Each week we highlight entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry for our viewers to learn more about the leading cannabis executives of our time. This week, we highlight Aja Atwood, Co-Founder of Trella Technologies.
Meet Aja Atwood
In our interview with Aja, we asked a variety of questions to learn more about Trella Technologies, and what it takes to build a business in the cannabis industry!
DCN: Aja Atwood, congratulations on being featured as this week’s entrepreneur of the week and for all that you do! Can you please share with our readers your elevator pitch for Trella Technologies?
Aja Atwood: Trella Technologies wants to accelerate the growth of indoor farming with tech-driven solutions.
Our first product: the world’s first device to automatically train tall plants to grow horizontally. Our patent-pending design empowers growers to expand their product offering to taller plant without the need for manual labor-intensive, accident-prone, and energy inefficient training methods.
DCN: What ignited the spark in you to launch your business?
Aja Atwood: It started with my struggle to grow tall plants in a small basement. I started researching methods to control plants and discovered the idea of training plants to grow horizontally. The existing methods were all manual, labor-intensive and required skill. At the time, I traveled a lot for work, so the existing options would not work for my lifestyle. I needed help with automation.
Later, I found that the vertical farming industry has the same problem. With lack of vertical space, they need to grow short plants or use short growing methods. But what about all the OTHER taller plants and strains? People need access to those as well….and we need to find a way to grow sativa, hemp and other plant varieties on Mars!
DCN: When you finally decided that you wanted to launch a business in the cannabis industry, what was your experience like when telling your family and friends? Were they supportive?
Aja Atwood: At first, they were hesitant and mildly supportive. However, now that they’ve learned more about the plant and its value to our society. Their tunes have changed, and they see the opportunities and possibilities for our future.
DCN: How is your organization/business positively helping the cannabis industry?
Aja Atwood: Our current task of training a tall plant to grow in a small space has various benefits to the indoor farming industry, such as efficient use of space and energy. As you probably know, the indoor farming industry needs to improve its impact on our carbon footprint significantly. If this industry is not sustainable, it will become challenging to participate in forced regulation.
This will affect EVERYONE, no matter how large or small your operation. Additionally, for residential growers, they usually have to work within a “plant count” limit in addition to space constraints. They need to make the most out of every plant, and our device will help them max out their yield per plant. Also, we hope that our company will be seen as an example of the endless opportunities within this industry. There’s room for everyone, especially if you have a tech background. There’s more to create, and we’ve just scratched the surface.
Additionally, our “SXG1” initiative will also provide free devices to qualified growers to make sure our technology gets into the hands of those who need it the most.
DCN: As we go into 2018, what is one huge accomplishment that you or your team achieved last year that you would like to share with our readers?
Aja Atwood: My co-founder and VP of Engineering, Andres “Dre” Chamorro III and I, used a “fail-fast” method to prove out our concept, and we were able to complete and test two conceptual designs so that we were patent pending within six months from our start date and we are also internationally patent pending. This approach worked well, and we’re now on our fourth prototype version and grow trial.
DCN: What are some challenges you faced early on and how’d you beat them?
Aja Atwood: How to prove our concept (will this even work?) quickly. When building a hardware device for plants, your timeline depends on plant growth and a full cycle can take 5-6 months.
We couldn’t can’t wait until the end of the cycle to start our next build, we have to start prior and we need to be strategic about it. When we learned something of significance it was time to start the next build. You may not have everything else figured out or confirmed, but you have to start the next design cycle, in order to be efficient with your time.
DCN: Did you raise capital to fund your business or what creative strategies did you use to execute on minimal cash flow?
Aja Atwood: We are currently self-funded and launching a crowdfunding campaign during the month of June. Check out our website to contribute to our mission: www.trella.io
DCN: What did you give up to get where you are today? What did you have to sacrifice?
Aja Atwood: Time. When you’re starting a company, it takes up a lot of your time which is the only thing we cannot recreate. The start-up road has a lot of bumps, as you learn and grow from your mistakes…so you will sacrifice along the way. When I left my previous job some people thought I committed career suicide…but I have my eyes set on a bigger mission.
DCN: What is the best piece of advice you can give to others looking to launch a company in the cannabis industry?
Aja Atwood: Do it now…it’s not too late. There is room for you; there is room for all of us. But time moves on, and seasons change so the opportunities we have now may not be present for long….get to work.
DCN: What’s the hardest part of founding and running a startup?
Aja Atwood: This depends on the individual. What I find “hard” others may not. For me, it’s asking for help. When you’re a start-up, you need to ask for and accept help, because you cannot do it all. I’m working on this and getting better but have room for improvement!
DCN: What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
Aja Atwood: Courage, self-awareness and the ability to show your (company) value.
DCN: How do you stay balanced?
Aja Atwood: Morning meditation rituals, yoga, running, and chill time with people who make me relax/laugh.
DCN: What book has inspired you the most?
DCN: How can we as an industry continue to make a positive difference in society?
Aja Atwood: Keep highlighting and supporting those that are making a positive difference. Keep our focus and support on what we want, not what we don’t want.
DCN: Thank you, Aja, for sharing your story and offering such real and insightful advice! It was so great being able to feature you as this week’s entrepreneur of the week!
For those looking to learn more about Trella Technologies, please check out www.Trella.io!