With Growing the Industry, Greenway aims to highlight and introduce the individuals behind the plants that Missouri’s legal marijuana market is built on.

In this edition, we spoke with Justin Sheffield, Director of Cultivation at Sinse Cannabis, about the successes and obstacles of redefining a cultivation operation with an already established brand.

Sheffield has always had a passion for plants and growing, having graduated with a degree in Plant Soil Science from Middle Tennessee State University in 2010. He began work with ornamentals but felt like he wanted something more.

I never imagined cannabis was where my career would be headed. But it was right after I graduated, a friend of mine that I had worked with at the University greenhouse, called a couple of months later, and he had moved out to Colorado,” Sheffield recounted. “He was building an operation, and he really lured me in with the innovation and the technology of the industry. I feel like growing roses, daylilies, and ornamentals is kind of archaic in a lot of ways. The speed at which this industry was growing was alluring to me as a cultivator. So I packed my bags and moved to Denver in 2010.”

While Sheffield never had eyes for Missouri, a position at the right time led to an open door.

“If you’d asked me 4 years ago where I would be, Missouri would not be on my list of places that I would be guessing. We kind of transitioned into the CBD deal in Colorado and that was a ton of fun for me because it was an opportunity to scale up; to go from square footage to acreage. It was the same plant, the same work, but the scalability of it. And, you know, we all kinda know what happened to that market, it climbed and crashed.”

My family and I were in South Carolina, and I was looking to get back into THC production. I felt like I was interviewing companies as hard as they were interviewing me. We had one child at this point and we wanted some stability because it’s kind of a volatile industry. After talking to the team and meeting the board and the owners, it really just felt like a match.”

“I felt good about it from that day on, and it’s proved to be a great move. I was originally managing our Jonesburg location as the Cultivation Manager. That was what I moved here to do and now I’m currently the Director of Cultivation,” he said.

Sheffield recently took Greenway on a tour of the Sinse Cannabis cultivation facility. Seeing Sheffield’s passion makes it easy to understand the amount of love and hard work that goes into nurturing the plants and products produced by Sinse.

A look inside the Sinse Cannabis cultivation facility | Halle Cornelius

How big is the Sinse grow?

“We have 39,000 square feet between the 3 rooms of flowering canopy. Then on top of that, we have 10,000 square feet of veg, so that makes 49,000 total. We made the decision to focus on canopy optimization rather than rapid canopy expansion. Plus the decision to focus on what we have, what we’re doing, and how we can do it the best, instead of how we can grow to be the biggest and fastest. We have room to expand, but we’re not necessarily racing to do so.”

Would you say that it is a stressful job?

“It is at times, but also I just love it. I’m not caught off guard by a lot, anymore. I try hard to be proactive in everything, not reactive, to stay ahead of problems, heavy work weeks, or even equipment failures. So, it can be, but I love it and don’t let it get to me.”

How did recreational marijuana legalization and sales impact your operation?

“Like every other operator in the state, we saw sales and demand surge with recreation, so it was great on that level. I think on another level now, as the state has become more saturated, people have gone out to explore more brands and products. We’re starting to see the market mature a little bit, and I feel like consumers are starting to learn what they like and what their preferences are. I think in the beginning a lot of people didn’t know that.”

What are you doing to keep up with increased demand?

“One big thing I’ve seen us do, with BeLeaf, that’s helped is heavy collaboration amongst the teamscultivation, talking to marketing, talking to sales, talking to logistics, you know, talking to retail, and and just giving a kind of giving a transparency through the vertical integration of the company, and and getting these conversations started. And I feel like the more we’ve collaborated as a company, the smoother supplying the demand has been.”

Tell us a bit about your grow method.

“We’re in an inert media – coco coir. We use the ARGUS platform for automation. So ARGUS can be used to schedule lights, feeds, HVAC, and dehumidification. It kinda gives us real-time and historical data graphs, and it can give us alerts in the middle of the night if we do have equipment failure. We lean heavily into irrigation strategy and plant morphology and try to not have it be a one-size-fits-all operation and learn which cultivars like what feeds and what level of maintenance. It’s constantly kind of refining the process for each specific cultivar. But a big part of that is our irrigation strategy and trying to grow each cultivar to its full potential.”

