Charlie McKenzie, Left Coast Holdings:

US (MI): “With three environments of cultivation, we are able to hit different categories in the market”

"I was amazed at the opportunity to grow 12 acres of outdoor cannabis, as well as in a 3,000 sq. ft. greenhouse and an indoor facility. Having three production environments definitely keeps us on our toes, but it also keeps us learning and helps us improve," says Charlie McKenzie, Director of Cultivation Operations at Left Coast Holdings. As a vertically integrated company, they are successfully navigating their way through the competitive Michigan market. "The current market is challenging. Therefore, we are focused on figuring out how to do the inconceivable: increasing our yield while lowering our costs, in a way that does not affect the quality."

Different markets
Left Coast Holdings is a vertically integrated company that produces both adult-use and medical cannabis in Michigan. Located predominantly in Manistee, McKenzie explains that the location offers them a unique microclimate and a beautiful farming area. Having only just started cultivation last year, the company also uses that production to feed their own processing and manufacturing division. The end products appear on the shelves of the three retail stores that the company owns. "As a vertically integrated company, we have got a lot of ability to be flexible, which is a valuable asset in this market."

The company grows cannabis in three different environments in order to hit different categories within the market. "Outdoor production is the lowest in cost. We are able to produce outdoor biomass for much less than we would be able to in an indoor facility. Therefore, we have the opportunity to grow this biomass for our team to process and create products like vape cartridges at a cost that is advantageous for us." The indoor facility is an opportunity for the company to hit the segment of the market that is focused on high-quality, exotic flower and genetics. "Here, we produce a smokeable flower. In the facility, we are focused on an immaculate product that is free of any pests, diseases, or pathogens. The greenhouse is kind of an intermediary. We use the space for our mother stock production, the clones of which we use for our outdoor production to and sell to other cultivators in Michigan."

Managing three types of cultivation
McKenzie explains that cultivating in three different settings can be quite the challenge. However, it also helps them to learn and improve. "Using different cultivation techniques, we apply things that we're learning outdoors to our indoor production, and vice versa." So what are some of the differences between the three environments? "Inside, we are using a precise environmental controller so that we can maintain environmental setpoints throughout the crop cycle. We are also using moisture and electrical conductivity sensors in the substrates so that we can measure the dry back and the irrigation and fertigation cycles. When it comes to pest and pathogen management, we are really focused on IPM. We use quite some beneficial insects to protect against any insect herbivores that might be interested. But before that, we are focused on biosecurity first and foremost. We aim to create an environment that won't allow pests and pathogens in, but then also an environment inside that does not tolerate insects being on the plants very long if they do make it in."

When it comes to pest management, the outdoor production has given them some challenges. "Last year, there was a little bit of foliar bacteria and foliar fungi pathogens that were causing issues in the crop. Therefore, we purchased an electrostatic sprayer for the outdoor crop. This is going to be powered by our tractor and will give a really consistent and thorough coverage." In the greenhouse, the biggest challenge is the Michigan climate. "The temperature changes are extreme, with cold nights and hot days. We will see nights at 40 degrees Fahrenheit, after which the temperature will go up to 85 degrees during the day. Depending on well controlled your greenhouse is, it can be a challenge for your environmental controls to keep up with that. We have a heater that helps us with the heat, and we have exhaust and intake vents to expel the air. However, it is definitely not a completely controlled environment. As a result, you have to change your watering schedules and look at your fertigation and IPM plans differently."

A competitive market
Even if your company is vertically integrated and continually improving its production, there is no denying that the Michigan cannabis market is a competitive one. "It is not a vertically mandated market, so you could be just a cultivator or just a processor. As a result, that made it easier for a lot of companies to get into the business and get a license. Currently, the market is difficult, with the prices being down. Of course, we are trying to increase our yield and cannabinoid and terpene content. But at the same time, it is important to cut costs without cutting quality. We believe that there are ways to implement different techniques to lower our cost of production by looking at techniques used in other industries and applying them to cannabis. That is currently our biggest focus: doing the inconceivable job of increasing our yield while decreasing the cost of production."

When it comes to the future, there is a lot in store for the company. "We are excited to bring another indoor facility online soon, which will increase the footprint of exotic cannabis that we're growing. There are also two other dispensary locations currently being built, so we are expanding our retail footprint as well. We are also looking to establish new relationships with companies, whether this is a co-packing relationship or a manufacturing or processing relationship. One thing that is certain is that in 2023 cultivators can look forward to a lineup of clean, high-performing genetics available for outdoor and indoor production."

For more information:
Left Coast Holdings 

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