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Tyler Hannegan and Brad Rhodes, Robust:

US (MO): “Using both soil and sun is the best way to express our plants’ true terpene profile”

"We grow in a state of the art, clear top, positive pressure, climate controlled greenhouse. On top of that, we grow in soil. It's the hard way of going about things, but it gives us the best results and sets us apart in the state," say Tyler Hannegan and Brad Rhodes, both originally from Missouri and Co-Founders of Robust. The vertically integrated company in Missouri has a license to grow 30,000 square feet of canopy. Now that the company is coming up on its brand's two-year anniversary, it looks forward to continuing to be progressive in its approach to growing. "Our approach is different. That doesn't mean that others are wrong. But it certainly makes us unique and we believe that it helps produce the highest quality of cannabis possible."

A different approach
According to Brad and Tyler, the combination of greenhouse and soil is unique in Missouri. "We think it's the best way to express each cultivar's individual terpene profile. We use DEM Pure certified Biobizz products for our plant feedings, which gives us great results." Yet there's a reason not all of the state's growers are taking this route. "It's the hard way of going about things. We do rigorous testing of our soil samples and tissue samples, making sure to adapt through the runs. As a result, most of our soil is around 2,5 years old, which we continue to work with and amend. Correlating that craftsmanship to a commercial scale means that it's definitely a labor of love. But we see the results in the premium quality of our products and in the minimal amount of waste our operation produces."

Over the past year, the company has added some efficiencies to its facility to improve efficiency. "For example, we've added a Tecogen system, which is a natural gas chiller system with CO2 recapture. This is a great solution for us, as natural gas is more efficient than electric cooling or wind/water cooling. Overall, this new system allows our facility to function with the climate control capabilities of the best indoor grows in the country while simultaneously optimizing our efficiency and drastically reducing our overall energy demand compared to a more traditional operation."

When it comes to genetics, the company first makes sure the plant thrives in our environment. "We're not trying to trick a plant into doing something it doesn't want to do naturally," Tyler says. "Also, how the plant expresses itself needs to meet our extremely high bar of quality. Over the years, we've had some genetics that people want back. Yet we've realized that it was just not conducive for us in terms of the quality parameters or yield. So we're very picky when it comes to that. Also, the plant's aroma is exceptionally important. I think the fruity expressions and all the accentuations of the gassy notes really come out in our living soil and sun approach in a manner they just don't under different growing styles."

A collaborative endeavor
Tyler says that operationally, it's challenging to be a grower. "Just at our location alone, we have around 85 team members. We're managing the life cycle of 26 individual crops in various stages, running rooms of about 1650 plants per cycle. About 15-20% of each room is fresh frozen and used for our solventless only production line which has quickly become a favorite for customers in our state. With all those added dynamics, it's important that our leadership and team members are very well in sync."

Just like collaboration is important inside the greenhouse, it's also a unique aspect of the Missouri market, Tyler says. "It's a very collaborative marketplace. We have a great trade organization and partnerships are an important aspect of our industry. Cannabis in Missouri in itself is a collaborative endeavor. In turn, for the consumer, it's a great market as well, with competitive pricing, varying products and good supply."

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