Relying on knowledge and experience in a young cannabis enterprise is paramount, yet those are not easy-to-find qualities. However, there is a company that is leveraging its consulting experience to run its own cultivation facilities and capitalize on the booming cannabis industry. Based in Denver, CO, Next Big Crop is a consulting company with experience working in many states, supporting growers to increase their efficiency or to start their business on the right foot. “For the last six years we have been a consulting company and recently, through legislative changes in Colorado we are finally able to own our own licenses here in the state,” Jon Jirikovec, Director of Cultivation with Next Big Crop, says. “We have had experience working in dozens of states and have valuable knowledge working in different regulatory environments, as well as utilizing different cultivation methodologies, grow mediums, etc.; gaining experience in those areas has really helped us deliver for our clients.” And now, Next Big Crop itself is also growing cannabis.
“The most important thing is to be consistent with practices,” Jon explains. “You need to stick to the schedule and collect data; data collection is huge for us. Analyzing data allows us to understand how each crop compares to previous cycles: irrigation schedule, pest management practices, the environment, and so on, to maximize yield and increase efficiencies. Generally speaking, this proves itself to be very useful for our consulting clients too, as we can show them the data and the information necessary to achieve a given result in a specific growing environment.”
In order to actualize the plan based on the collected data, it is crucial to rely on automation in order to improve efficiency and be sure that every step is done perfectly. “Some of the technology we use is really impressive,” Jon points out. “We do our best to automate as much as we can: for instance, we don’t hand water. By utilizing automation, we can create consistency and ensure that temperature and humidity remain consistent, that the plants receive the same amount of water on regular intervals, and that valuable data is collected each day.” But one of the most important aspects of Next Big Crops cultivation strategy is crop steering. “It is crucial to have a uniform canopy, and that each plant gets the same amount of light, nutrients, water and so forth,” he continues. “That is why we utilize crop steering: every plant gets the same environment and irrigation. We are basically training the plant to eat and drink. On top of that, we run a lot of micro irrigation, which is very cost effective and efficient from a utility usage standpoint.”
The first structure for cannabis cultivation
The greenhouse where Next Big Crop grows cannabis was already existing, and it was actually one of the very first structures that was specifically made for cannabis cultivation. “We think that greenhouses are the future of cannabis cultivation,” Jon observes. “Even though this facility was built for growing cannabis, we are continuously making improvements: new irrigation schemes, new management systems. The cannabis industry is at the forefront of cultivation technology, and we must upgrade our facility constantly in order to improve our efficiency and output.”
Thanks to the privileged position of Next Big Crop, Jon believes that it has been very important to enter the market in such a young stage. “Thanks to all the knowledge and experience that we have, we are able to enter the market in the best way possible,” he says. “I expect more large companies coming into this space, with the financial power to do what they want: realistically, they are going to hire experienced people and to get into a mature market where they can avoid the issues of the past. The market will become more saturated, and branding will become paramount. Thanks to our experience and ability to constantly improve our processes, we will be able to carve ourselves a place into the market.”