“Cannabis and salad growing have more similarities than you might think”

“Cannabis farms face a number of unique challenges, ranging from the importance of moisture management to managing a vertically integrated business,” said Sonny Moerenhout of Cultivators. The Dutch company supports growers of legal cannabis and stockpiles from the moment they want to bring their first ideas to life, to the moment they are active on a daily basis. “What many people do not know is that growing cannabis and lettuce on water has many interesting similarities.”

Cannabis cultivation challenges
Creating coherence is one of the biggest challenges facing the Cultivators team in helping cannabis growers. For example, it should be possible to supply batches with the same proportion of cannabinoids all year round. Climate control and the availability of uniform amounts of light are important here.

With large amounts of light, the transpiration rate is high. Moisture control is therefore essential to prevent diseases such as gray mold. These types of diseases are particularly challenging for cannabis. A tomato grower can look back six weeks to find out what climate change has caused the disease, but with cannabis, gray mold is visible on the flower already after three to four days. It is therefore important to keep a close eye on the crops.

Cannabis growers are unique compared to other growers because the majority are vertically integrated. “Because of the cannabis rules, vertical integration is more or less mandatory because it allows for the necessary legal oversight of the process from sowing to sale. The result is that one company does everything: cultivation, the mother plants, propagation, post-harvest processes and “This is what makes the cannabis sector so unique. Companies should be able to monitor all these processes themselves. Basically, it’s about running several companies in one place.”

Yet the challenges in the cannabis sector are not as unique as one might think. Sonny explains that companies that grow lettuce on water actually work the same way. “Companies that grow lettuce on water are also vertically integrated: they take care of germination, propagation, cultivation and post-harvest processes (including packaging) in one place. Another similarity is the relatively high amounts involved in the initial investment ( “For lettuce and cannabis, these can quickly rise to more than € 600 per m2, while the average cost of a tomato greenhouse is significantly lower. However, the advantage is that in addition to the high investment, the income is also significant.”

Many investors have turned to water-based cannabis and lettuce cultivation, which makes them look like similar audiences. These investors focus on the company’s financial returns and outsource the selection and development of the greenhouses and cultivation systems to specialized companies, such as cultivators. First, one must focus on the question of what exactly one wants to grow and what specific requirements the customer has for the product. On the basis of this knowledge, an appropriate plant can be defined.

European cultivation potential
In terms of their work in the European cannabis sector, Cultivators mainly focuses on guiding and evaluating business plans and facility design. “In recent years, cultivation facilities have also been built, which unfortunately do not live up to the right specifications for growing a high-quality product. The European cannabis market is still in its infancy and there is still much to be gained.”

From a consumer perspective, Germany and France are markets with great potential. Nevertheless, Cultivators focuses mainly on countries that have a large cultivation potential. “Currently, it is Switzerland, Portugal and Denmark. These countries are leaders in high-quality cultivation facilities.”

As a Dutch company, Cultivators is of course also active in the Netherlands. She recently began helping companies that are part of the government experiment with a closed coffee bar chain. Something that is not without challenges. “The experiment is progressing slowly, but we know that all the companies involved want to make it a success! One of the biggest challenges is the complex regulations and the late start-up of cultivation and sales. For the participating companies and their investors, it is therefore a challenge to take full advantage of this business opportunity, cultivators help them navigate this landscape. ”

Share knowledge
Sonny has for several years supported GreenTech Amsterdam with a knowledge platform about medical cannabis. “I am responsible for defining the themes and inviting presenters to the various presentations. We have managed to put together a high quality program with a focus on cultivation. At most other cannabis conferences, the presentations are focused on compliance and market potential. We want to share knowledge, that will benefit cannabis cultivation, it is after all the aspect on which the success of the companies depends. ” The program for the presentations, which was held over three days (June 14 – 16), can be found here.

During the event, the company announced exciting news. “We have started a consortium of companies in collaboration with the World Horti Center and Vertify. For four years we will be researching together in the cannabis field. In addition, we will be represented with a pavilion in the World Horti Center to reduce the stigma of cannabis and inform visitors about its applications and benefits. We hope to announce more about this project soon. Many well-known companies are involved. Our mission is to help the industry through knowledge and training. “

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