Welcome to Outside-In with DCN where we interview upcoming startups and businesses in the cannabis industry. Each interview you will get to meet the founders taking a leap into building a business they believe. Gain knowledge of their services, their mission and what makes each of the unique.
Meet Whole Plant Technologies
We kick off this series with founders of Whole Plant Technologies, Jody and Abbie Testaberg.
DCN: Jodie and Abbie, thank you for kicking off this new series with us on DCN! I would love to start this off with you sharing a little bit about yourselves.
Abbie Testaberg: We both grew up in a small town in Wisconsin. Jody grew his first outdoor crop at 16, which his mother found. Instead of grounding him for life, she walked him out to his garden and proceeded to give him his first lessons in properly tending to the plant. In between grand adventures (that include a tour in Bosnia-Herzegovina and an extended stay in Southeast Asia) Jody taught himself advancing ways of growing cannabis. In 2009 he partnered in a medical cannabis cooperative in California, which was raided.
Paperwork in-hand – Jody was protected, but the normal gear seizure left he and his partner having to regroup. Jody went back to Wisconsin for a visit to his family to regroup, but accidentally fell in love with me instead (sorry ladies/sorry cannabis community)…and stayed, got married, had two kids, and helped me with my restaurant business. Our children were both born with health conditions: XXY chromosome abnormality and Spina Bifida. The path to providing them with healthy and happy lives leads me to better understand the potential of medical cannabis, which allowed me to see I needed to support Jody in re-pursuing his cannabis entrepreneurial goals.
DCN: Can you share the backstory of Whole Plant Technologies and how this idea evolved?
Abbie Testaberg: Living in Wisconsin required significant sacrifice to pursue a cannabis business. With the help of my mom and close friends, I stayed in Wisconsin running the restaurant, taking care of the kids, and working on the administrative side of Whole Plant Technologies startup including looking for investment capital; while, Jody moved to Bend, Oregon to prototype, test, and pursue manufacturing options for his grow tray system. For nearly two years we juggled it all but were able to sell the restaurant a year ago and focus all their efforts on Whole Plant Technologies.
DCN: What kind of services does Whole Plant Technologies offer?
Abbie Testaberg: Whole Plant Technologies sells a proprietary aeroponic grow trays and system, installation of the system, and service plans on the system. In order to facilitate the installation of the Whole Plant Technologies grow tray system, Whole Plant Technologies also consults on cannabis business startups including facility design, business planning, and application assistance.
DCN: Take a moment and look back at 2017, what achievements has your company achieved that you would like to share with our readers?
Abbie Testaberg: 2017 was a roller-coaster year for Whole Plant Technologies. We were able to move through manufacturing of both the 25 plant site cultivation tray and the 140 plant site propagation tray. We secured facility design and application assistance projects for a cultivation facility and two dispensaries in Arkansas for their emerging medical cannabis program. Our work in Arkansas lead us to consult on a pharmacist consulting company startup there, and we are proud partners of that new company PhytoPharm.D.
We secured an installation in Puerto Rico and were able to orchestrate successful shipping of our system there. We installed a 30 tray system in Eugene, Oregon. We landed a 30 propagation tray and 175 cultivation tray vertically stacked installation project in Salem, Oregon. We are working on two projects that may become cultivation partnerships in Southern California and Canada. Our kids went pneumonia and procedure free this year. And, we were able to see Sylvan Esso at Shakori Hills.
DCN: Can you give us some insight into your patented technology?
Abbie Testaberg: The Whole Plant Technology cultivation and propagation trays are made from FDA approved food grade plastic. Purposefully designed plumbing recesses allow the trays to be scalable and modifiable for varied sizes and shapes of facilities – including vertically stacked configurations. The system is medium less using only neoprene disks for each plant. Without the medium, and by direct nutrient application through the water to the roots, Whole Plant Technologies grow trays and system result in 30% more profitability between cultivation costs and yield.
DCN: What is the Hydroponic-Aeroponic Hybrid Grow Tray System?
Abbie Testaberg: Hydroponic/Aeroponic systems fight the “catastrophic failure” reputation, many growers struggle with root rot issues, and large-scale cultivation has not been able to overcome compensating for pushing significant amounts of water to the plants without pressure loss.
Whole Plant Technologies grow trays and system have proved some of the concerns false and has solved some of the other engineering issues. With an appropriately pressurized system of chilled water, with stable pH and automated nutrient delivery, limited moisture loss due to lid design, and no introduction of contaminated medium – Whole Plant Technologies can grow healthier plants faster and with higher yields.
DCN: What kind of grower would benefit from utilizing the hydroponic-aeroponic hybrid grow tray system?
Abbie Testaberg: Our system is designed for large-scale commercial growing, but without forgetting about the home grower. It does take a level of cultivation knowledge that does not make it suitable for first-time growers but is perfect for an advancing home grower or for any indoor or greenhouse commercial application.
DCN: Any insider insight you can share with our viewers of what Whole Plant Technologies has in store for 2018?
Abbie Testaberg: Whole Plant Technologies is excited to continue to work with PhytoPharm.D on cannabis dispensing and consumption education. We are consulting on two projects that may result in cultivation partnerships. We are also excited about industrial hemp legalization in our home state of Wisconsin and are working to pursue our goals of more sustainable plastics manufacturing.
DCN: As we move to 2018, and California moves to recreational, will California Regulation affect your business? Good or Bad?
Abbie Testaberg: One of the biggest issues California growers will have to deal with is water usage. Our systems use more than 30% less water compared to soil, coco-coir, or rock wool systems. When paired with a renewable energy source, the system becomes exceptionally sustainable without loss to profit or decrease in quality flower. We have already seen, and anticipate that recreational legalization in California will increase traffic to our system.
DCN: Where do you see the cannabis industry moving towards in 2018?
Abbie Testaberg: We see each state continuing in different stages of a long-term homeostatic endgame state of the cannabis industry. 2018 will, likely, see continued high regulation, issues of market saturation, and decreasing retail prices. However, we also see the continued stratification of the market into high, mid, low-quality cannabis serving different consumer populations (with the ability for high-quality flower to regain retail pricing margins), exciting advancements in cannabis products, and production technologies that will continue to improve profitability.
DCN: What challenges have you faced as a cannabis startup company?
Abbie Testaberg: We started Whole Plant Technologies with very little investment capital and no personal nest. Finding money while retaining control of our company has been the biggest struggle. Working in a dynamic industry with questionable ethics from both a corporate strategy and black market politics standpoint has also been trying. Also, traveling the country as medical consumers, and with two kids with special needs, has been challenging.
DCN: How about personal challenges? Were you worried about announcing that you were launching a cannabis business?
Abbie Testaberg: Jody has always been comfortable with who he is and what he does. I have definitely had to work at shedding the ingrained stigmas of cannabis. We are both very sound in our respect of cannabis now. We struggle less and less each day with showing the world that you can launch and run a business, raise children, lead successful lives…and consume cannabis.
DCN: As we all start fresh for the new year, what is the best piece of advice you would like to share with your fellow entrepreneurs?
Abbie Testaberg: For us, we finally had to realize that most of the capital investors looking to enter the cannabis market simply cannot succeed without people like us that know how to properly and profitably grow exceptional cannabis with a mindfulness toward business acumen. We were not confident in standing our ground in conversations of our value vs. the value of their money.
Our advice is to know your worth and if you are working with someone that questions your worth – move on…it feels like you may be giving up an opportunity, but if you have to sacrifice your worth for the opportunity it is not a good opportunity.
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