Bringing Tissue Culture Tech into the Cannabis Industry
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By José Rodrigo Safdiye and Javier Hasse.
Conception Nurseries is introducing the cannabis market to new growing techniques.
Instead of having growers rely on maintaining mother plants to populate grow rooms, they can source clones from the Sacramento, California-based company. Conception Nurseries also has a facility in Oregon, and uses a proprietary cannabis micropropagation process which brings tissue culture micropropagation tech into the green market.
Widely used in industrial agriculture, tissue culture tech allows for mass production of identical plantlets. The plant tissues are grown under sterile conditions in a lab, using a nutrient-enriched gel medium that delivers high-quality cannabis clones to growers.
These plants are designed to be disease-free, and offer customized and consistent genetic profiles. The process is also believed to reduce operational risks and costs for growers, while enabling them to increase revenue and deliver a dependable experience for the end-user.
A Little History
Conception Nurseries opened its Oregon facility in 2019. The company provides cannabis varieties with custom profiles that flower earlier and yield more than today’s strains.
Over time and around the world, tissue culture micropropagation has been perfected for large-scale propagation for a variety of crops, such as strawberries, bananas, apples and potatoes. Cannabis is shifting towards tissue culture as well, addressing the major challenges of cultivation and opening the doors to genetic customization.
What Makes Tissue Culture Special?
This technique has several benefits.
Helps growers reduce risk, with pest and disease-free plants.
Reduces costs, by providing plants at or around what it costs to produce in-house. Also, cultivators can turn their in-house nurseries (cost center) into flower rooms (profit center).
Allows cultivators to scale fast, as they’re able to order as much or as little of each strain, on demand. Currently, growers are limited by their in-house nurseries’ capacities.
Provides access to one of the largest and most robust genetic databases in the world.
Allows for consistency. Over time mother plants need to be replaced with new ones. Each generation of plants is slightly different than the one before. After several rounds plants start to lose their original vigor and qualities. Tissue cultured plants are guaranteed to be true to type every time.
Conception is not the only company in the market developing tissue culture cultivars for cannabis. Others, like Front Range Biosciences, have been making strides in the space as well.
So, how does Conception differentiate? It’s all about automation and strategic partnering, according to Conception CEO Kevin Brooks.
“Our focus at Conception is not only to provide a far superior plant than traditional propagation but to do so at or below what it would cost for a cultivator to do in-house. The only way to achieve this is through scale and automation. We conducted a global search for partners that would allow us to leverage technology that is used in traditional agriculture and is new to cannabis in the U.S.,” Brooks said.
Before joining Conception, Brooks was CEO at California-based cannabis operator Connected Cannabis Co.
But Brooks knows he can’t build a company on his own. Instead, he adheres to the Steve Jobs’ hiring approach.
“I try to hire smart people so they can tell me what to do,” he said. “We have a blend of senior managers from both in and outside of cannabis that has repeatedly led their former firms through periods of large growth while maintaining operational excellence.”
Conception’s Oregon facility is fully operational and has been successfully delivering products to that market. Its California facility is complete, and the company expects to have its first products ready for customers there in July. With a combined production capacity of over 6 million plants per year, Conception expects to become the largest cannabis plant provider on the West Coast and is ramping up to become one of the largest green market cannabis clone producers in the industry.
It has also identified its next facility in Massachusetts, where construction is expected to launch in late 2020.