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Bailee Syrek, Operations Manager at Onyx

“You want to achieve consistency, and you want a setting that is easy to control”

There are many different methods to grow cannabis, each of them with its pros and cons. Obviously, there isn’t a one-fit-all technique, and there are several considerations that drive this decision. For instance, not only the build-out of the facility influences this choice but also the type of end product one aims to produce.

Consistently high quality 
Onyx is a Washington-based cannabis growing company that had one goal since the company’s inception: producing the highest-quality cannabis consistently. “They reached out to me and explained that their mission was to be able to provide the most consistent and cleanest medical-grade product possible,” Andrew Lange with Ascendant Management says. “From that, we only had one scalable choice that met the low operating cost requirements and that was aeroponics.”

Bailee Syrek is the operations manager at Onyx, and she too agrees on the fact that getting high quality consistently is the biggest challenge of large-scale cannabis growing. “Consistency and replication are the biggest challenges,” she says. “And among the other reasons, staffing is one of the main ones.” She indeed points out that cultivation and production facilities have a high turnover rate. “People think that it’s cool to work with cannabis,” she says. “Thing is, it is not as glamorous as some think. There are many cool things that we do in the industry, but at the same time it is hard labor and being in love with the end product is not enough. You have to be in love with the entire process.”

Cannabis and aeroponics
Thus, on a quest to set up the most efficient cannabis cultivation facility, Onyx and Andrew Lange had to consider a few things before breaking the ground. “You want to achieve consistency, and you want a setting that is easy to control,” Bailee explains. “In Washington, the weather can be quite gloomy, and it rains a lot – surely not ideal conditions for growing outdoors. So, the company decided to go for an indoor facility, and to set up an aeroponic system. I was so impressed by their facility and I literally begged them to hire me.”

This attraction was largely because Onyx, following Andrew Lange advice, had opted for aeroponic cultivation, as well as aeroponic cloning, carried out thanks to AEssenseGrows: AEtrium System. “There are a number of factors that drove this decision,” Andrew adds. “As said, the goal was to get consistent high quality. But on top of that, there were also environmental concerns to address.” As Bailee puts it, “The cannabis industry is very resource-intensive with regards to water, electricity and so on. Onyx took the utmost care to reduce its impact on the environment.” This could be achieved thanks to aeroponics, and AEssenseGrows system.

“The input cost is lower because the plants take up only what they need to ensure healthy growth,” Bailee says. “We use less water, less electricity – also thanks to the LEDs. We are proud to be a water neutral facility: since plants are suspended in the air, and water mixed with nutrients is directly sprayed to the roots, plants would take up only what they need – not even a single drop of it gets wasted. Another pro of such an aeroponic setting is that, since there is no medium involved, there is a very much reduced pest pressure – or I should say that there is none at all.” And indeed, Bailee points out that they don’t use any pesticides. “We use all-natural cleaners, as our goal is to produce the cleanest cannabis possible.”

In order to achieve their level of quality, Onyx utilizes the AEtrium System by AEssenseGrows. “I started working with AEssenseGrows 6 years ago,” Andrew says. “They have very solid products, that can be adapted to the clients’ needs. They are far and away the leaders in aeroponic equipment and software for the cannabis industry, and the only manufacturer that I know of that has deployed their product at any scale for cannabis. What I particularly like about their solutions is the reservoirs/dosing equipment which allows for a greater range of control and planting diversity inside a grow room in comparison to relying on centralized dosing stations for an entire room which is common in more traditional crops grown aeroponically.”

“It’s all about control,” says Bailee. “And with the AEtrium systems we use, we can do everything with the Guardian Grow Manager from our smart devices. With the system, you can control different parameters, tables: you have control on each plant row, making it way less labor-intensive than other systems.”

Thus, Onyx is very much focused on integrated high tech in cannabis cultivation, and the use of aeroponic and AEssenseGrows solutions prove that point. Being on the cutting edge of cannabis cultivation is particularly important during a time where the market is evolving rapidly, asking growers to keep the pace. “We are seeing the market getting more consolidated, with regards to cultivation, manufacturing, and so on,” Bailee points out. “There’ll be a lot fewer companies representing more brands. Big companies will create more brands and products, and would source the wholesale from smaller grows to support that.”

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