"Cannabis isn't lettuce"
Not many people can boast almost 50 years of experience within the horticultural industry. Glenn Behrman, President and founder of Greentech Agro and CEA Advisors and developer of the Growtainer® and Growracks®, is part of this very exclusive group. “In 2010 I was among the first to see potential in indoor farming. But first, I had to go through an intense learning process which eventually led me to the Growtainer® idea”, Glenn says. Now that the cannabis industry is on the rise, the veteran horticulture expert decided to jump into this new adventure, offering people his extensive knowledge and hands on experience.
However, things haven’t always been easy for Glenn. “I was a very active member of the horticultural industry. Starting in 1971, I owned and operated successful horticulture businesses: my job was to operate high-volume retail and wholesale horticulture businesses and to always facilitate best practices. But I was never a grower”, Glenn explains. One day, his curiosity was inevitably sparked by the activities that PlantLab was carrying out in the Netherlands, and he saw a big opportunity. “This is how it all started. I was able to pick the brains of important and knowledgeable people – who, I must say, have always been incredibly open and willing to share their insights”.
He continues, “I still have a lot of gratitude to people such as Gertjan Meeuws, Roel Janssen, Joe Swartz and Ed Harwood.” However, the perception of one’s own expertise could be tricky, especially if that has not been tested in the field. “I had bought and sold millions of dollars of plant material, visited hundreds of nurseries, spoke to hundreds of growers, participated in numerous trade shows, conferences, events, you name it. But that did not make me a grower. So, I rolled up my sleeves, committed myself to learning and then proceeded to make every mistake in the book.”
Thus, Glenn got the idea of Growtainers®, which are shipping containers converted into indoor farms. “I thought that kind of structure was particularly suited for setting up an indoor farm. But, as I said, it wasn’t easy. It took me years of research, a substantial amount of money, a lot of trial and error and a real commitment to eventually be able to build the first Growtainer® that I was satisfied with. But I sold my first Growtainer® to a hobbyist who had the idea to make a business out of growing leafy greens. I quickly realized that I did not want to market to buyers with no experience. That was when I decided that I would build custom containers for commercial business only with my peers, professionals, people who knew how vertical farming could help them to achieve their objectives.”
Green Rush A similar thing is happening to all those people who are jumping into the cannabis industry without any previous experience. “They call it the Green Rush”, Glenn explains. “People trying to get capital, investments, or funding, to eventually find out that they or their business model was not suited. The truth is that it takes more than obtaining funding to run a business. Funding alone is not a business model.” These initial stages of the medical cannabis industry have seen a lot of people who believed that “one just needs to plant the seed and then bring the money to the bank. It does not work like this, at all”, Glenn explains. “Growing cannabis is not like growing lettuce. However, it is important to point out that humanity has been growing cannabis for centuries without resorting to any advanced technology. Thing is, medical cannabis needs to comply with the pharmaceutical industry standards. Therefore, a lot of money has been invested in research. Many brilliant minds have joined this endeavor, trying to discover the hidden characteristics of this plant to put it at the service of the pharmaceutical industry.”
Cannabis isn’t lettuce As Glenn stated, growing cannabis is not like growing lettuce. “Of course, we are talking about plants, so they basically need the same things such as water, light, fertilizer and attention, obviously. However, just to give an example, lettuce needs between 2-300 micromoles of light, while cannabis for flowering wants much higher light levels. All this light power generates a lot of heat, from which the cannabis plants need to be protected. That is why Climate Control systems are extremely important, but a big part of the issue can be solved by adopting LED lights, for instance, as they do not produce as much heat.”
It is necessary to find a balance between all these different aspects. Alas, that is not something that’s easy to achieve, and a lot of knowledge and time is required in order to get the expected results. “You need to commit 110% to what you are doing. This business is a 24/7 commitment: you start working as soon as you open your eyes in the morning, and stop when you go to bed at night. Indoor farming is still an infant industry, especially the one related to medical cannabis. Therefore, one needs to be constantly aware not only of her own business, but also of what is happening in this sector.”
Clone container Glenn used this total-commitment approach when he found himself in the process of designing and building Growtainers®. These types of structure are suited for a variety of crops, from micro and leafy greens to cannabis. The balance that Glenn indicates as one of the most important things is precisely at the basis of Growtainers®. “Everything can be adjusted within a Growtainer®. Depending on what are the client’s needs, all the parameters can be adapted to this or that crop or condition.” With regards to the cannabis industry, Growtainers® are designed as cloning facilities, thus facilitating growers for the implementation of a cloning room. “Growers need to have their own starting materials. Growtainers® are exactly a response to this. In the future, we will provide Growtainers® for cannabis with also other functionalities, such as vegetative growth and flower production. But I firmly believe that a Growtainer® for cloning and young plant production is our best entry point in this industry.”
Green Rush goes ‘worldwide’ In recent times, ever more countries are jumping on this ‘green’ bandwagon, thus resulting in an increased demand for expertise to help new and novel growers setting up their cannabis business. Glenn indeed points out that “At this moment, the Green Rush is expanding worldwide, many US states and foreign countries have legalized the use and production of Cannabis for medical purposes.”
No wonder that many news articles reported about companies whose growing facilities did not comply with the regulations of a given country. A lot of money went wasted, and quite a number of growers had to give up on their cannabis industry adventure. According to Glenn, Growtainer® represents one of the best and most efficient ways to implement a cloning room while at the same time respecting the laws in effect. “In the US and Latin America all Cannabis related business is being handled by the new division of CEA Advisors, specifically formed for this exciting industry”, Glenn explains.
However, exactly because of the aforementioned necessity of knowledge and reliable solutions, Glenn takes care to point out that Growtainers® will be available in Canada and Europe too: “We’re closely cooperating with Industry leaders In Europe and Canada, where all sales, marketing, customer service and support is provided by Fospan Worldwide and Canna Pro, both groups boast many years of cannabis experience and a significant number of successful projects already completed.”