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Grower Profile – Maku Cultivation

Posted February 3rd, 2017 by Robin Nichols in ,

Maku is a family owned medical cannabis growing facility that was founded in 2014 in Phoenix, Arizona. Christopher Petermann and his business partner, Brandon Chaves, implement business and farming practices that maximize the potential of the grows they manage and consult with. They use probiotics and other organic farming methods. Chris has been using medical marijuana to help overcome Chronic Lyme’s Disease since he was 16. Chris grew up in Maryland on the Chesapeake Bay. This cultivated a profound respect of the environment as he witnessed the damage, first hand, that comes from poorly managed commercial farms polluting the environment.

Chris moved to Boulder, Colorado in the fall of 2009 where he began operating as a Medical Cannabis Caregiver. During this time patients and fellow growers converted him from an “A+B synthetic grower” to an “analytical organic farmer who studied soil science and microorganisms”. During the 2013 flooding in Boulder his home and grow equipment were destroyed so he migrated to Phoenix, Arizona, in 2014. After several initial incarnations the family business, that is now Maku, was created.

Brandon Chaves is Vice President of Research and Development for Maku. Brandon manages and optimizes the cultivation grow yield at their 6,700-square-foot medical marijuana cultivation facility in Phoenix, Arizona. In addition to his management role, Brandon played a key role in construction-oversight during the development and build-out of the facility. With expertise in chemistry and biochemistry, Brandon also oversees analytics. Given his demonstrated dedication to the industry and to Maku, Brandon has also been recently tasked with a share of the responsibility for identifying and following up with strategic business development opportunities. In addition to his position at Maku, career highlights include positions as emergency medical scribe for John C. Lincoln Hospital and research assistant for Translational Genomics (TGen). The project was a brain-injury study, led by Dr. Kendal Jensen of the in cooperation with the Arizona State University football team. Brandon has a Bachelor of Science degree from Arizona State University, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

“We bring a lot of pride and integrity into how we operate our business. We strongly believe that cannabis is a life-saving plant and understand that patients depend on medicine that is consistent in quality,” says Chris. He continues, “Our mission is to provide medical cannabis that is organic, clean and grown with time-honored methods combining ancient probiotic farming techniques with modern technology to produce the best possible flowers.” While many commercial grows cultivate cannabis in soilless mediums and utilize machines that reduce the workload these techniques degrade the quality of the flower. Maku grows their cannabis in an organic living soil that is hand watered, hand trimmed and cured by our staff. Chris adds, “The 32 strains we cultivate have a wide range of cannabinoid spectrums and unique terpene profiles that are unmatched in Arizona.”

Grow Techniques

Since various strains have different terpene profiles, growing and maturity cycles, Brandon and Chris worked tirelessly to find the optimal strains for growing in the dry Arizona climate. One unique tip Chris and Brandon discussed about their strain choices was how the plants would respond to their water and light schedules. Strains that did not adapt to their planting and harvest cycle were removed from the strain list. This helped to create a genetic library that thrives within the parameters of the environment, optimizing growing schedules and flavor characteristics that were both pleasant and potent. The Maku crew runs predominantly TGA Subcool, La Plata, and Rare Dankness genetics. Some of the most common strains include: Jilly Bean, Jesus OG, Space Queen, Conspiracy Kush, Sour Pez, Dead Head OG, Pennywise, Cornbread, and 501st OG.

Probiotic Soil

Maku uses organic techniques to grow their cannabis in Living Organic Soil (LOS) raised beds. These raised planters allow for an increased bio-activity of a larger and more diverse rhizosphere, aka the root zone. They practice no till techniques that keep the fungi and other soil microbes undisturbed. This allows them to transplant their clones directly into a soil bed after it is harvested. This is contrary to a “super-soil” that must be “cooked”, aka composted or steam sterilized. With each growing cycle the probiotic microbial life continues to thrive and produce plant-available nutrients.

Their soil mix is based off of Clackamas Coots’ research and is sourced through Build-A-Soil in Montrose, Colorado. The soil is fed with premium compost such as Oly Mountain Compost and Malibu Compost with diverse minerals through a mycelium mat. This mat is created by utilizing Gro-Kashi, a premium bokashi soil amendment that helps to make nutrients rapidly available to the plant. The bokashi helps create a complex fungal highway improving the soil’s structure and allowing the plants to trade their exudates (root sugars) for the micro and macro nutrients that are not immediately available in the plants’ vicinity. Maku also uses compost extracts (compost teas) based on the scientific research of Tim Wilson, aka Microbe Man, simple sprouted teas (SST) to supercharge the soil and promote growth and insect frass.