Justin Sheffield, Cultivation Director | Halle Cornelius

Tell me about your genetics and what went into your selection process.

“Over the past 3 years, we’ve done a little bit of everything. We’ve done old-school legacy genetics to industry staples, to hypes and exotics. Where we’re kind of landing right now is, the market is very THC-driven still. And so we’re kind of focusing on that, as we move forward.

“You know, we’re holding on to our mom stock, but really trying to ramp up what’s moving the best in the market. One kind of unique thing with us is we try to continuously pop seeds. And I’d say that because it doesn’t mean continuously introducing genetics. I think we have no problem popping a pack of seeds, growing them out, and saying, ‘They were okay, but not great,’ and not keeping any.

“We also have no problem saying, ‘You know what? This genetic is gonna bump this one out.’ So we’re kind of always looking for that next best thing. Right now, we have an Indiana Bubblegum phenohunt happening, which we’re all excited about.”

What makes good flower?

“It is so subjective to the consumer.

“No matter what you’re after, if the flower was grown, handled, and stored with knowledge and passion; it’s good. I don’t think there’s a certain, qualitative metric I can slap on it. I think there’s kind of a more technical answer but at the end of the day, if it was grown and handled with passion, it’s generally good flower.

“I see that a lot with home growers, new growers, and smaller growers that are super excited and passionate about what they have to show me. Regardless of what I might think about it, you put so much love into this, and that in itself is great.”

What makes Sinse Cannabis unique?

“A lot of our cultivars in production, we did hunt from seed, which is – to do that properly, that’s not a fast process.

‘It took many batches, to really decide what we’re going to grow. And then from there, how do we optimize this genetic? So a lot of that, we’ve built that from the seed stage. And then I think about the specific details to each genetic and whether it’s pruning or irrigation – trying to not run a one-size-fits-all schedule, because then you grow everything good, but nothing great.

“We would rather grow everything great.”

What’s your favorite cultivar that you’ve grown and put out?

“I really love our gelato 41. I’m a little bit partial to that one. A big part of that preference comes from the cultivating side of it too where it’s like, ‘I just love growing that plant so much.’ I’m always a little biased. I love consuming and growing it too.”

What is the biggest obstacle you face with a grow like this?

“I think the biggest obstacle is overall consistency, and I don’t just mean for the final product. I mean, that’s important too. But I think consistency in the climate in the rooms and avoiding microclimates, consistency in plant size or clone size or transplant size, consistency, and canopy height or scheduling. I could even loop this back to team morale, by consistently keeping the morale high, and avoiding lulls or or ebbs and flows in morale and productivity. Just keeping it consistent. When you get into bigger facilities and bigger teams, that’s where consistency becomes a challenge.”

What lessons have you learned from day 1 to now?

“Striving to stay proactive and not reactive. And I think that’s not just the plants. That’s not just the grow rooms; that could be the spirit of the team. Keeping the culture positive and the morale high and the communication good and just staying in front of problems rather than them staying in front of you: that’s the plants, the equipment, the facility, and the team members. I think that a part of any successful operator’s strategy is remaining proactive.”

What’s your favorite cannabis cultivar and why?

“It changes frequently but I would say, right now, it would be if you Stardawg from Top Dawg seeds.

“It’s very classic. It’s got kind of a chemmy, kush heavy, classic nose and taste, there’s no bright fruit on it. None of the novel flavors.

“It’s a classic heavy-hitting, gassy cultivar. And I guess on the other side, it’s an absolute joy to grow. It’s a grower’s dream, it’s the perfect structure and an amazing yield.

“It’s just beautiful to grow and even more beautiful to consume.”

What are the most important things when growing cannabis?

“Invest in genetics. I think genetics is step 1. You could have the best equipment in the world, but if you don’t have good genetics, the equipment won’t yield you anything.”

As Sheffield’s final thought, he turned the focus from himself to the other me, members of the staff – reiterating the importance of each part of the process.

“It’s so much of the team; I’m not in there pruning all the plants, watering all the plants, or checking all the turf,” he explained. “The cultivation team carries that load. You can’t have a good cultivation facility without a great team. I think the success Sinse has seen has been the result of building an outstanding team.” 

 

The post Growing the Industry: Justin Sheffield of Sinse Cannabis appeared first on Greenway Magazine.