Cutting costs and risk with tissue culture micropropagation
“To date, cultivators have largely been dependent on mother plants to produce clones from cuttings. However, this results in inconsistent harvests with diluted and uncontrollable traits,” says Kevin Brooks, CEO of Conception Nurseries, a cannabis micropropagation lab operating in California and Oregon. The company recognized early on how critical healthy, gen zero clones are to cultivators. “Our plants have consistent yields and grow times, and are pest and disease-free as they are created in lab conditions. In addition, we work to save cultivators money by decreasing their dependency on mother rooms so they can free up valuable, licensed real estate. We want to help growers focus on what they do best: growing.”
Solving cultivators’ problems
According to Brooks, the most important benefits of using cannabis tissue culture are risk mitigation and reduced costs. “Tissue culture generally refers to the growth of cells in vitro, meaning a culture dish. Micropropagation is a specific type of tissue culture whereby we can rapidly multiply plant material to produce a large number of identical plants. The technique is widely used in industrial agriculture for plants that don’t have a stabilized seed line. For our customers, it means large numbers of identical, disease-free, customized plants that solve cultivators’ most prevalent problems. They result in reduced operational risks and costs, while increasing revenues and delivering a dependable experience for the end-user. Tissue culture also allows for our customers to scale quickly, and we offer remediation, restoration, and storage services.”
Tissue culture has been largely perfected over the last 40+ years in a variety of large-scale agronomic applications, including multiple varieties of fruits, cash crops, spices, medicinal plants, ornamentals, and trees and bushes. “We are already starting to see rapid adoption of tissue culture in cannabis worldwide and expect extreme growth over the next 3-5 years. It’s no secret that the cannabis industry is changing rapidly. I firmly believe that anything that can provide risk mitigation, especially early on in the supply chain, will experience increasing demand,” says Brooks.
Scale and automation
Brooks explains that Conception Nurseries’ focus is not only to provide a far superior plant that 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 US. For example, our California facility can put our over 600,000 plants per month in a 19,000 square foot facility. For traditional greenhouses, it would take over 9 acres and 5 times the amount of labor. A cultivator that is experiencing price compression will be able to make up some margin and revenue by using our products.”
The future of cannabis cultivation
Despite its major benefits, there are also challenges when it comes to this type of propagation. “Tissue culture is a highly specialized and complex part of the supply chain. It has taken us years of R&D at a high cost to develop, identify and develop from custom SOPs, to different light spectrums at the various stages, to custom media formulation for each cultivar. We have seen a lot of the well-funded larger producers worldwide underestimate how difficult cannabis tissue culture is at scale.”
Luckily, Conception Nurseries has been able to overcome these challenges, and is now the first to bring micropropagation at scale. “We use the Wayne Gretzky approach of ‘skating where the puck will be,’ not where it currently is. Early investments in cannabis were about betting on the industry more than on individual companies. Conception Nurseries brings innovation to the cannabis industry that elevates the industry as a whole and allows our customers to withstand and ultimately thrive in an otherwise young, volatile industry. Ask any sophisticated cultivator and they will tell you that tissue culture is the future, as it cuts costs and risk, and delivers a superior experience for cultivators and consumers alike.”
And in order to provide cultivators with this beneficial solution, the company is hoping to expand soon. “We are aggressively looking at expanding our footprint across the country. Growers lose an average of 32% of their potential harvest to pests, disease, and underperforming mother rooms. Therefore, there is no shortage in the demand for clean, healthy plants.”
That is not all that Conception Nurseries is working on, as they recently tested a charity program. “State by state legalization efforts are happening quickly. But in California, for example, it came at the expense of existing compassion programs. As more states come online, we are seeing the disparity in regards to people languishing in prison while others receive licenses, or veterans being denied cannabis as medicine from the Veterans Administration. We recently tested a program with our customers, which allowed them to choose one of three causes: the Veterans Cannabis Project, The Weldon Project, and Sweetleaf Collective. We asked our customers to choose one of these groups, based on what was most important to them and we are making a donation on their behalf. If funds can be put towards social good programs throughout the supply chain, the impact would be exponential – the resulting end-product would literally be rooted in good intention,” Brooks adds.