Air Handling

Phoenix is named after a bird of fire for a reason. Arizona gets very hot and has low humidity and has some unique growing issues that must be taken into account. Summer temperatures average over 100ºF during the day and night and winter temperatures can get as low as the mid-teens. Their grow rooms are kept at 85ºF year round. They currently do not have a CO2 system (it is on their wish list!), however, they make sure there is proper airflow through the use of dozens of fans and a filtered HVAC system. The filters on the intake help filter out pests. On the exhaust the filters help prevent backflow when the system is off. Another technique they developed was cutting the lower canopy of the plants to allow for airflow around the stems and across the soil surface.

Lighting Choices

Double Ended HPS, in non-air cooled fixtures are the main type of lighting used in the flowering room. These fixtures do not have glass and were selected because glass decreases the efficiency of the lighting by about 50%. For the vegetative state of growth they utilize high output T-5 fixtures. T-5’s were chosen because they were the most affordable option. Another upgrade they are planning is to start switching to LEDs. The switch will create large savings by reducing the amount of electricity needed to operate the lights and cool the grow room. Based on some recent research, they are also expecting the new LED lights will increase terpene profiles as well as increase yields.

The Canopy

Growing in beds has many other advantages beyond better nutrient availability. Pest management is one major benefit. When one plant is attacked by a pathogen it communicates to the other plants that it is under attack allowing them to prepare their S.A.R. or Systemic Acquired Resistance (S.A.R.). SAR is a resistance response that occurs following an earlier localized exposure to a pathogen. As a part of their Integrated Pest Management program Maku utilizes beneficial microbes, such as EM•1® Microbial Inoculant, which ensures their plants don’t have deficiencies that can lead to a pathogenic outbreak. Utilizing these beneficials in addition to spraying essential oils, neem, and other natural pesticides like Big Time Exterminator and Green Cleaner in the vegetative stage, allows them to maintain a clean medical environment. For the 12:12 flowering cycles IPM they utilize predatory insects such as Nematodes, Ladybugs, Beneficial Mites and green lacewings (mostly purchased from Arbico-Organics in Tucson, Arizona). This allows them to produce flowers that have not been sprayed during their maturation phase of growth.

Harvest Timing

Timing of harvest has an impact on maximum terpene production and lighting. Harvest is usually in the morning when the plants exhibit maximum terpene profiles. To keep the maximum terpene profile, only a few lights are turned on and a small section of the flower room is harvested. This exposes the flowers being harvested to as little light as possible. The phenotypes chosen from seeds are selected to mature in 60 days flowering time. This helps provide uniform harvest times, keeping a consistent finished quality, and overall efficiency for the operation as a whole. The person doing the harvesting tries to cut branches as long as possible. This too has an impact on drying and flavor.

Drying For Flavor

After harvest, the buds are hung on coat hangers in a drying room. The long branches slow enzymatic activity during the drying process, preserving as much flavor as possible. This allows for a preferred 10-day dry time. The dry room is kept at 55% humidity.

The Bin System

This super high-tech system (just kidding!), as suggested by Alan Adkisson of Gro-Kashi International, ensures compliance with the state by allowing for virtually no loss of product. Once the trim manager has removed the buds from the branch, the buds are placed in a Tupperware bin and weighed with the bin. The weight is noted on the bin using a Sharpie. After the hand trim is completed, the bin is weighed again to ensure all plant material has been kept in the bin. The trim is then separated from the flower, weighed and sold to the dispensary. The same is done with the flowers. The flowers are stored in a C-Vault at 62% humidity until delivery. The trim is dried for optimum use in conversion to concentrates, edibles, topicals, etc.

Chris Petermann and Brandon Chaves provide consulting ranging from fully managing the grow operation to educating on the probiotic farming methods they use. They can be contacted at Brandon Chaves brandtchaves@gmail.com or Chris Petermann petermannc31@gmail.com.

Eric Lancaster is Executive Vice President of TeraGanix, Inc., the exclusive North America distributor of the Original Effective Microorganisms® and EM® Bokashi products. Please visit TeraGanix.com for more information.

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