From the latest research in cultivation science to tips on how to set up an extraction facility, speakers on day one of the Cannabis Conference (held Aug. 23-25 at the Paris Las Vegas Hotel & Casino) covered a broad range of topics for operators across the cannabis supply chain. Here are some highlights. 

“University Research Roundup: The Latest In Cultivation Science:” Utah State University professor Dr. Bruce Bugbee expounded on the importance of licensed businesses partnering with universities to fund and produce cutting-edge scientific research on the cannabis plant. “We’re coming to a point where university research has really helped the cannabis industry,” he said, noting the decades of underground research that preceded this newly “open” environment. Still, only a trickle of federal research grant dollars has made its way to those studying cannabis.
Dr. Michael Gutensohn, a West Virginia University associate professor, discussed his USDA-funded research into the terpene-cannabinoid metabolic network—and how, precisely, THC develops when the cannabis plant encounters biotic and abiotic stressors. This is critical to understanding why hemp “goes hot” in the field, but also to grasping the fundamental chemical building blocks of this plant.

“Pitch Workshop: Win Over Investors With The Perfect Presentation Strategy:” LeVon Terry of Capfluent and Patrick Rea of Poseidon Investment Management discussed the conversations that entrepreneurs are encouraged to have when pitching their business as a potential investment opportunity. It’s vital, Terry said, to speak frankly and clearly with investors. “It can be intimidating … to learn the language of finance in order to have these conversations, but it is important,” he said. “We appreciate entrepreneurs asking questions. Don’t be afraid to push on capital.” The conversation was moderated onstage by Colin Kelley of Merida Capital Holdings, who pointed out that due diligence is critical before and during the pitch meeting.

“Innovative And Regenerative Growing Techniques:” Julia Jacobson of Aster Farms, Mason Walker of East Fork Cultivars and Kevin Kuethe of Lume Cannabis Co. discussed alternative growing methods cannabis cultivars are using across North America, including dry farming, cover cropping, Korean Natural Farming and more. Jacobsen said the Colorado cannabis industry emits more greenhouse gases than the state’s coal mining industry, underscoring the need for more sustainable growing practices. “We plant companion crops every year. Companion crops are non-cannabis plants you plant in and around your cannabis crops to bring benefits,” Jacobsen said. 
Walker also discussed the importance of independence for business owners. “We are less reliant on service providers,” Walker said, adding that while partners can be beneficial, he has also had experiences with bad partners, “so it’s one of the biggest benefits to our business to be able to be self reliant.”

“How To Launch A Cultivation Business:” Speakers in this session included Kyle Landrum, chief production officer of Trulieve; Chris Ball, owner and CEO of Ball Family Farms; Obie Strickler, CEO of Grown Rogue; and Sarah Strickler, director of community relations for Grown Rogue. The four speakers sequentially discussed the steps of launching a business: Finding your location/region, funding your operation, building out your facility, selecting your genetics, building your brand, ingratiating yourself in the local community, and more. But, as Obie Strickler stressed, “there is no such thing as a good deal with a bad business partner.” All four speakers agreed: “if you don’t love weed, then this industry is not for you,” Ball said. 

“How To Build Out And Set Up An Extraction Facility:” Kim Eastman, vice president of manufacturing at Jushi, and Crystal Hoffman, former regional director of operations for Slang Worldwide, discussed key goals when establishing an extraction facility, including creating a high-quality product, maintaining terpene integrity, maximizing cannabinoid recovery, and recovery. “You want to make sure the facility and property are taken into consideration. … Your needs vs. what you already have in that facility,” Hoffman said.They also discussed selecting the correct equipment for a facility, which is ultimately the largest expense. “Ethanol is no joke. It has even more requirements than hydrogen carbon. … There’s a lot of engineering requirements. … We recommend a consultant or someone who knows what they are doing,” Eastman said.

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