Hunter Wilson of Growers Network interviews Kurtis Johnson of TFO LLC about his experiences producing large quantities of cannabis in a confined space.
Where are you located and why?
We grow in North Las Vegas, in a former ice-cream manufacturing plant. The facility was built with 3 medical-grade, sealed freezer rooms which are perfect for growing in a confined, environmentally-controlled space. We added HVAC, dehumidification, powers, generators, and more, and started the grow.
Indoor/Outdoor/Greenhouse and why?
Our grow is indoors, and our medical license is intended solely for an indoor grow. Nevada is a “no-see” state, meaning that if you can tell what is being grown from the outside, the state will take away your license.
What does your grow layout look like?
We have a 5000 sq. ft building divided into 3 – 20’ x 40’ rooms that are double-stacked. We run a perpetual harvest, sea of green system, and we’re able to pull out roughly 2 ½ pounds of cannabis a day.
What’s your approach to pest management?
Three things are a critical function when it comes to pest management:
Prevention is focused on Integrated Pest Management. People have been growing crops forever, and we’ve only truly cultivated cannabis relatively recently. Instead of repeating old mistakes, learn from other people’s experiences. If you ever have a concern about a specific pest in your area, check in with the local department of agriculture and learn what you can.
Cleanliness is all about making sure nothing enters the grow room that you don’t want in there in the first place. Ideally, everything, including your employees, should run through some form of cleanliness procedure, and your air and water should be sterilized.
And of course, management is about staying on top of what’s going on in your grow. If you have an infestation of some pest, they appeared because you weren’t keeping a close eye on things. Pests don’t appear out of anywhere. As I always say to my new employees, “the opposite of pests is persistence.”
Plants and Equipment
You mentioned that you skip veg, how does that work?
We grow large clones. Once they’re well-rooted, we transplant them into trays where they’re completely rootbound. By keeping the clones rootbound, the plant realizes that it’s confined and quickly pushes towards flowering.
How do you give your clones enough time to root?
We’ve built an aeroponic dome system that gives the clones plenty of time to root. A tray with holes for the rooting medium has aeroponic sprayers on the bottom so that the clones stay nice and humid while their roots grow.
How many plants are you growing and how do you grow them?
We’re growing 6,000 plants in our 5,000 square feet of growing space. We grow small plants and we’re double-stacked. Nevada is not a plant-counting state. It doesn’t matter how high your plant count is, so training isn’t a big concern.
What strains are you growing?
- Grape Ape
- Grape Stomper
- Lemon Larry
- Blue Dream (a few varieties, since there’s no one definitive Blue Dream)
- Cherry Diesel
- And more depending on their sales value and usefulness.
What is your current feeding style?
Adult plants get drip-fed via a drain-to-recycling system. The way it works is like this:
- We take in municipal water or recycled water and run that water through an RO system.
- Check the pH and EC, adjust appropriately.
- Add in the nutrient mix.
- Drip-feed the plants.
- Extra water drains back to the RO system.
- We also recycle transpired water via our dehumidifiers.
About the Company
What makes TFO LLC unique?
TFO LLC is a grow that has been challenged by competing interests in its management. The grow itself is technically sound and well-designed, but the management team didn’t understand growing, and the profit model wasn’t based on a full understanding of how cannabis is grown or sold in the medical cannabis community. I have worked diligently to help turn that around and make it a successful grow using mathematics and meticulous note-taking.
Any advice for new commercial growers?
First, figure out what you know and what you don’t know. It’s ok to not know everything. That’s what books and reading are for.
Second, take plenty of notes. My notetaking allows me to develop best practices over time that I can share with my employees, which we can turn into procedures for new hires. I need to make new mistakes, not repeat old mistakes.
Third, when you’re setting up a business, make sure that you have aligned your priorities with your partners. Everybody has different needs from a business venture, and relationships require compromise.
Fourth, don’t start a business if you don’t have the passion for it. Money may be important, but you can always make more money tomorrow. Spend your time in good health and in joy.
This article has been paraphrased with permission from Growers Network.
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