“Most growers have THC and yield goals, but there are other ways to make your product more appealing. With the market having become so competitive, differentiating your cannabis is important,” says Deron Caplan, Senior Consultant at Sostanza. The horticultural consulting company is specialized in working with cannabis growers on all sorts of aspects. From data collection to quality improvement, the team has helped facilities worldwide. Caplan explains some of the biggest challenges facing growers, as well as the company’s goals for the future.
A fertigation challenge
Sostanza has noticed an evident struggle with fertigation and irrigation among cannabis growers. “There is a long history in the industry of using expensive, highly marketed fertilizers. However, it isn’t very clear for growers to know what actually works, as there are so many options that are marketed as being the best. We help growers implement scalable and effective fertilizer programs and irrigation systems. We regularly come across systems that are not working well for existing facilities, and in those cases, we help transition to something more effective. We bring traditional horticultural methods over to cannabis, such as taking tissue samples and adapting fertilizer application based on different important aspects, such as PH levels and nutrient ratios.”
Newly emerging pests
Another challenge is combating cannabis pests, while working with a very limited amount of research in this area. Caplan explains: “First of all, in most jurisdictions, growers have very limited access to conventional pesticides. On top of that, cannabis is a fairly new crop to be produced at its current scale. Pests are spreading rapidly, and new pests have emerged in the past five years. The Cannabis Aphid, for example, is very difficult to get rid of and spreads incredibly fast. In addition, the Hop Latent Viroid has been affecting yield and THC content in cannabis crops all over North America. It is a major challenge for growers to figure out how to deal with these problems without academic research. Our hands-on experience working with these issues lets us help growers implement effective pest management strategies.”
Proper data collection to improve yield
Of course, improving yield is something that the majority of cannabis growers are interested in. Caplan explains that developing a proper data collection program is the first step in order to do so. “You need the relevant data to make and track improvements. Unfortunately, the data collection is often a bit all over the place. This prevents the grower from knowing where exactly they are starting in terms of yield. We help identify the most relevant data; the yield per canopy area, for example. With this knowledge, growers can implement and track changes to improve plant health, which will in turn improve yield. Common issues stem from light intensity, airflow and irrigation frequency. There are so many different irrigation techniques amongst cannabis growers, and some of them don’t produce healthy plants, with the yield suffering as a consequence.”
Differentiating your product
As the cannabis market has been evolving over the years, Sostanza is noticing an interesting change in cannabis growers’ interests. “With the market becoming more competitive, growers are now more interested in other aspects besides THC levels and yield. Companies need ways to differentiate their product with so many producers out there. Growers can do so by focusing on the terpene content, for example, or the visual appeal of the flowers. Of course, THC and yield are still majorly important aspects for growers. But after reaching acceptable levels, you can start looking at different features as well.”
A more cooperative industry
While the demand for their services is already high, there are still achievements the company is hoping to make. “Our goal is to grow our team so that we can cover more ground and help more people. We want to help growers raise the bar of their cultivation goals and facilitate more consistency between producers, as many growers are not yet speaking the same language in terms of cultivation. It would be amazing to support a more cooperative cannabis community,” Caplan adds.