Mission Nurseries in Patterson, California, strives to grow artisanal-quality marijuana at high production volumes. With 38,000 square feet of canopy and kosher standards to maintain, Mission balances its size with the uncompromising quality standards of its cannabis line, Mission Kosher.
It was the quest for the high-quality marijuana that led Mission Nurseries’ owner, Mitch Davis, to refine his genetics with in-house testing. But his experimentation led to some unexpected results, including big benefits to his growing technique.
“Before, our genetics and choice of mother plant would be based on physical structure — previous to our testing equipment. The color, the size,” explains Davis. “And unfortunately, it’s usually the biggest plant that wins with that method. We’ve learned the next smallest plant is often best based on the THC/CBD levels.”
Davis tests cannabinoids in-house using the portable Sage Analytics Beacon and sends samples to Phylos Bioscience for genotype verification. “We’ve had situations when we send off for a genetic test and it comes back as Harlequin, so we know it’s Harlequin, but it tests at hardly any CBD.”PMG.com Hard Code Ad Script for 250 x 300 Ads
Davis chose to seek out another chemotype of Harlequin based on those test results, and he sent his unexpected samples to Steep Hill Labs to make sure his instrument was working properly. It was. He feels confident in Sage Analytics near-infrared spectroscopy technology because of repeated, direct comparisons to Steep Hill’s high-pressure liquid chromatography machine.
“We send our samples to Steep Hill out here in California and have gotten results always within a quarter percent of the Sage unit,” says Davis. “[The Sage Beacon] doesn’t do pesticides, but we don’t need that.”
While smaller testing units cannot test for contaminants like pesticides, near-infrared spectroscopy makes the benefits of strategic cannabinoid testing attainable — and easy. The Sage Beacon exposes crushed flower (or cannabis concentrate) to near-infrared light. The wavelengths of light that reflect back reveal the quantities of THC and CBD present in the sample. The process is quick — Davis reports 25-30 test runs in 90 minutes — and easy enough for Mission to use testing throughout the growing cycle.
“We’ve done THC testing of different-sized plants, and what we’ve found is additional growth time — to get a bigger plant to improve yield — actually costs you THC and ‘nose.’ As the structure gets above a certain size, it grows more wood than flower. You’re losing some of the energy of the plant going into the structure,” says Davis. “So we’ve changed our growing methodology by using testing.”
Thus, with the goal of high THC percentages for an excellent aroma, Davis has chosen to veg his plants for a shorter period of time. By harvesting smaller plants, he maximizes quality. And because California enforces a no plant-count limit, Mission Kosher simply grows more plants. “What we’ll do is put 1,600 [plants] in the greenhouse. I’m taking down a 30’x96′ greenhouse every week,” says Davis.
Because of the smaller plant size, Davis’ experimentation has led him to use progressively smaller growing containers. “We started out with twenty-fives in our greenhouse and then tens, and now we’re in 3-gallon containers for flower — actually like 2.7-gallon.”
This method uses a third less soil, and it saves significant labor costs. Because Davis does not need to repot, he’s lessened his payroll expenses and streamlined his processes. Moving the plants is easier than it was with the 10-gallon containers too. With fewer personnel are needed to repot and move plants, Mission Kosher is pleased to lessen its foot traffic — and reduce the pest infestations that come with it.
But the benefits of in-house testing have extended beyond Davis’ growing practices into its “crude oil” extraction operation as well. This allowed Mission Kosher to establish relationships with infused products manufacturers, including a nationally recognized kombucha manufacturer starting a cannabis product line. Mission Kosher produces rosin-based gum arabic solutions and full-extract cannabis oil to service the needs of these edibles manufacturers, and the Sage Analytics Beacon helps pinpoint the concentrations requested by his clients to provide just-in-time distribution.
Whether using the Sage Analytics Beacon to assess chemotypes for genetics, refine growing processes or accurately formulate bulk concentrates, Davis is a testing convert. In summary of the new technology, Davis’ conclusion is simple: “It’s paid for itself many times over.”