot about quality-in, quality-out, and that really starts from the very beginning - and if you have quality equipment and quality infrastructure, it allows you to produce the best product possible."
From the beginning of his venture, he knew that to grow quality product he would need fine-grained control over every aspect
of the cultivation environment, and to achieve that, he needed modern and efficient technology available. Borst wanted technology that would not only enable him to produce consistently high-quality crops but would also ensure that his grow rooms were contained so they didn’t produce odors or lights that might disturb his neighbors.
With cold, dry winters, spring hail and summer heat, Colorado presented a challenging growing environment. Borst wanted to produce great product all year long, no matter the season. Once he started researching environmental systems, he found that most on the market were designed to work with traditional heating, ventilation and air conditioning setups and didn’t offer the low ambient opportunities and other functionalities needed for successful cannabis cultivation. Another issue he encountered when prepping his site was that traditional HVAC systems presented significant challenges with redundancy. He wanted a system that would allow him to continue operations regardless of the status of any single room or piece of equipment. The last major challenge he faced was budget. His facility was a small, family-owned business, and he wanted to work with one environmental systems company that could provide the necessary engineering, infrastructure, plans and equipment, so he wouldn’t have to deal with multiple vendors.
During the build-out process, Borst encountered a steep learning curve. Even with his experience as a small business owner and as a farmer, scaling to a larger capacity made him nervous. He found there was a significant lack of information for new cultivators about best practices for environmental control, water handling, pesticide use, and integrated pest management. However, he was still excited about the opportunity to chase his passion. At the same time, he recognized a trend in the cannabis market — similar to what’s found in the craft beer market — of customers wanting the same product every time they make a purchase.
In 2015, while still searching for a company that could help him create the controlled, consistent and redundant growing environment he envisioned, Borst met Surna’s co-founder, Brandy Keen, at a conference in Denver. Surna had the technologies to provide everything he was looking for, and he was impressed with Surna’s knowledge base as well as Keen’s ability to communicate from a scientific perspective.
After his initial meeting with Keen, Surna worked with him on plans for his facility’s cultivation capacity. Surna designed a chilled water system for his facility, performing all the load calculations and equipment selections, and demonstrated how easy the equipment was to use. Surna laid out a full strategy for Durango Cannabis Company based on the projections for cultivation space in the building, number of plants, water schedule, and lighting type, quantity and schedule. Surna’s plan included working with Borst’s general contractors, completing the engineering, and commissioning the new system.
Borst notes that the best thing about the Surna system for Durango is that it’s multidimensional. For example, Durango is able to reclaim water from the dehumidification process, lowering the company’s water bill. “It gives us controllability,” he adds, “and it gives us redundancy, so that if one component needs service, all the other rooms continue. It gives us the ability to heat or cool our environment no matter what the temperature or climate is outside of the building.”