In this Growers Spotlight, Hunter Wilson of Growers Network interviews Ben Levine and Derek Martinez of Del-Gro, a revolutionary business model empowering growers to focus on the growing while learning to be operations managers.
How Del-Gro Works
The Business Model
Ben: Del-Gro provides turnkey facilities where growers like Derek can set up shop and prosper. My business partner and I engineer turnkey facilities for growers and help them establish their practice. We teach managers how to run facilities without spoon feeding them.
The Grow Operation
Ben: Del-Gro currently provides two different sizes of building: One measures 14,000 square feet and the other measures 7,000 square feet. With a 7000 square foot facility, you’re generally running about 3850 square feet of flower, and right around 1280 square feet of veg. We like our growers to maintain 25-30% of their space for veg.
Derek: We’re running a footprint of about 16 plants per light and, on average, we tend to have close to 30 different genetics that we cycle through periodically. My partner and I manage multiple facilities, and one of them is an R&D facility where we bring all of our new genetics to test. We grow them to flower and determine which ones will best suit our growing methods.
Derek: We use Rockwool and sphagnum moss for our media. Our mothers and genetics get special treatment, so they might get something different depending on their needs. For nutrients, we primarily use Advanced Nutrients, which has an all-organic nutrient line designed specifically for use with cannabis.
We’re running light emitting ceramics (LEC/CMH) in veg, and double-ended HPS lights in flowering. Our propagation room uses T5s and LEDs. We use smart ballasts that come with redundancy measures just in case of a malfunction or failure.
We use automated 12 station drip manifolds with drip emitters going directly to the plant. They are controlled by a station timer which is timed to activate during different times of the day. The runoff is pumped to a reclamation reservoir, which is then filtered and distributed to the city. It recycles the water back to the municipal, as clean as we got it.
We use a split system AC that can be mounted inside or outside depending on your rooms. If we want to maintain a low humidity, then we mount the air handler inside the room. That way the coils are directly exposed to the air in the room and act like a dehumidifier.
In the event of problems, we have some redundancy vectors set up. Our room thermostats are rigged to a relay, and whenever a high-temperature threshold is reached, the thermostat triggers the relay, which either turns off or dims the lights.
Derek: Our pest control method is primarily preventative. We face numerous pests, but since we run a clean operation, we have limited our exposure to them. The pests that we most commonly run into are gnats. Thrips and spider mites are also big threats. In the event they become an issue, foliar sprays are our primary go-to. Depending on where the plants and mites are in their respective cycles, we may dispose of the plant.
What tools do you use for pest management?
Derek: We use a few different, systemic treatments that are organic. If we anticipate a problem, we’ll use Captain Jack’s spinosad or one of our own proprietary systems. We tend to implement these in foliar sprays or our drip irrigation as a preventative measure.
Derek: When we moved to the desert we started seeing single digit relative humidities. We kept running into an issue when we were trying to dry and cure in the low humidity. Ironically, drying and curing in the low humidity meant we had to keep rehydrating the product, making for a challenging experience.
Derek: Our biggest success has come from automation. It has lightened up our workload across the board, allowing us to take on more projects and expand. It’s also reduced our overhead.
Long-Term Vision for Del-Gro
Ben: Our next big project is 250,000 square feet. We’re also working on co-developing a 747,000 square foot project right behind us.
Advice for Future Growers
Derek: I would advise new growers to attach themselves to someone they can see themselves growing with, both figuratively and literally. This industry has its highs and lows on a daily basis, which means you’re going to experience a lot of pain as well as a lot of prosperity. The people you work with and the relationships you build within this industry matter.
This article has been paraphrased with permission from Growers Network.
Want to read more? Head on over to Growers Network to read the full article.