Editor’s Note: Texas Original Compassionate Cultivation and CEO Morris Denton are featured on the April 2022 cover of Cannabis Business Times. Read the story about the company’s expansion plans in the state’s medical market here. More details about how Texas Original approaches cultivation in a state that does not allow flower are below.

The Texas government hasn’t given cannabis patients the green light to purchase or consume cannabis flower or concentrates, but the medicine produced by vertically integrated companies in the state is quite literally rooted in the plant and the practices of those who are growing it.

Every day, members of the cultivation team at Texas Original Compassionate Cultivation state three things they’re grateful for that they can dedicate their work to, and they write daily quotes on a board, says Jason Sanders, the company’s director of cultivation.

The quotes are sometimes well-known quotes and other times original quotes from within the Texas Original team. One of the cultivation technicians, Marco Gutierrez, once wrote on the board, “Cultivation is the Growth and Cult of Creation.” Sanders says a Hunter S. Thompson quote has also appeared on the board: “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”

The team believes that having that positive approach carries through to the final product, Sanders says.

This mindset is an element of Texas Original’s broader cultivation procedures and will continue to be once the business moves from its roughly 7,200-square-feet vertically integrated facility with indoor grow spaces to a much larger 92,000-square-foot facility with greenhouse production and some indoor grow rooms. The move, from Manchaca, Texas, southwest of Austin, to Bastrop, southeast of Austin, will take place either late in the third quarter or early in the fourth quarter of 2022.

Photo courtesy of Texas Original Compassionate Cultivation

The Texas Original cultivation team

Given that Texas’ market only allows production for topicals and certain edible products, Sanders says some of the main goals in pheno-hunting are to select plants with high potency and yields, and quick finishes, among other priorities.

“Typically, we’re looking for a structure that’s got multi-branching cola formations off of it that are finishing out around 36 inches or so, with great vigor,” Sanders says. “Our yields that we’re always trying to get above is 115 grams a square foot for indoor and trying to find phenos that finish within 56 days of flower time.”

Sanders says Texas Original focuses its breeding program on “genetics that can handle our Texas heat and humidity. So, we’re always kind of doing selective breeding to find specific phenos that [perform well within] our indoor environments here, and we’re gearing up our plants for the greenhouse environment,” he says.

Texas Original grows Type I, Type II, and Type III cultivars, which, respectively, have high THC, an equal balance of THC and CBD, and high CBD, Sanders says. Respective to those three categories, he says, the company grows a cross between Blue Dream and ON Haze bred by Authentic Genetics, an in-house strain variety called Bluebonnett that is a cross between Ringo’s Gift and CBD OG, and another in-house strain cultivar called Waterloo that is a cross between BaOx and ACDC.

Sanders and his team also conduct research with Fluence by OSRAM, using three out of four of Texas Original’s grow rooms in Manchaca. They conduct research focused on light intensities and spectrums, as well as cultural practices, such as under-canopy defoliation, which Sanders says is also known as “skirting”; topping; and plant spacing.

Once Texas Original moves into its Bastrop facility, Texas Original CEO Morris Denton says Fluence will have its own R&D space that will include four grow rooms and multiple grow chambers.

With that research partnership, Texas Original has discovered ways to optimize its lighting. “We used to cultivate around 1,000 micromoles, or PPFD [photosynthetic photon flux density], before we started the Fluence research,” Sanders says. “Then we really honed in on 1,800 micromoles and saw a significant yield increase. Light intensities—we learned a lot about that. Then we also honed in on light spectrum.”

The company implements sustainability measures in the form of water and media reuse, Sanders says. It collects rainwater and recycles all of its HVAC condensate for irrigation; those two sources account for 90% of the irrigation water, Sanders says.

“Currently, we grind all of our ‘green waste’ and place it into compost dumpsters that are hauled off to a commercial composting operation to be composted,” Sanders says.

Following the move to Bastrop, the business also plans to grind its root balls, stalks, and leaves, and turn the media weekly in aerated static piles; it will then reintroduce the composted material into the facility after about three months.

Texas Original’s cultivation team grows in 2-gallon coco bags using dripper stakes and both salt and organic nutrients in a drain-to-waste facility, Sanders says, adding that it creates compost tea brews created in-house that contain worm castings, kelp, humic and fulvic acids, and fish hydrolysate.

To control pests and diseases, Sanders says the business only uses pesticides that are OMRI Listed in its integrated pest management program. Product applications fit into what the business calls “Foliar Fridays.” “Every Friday, we’re spraying,” Sanders says. “We use contact sprays and beneficial biology.”

The positive-pressure greenhouse in Bastrop, which will be 45,000 square feet and have 26,068 square feet of bench space in Phase I, utilizes positive pressure and hydronic heating and cooling, Sanders says.

“It’s a very cost-efficient model for us to deploy in Texas, particularly for the type of market that exists today,” Denton says. “What we don’t know yet, and what we’re going to find out, is what type of flower we can produce in a hybrid greenhouse. And if and when flower becomes a possibility for us in the Texas market, we’re going to have to grow very high-quality flower to meet the needs of the Texas customers.”