Sam, CEO & Master Grower at Micro Crops

3 Feb 2022

Interview with a successful Micro/LP

Photontek XT 1000w CO2 LED ceiling at Micro Crops Inc.

Micro Crops Inc. is proof that it is possible to succeed in the cannabis industry. Passion, hard work, and the desire to become one of the best in the business make Micro Crops a success story in the world of micro cultivation.

Micro Crops is a Licensed Micro Cultivator and Processor founded in May 2018 just ahead of legalization. The journey began in early 2019 with the construction of the facility and by September 2020, Micro crops was fully licensed and operational. As the name implies, Micro Crops was developed to prove that small cannabis businesses were feasible and financially profitable. MC is run by a dynamic duo of master grower Sam and his partner, who are also a husband and wife team in everyday life. The facility is 4000 ft2. with a canopy allowance maxed out. We optimize the allowed growing area and every square inch is used to make a superior product that helps make our reputation.

Since we've been doing business with Sam, we've been looking forward to the opportunity to learn more about him, his path, his experiences and his work.
We were lucky enough to have the opportunity to interview him, and here it is.

— Overview of the company —

What makes Micro Crops Inc. a successful business?

MC: We like to utilize our institutional wisdom to curate a variety of cultivars. At present we are growing the best cultivars in Canada for the largest brands in the market while leveraging the massive appeal for “small room grows” like the ones possible at Micro Crops. We aim for 25-30kg batch sizes.

‘’Craft is our way; we come from the legacy days and bring all that acquired knowledge to the legalized market.’’

MC: The founder and responsible person of Micro Crops is also the master grower, designer and constructor of the facility. Our tight climate control, small room, full spectrum LED lighting brings out great cannabinoid profiles and terpenes that are perceptually significant.

MC: 2022 will be a very great year for us. In late 2021 we teamed up with legacy legal brand Ghost Drops and are contract cultivating the best cannabis they can offer. This will be a great relationship and we look to see this path through. However, it will also be a year of significant change as we look to begin our application to expand our footprint to a second site. We are also involved in consulting with Indoor Growing Canada sharing our experience and supporting start-ups in the licensing process.

What is your vision for the company in the coming years?

MC: Our 5 years plan eyes for more expansion in capacity and perhaps some vertical integration into the genetics, consulting, retail spaces. Our current site is our flagship facility, so the intention was to prove we could thrive in this space and then scale the model. We keep a very lean operation through intelligent design in our facilities. Keeping workflows basic we operate at a minimal overhead and use automation and foresight to keep things growing. This allows us to maintain great margins and thus scalability is our next step.

— Certification process —

How did you feel about the certification process when you started the application?

MC: I was fairly confident, but unsure about the delays that could be experienced upon submission. Any delay in the application process presents an immediate impact to the start-up budget. It's not easy for Cannabis Micros to get financing or investments, so avoiding any delays and added expenses was top concern. This meant I needed a bullet proof application that would get through HC screening quickly.

How did the application process go?

MC: It went about as well as it could have. I submitted Dec 2019, cleared application pre-screening late January 2020. Then things went silent. For about 7 months… It was brutal… COVID had a significant impact on HC resources, file reviews were taking forever. Thankfully, with some “strategic persuasion” via emails to HC, my file was picked up for review. It flew through the review process and I was licensed by September 2020.

What were the obstacles/challenges in the process?

MC: Based on my experience, having a COMPLETE and thorough application got me through the process quickly. Once the file was picked up they didn’t have many ITRs (Intent to Refuse). Basically one ITR has a 15 day TAT, HC will stop all review of your file until the response is received. Then they will take another 10-15 days to review the response. All in All, one ITR can get you about 15-25 days delay on application review.

"SO YOU NEED TO AVOID ITRs!!!!"

MC: This is where I saw an opportunity to use my experience and help others. I now consult and assist those entering the industry in collaboration with IGC to get licensed and through the screening and review process seamlessly.  

— Operations —

How was your first year of production?

MC: The first year was definitely interesting. We came into this industry with a lot of knowledge and had to re-learn some of our ways in order to be compliant with the regulations. The amount of paperwork required to run a cannabis facility is no joke. Its long days in the grow rooms followed by long nights in the office. But keeping up on the paperwork side of things has paid off, we recently got through our latest HC inspection with no issues. Needless to say, the first year has been both challenging and thrilling. We started off learning the ropes of legalized industry and ended with a strong reputation in the Canadian craft Cannabis space. 

Photontek XT 1000
Photontek XT 1000

What were the main challenges of your production?

MC: We learned the hard way that being a micro requires one to rethink traditional operational set-ups. We started out the year in-house propagating our own cultivars. After running the numbers on this it became very clear that we shouldn’t in-house propagate, I decided to pivot and farm-out my cultivar supply to a third party, allowing me to sustain a short veg period, and turn over 5-6 crops per year instead of 3-4. I then begin the process of retrofitting all my rooms to bloom rooms only. A great decision, we now invest ZERO in the rearing of plants and instead focus our workflow on the 8-9 weeks money making flower phase.

"Being a micro is about maximizing your revenue per sqft of canopy. Veg space is dead revenue space, that’s my little bit of advice."

MC: You will come across all kinds of challenges in this industry, its about being adaptive and flexible.

Obtaining the first certificate of analysis (COA)

MC: We all want to see the high THC and terp percentages, but to be honest the greatest part of this experience was seeing a clean compliant product come through. No micro hits, no mold, no pesticides, no heavy metals, … That was a great feeling, it reinstated the understanding that all of our procedures and hard work were paying off.

— Vision of the company —

What was the vision of the company at the beginning of the activities? Has the vision evolved?

MC: Our goal in the beginning was to vertically integrate as fast as possible. We soon realized this is not easy in the cannabis space. Instead we pivoted our strategy from vertical integration to specific service areas. That’s where we came into contract growing. Considering the stage in our start-up plan, contract growing made sense. Direct to consumer path is capital intensive and not easy for those who aren’t prepared, so we elected to focus on doing one thing well, and that is growing dope craft buds! Contract growing afforded us the option to get our product sold without having to incur expensive packaging, labelling, and Provincial Dist. Fees, let alone excise taxes and the headaches of dealing with provincial supply contracts. Keeping it simple is advised in the beginning, focus on the real important stuff and what is happening in the grow room. We are moving into 2022 with this attitude. Our vision is to continue to build a legacy for Micro Crops to be known as one of the premier Micro Cultivators in Canada. We look forward to all the new cultivars being brought into the legal space and look to leverage our skills to make those cultivars pop. 

What is your Market?  

"We believe Cannabis is similar to the wine and craft beer industries."

MC: The types of clients we attract are those that can appreciate the finer details of Cannabis. Taste, Smell, Texture, Aesthetics, all get very closely scrutinized and go into the decision-making process when selecting a cultivar to grow and the lighting spectrum applied to them. We make sure all our flowers are whole plants hung dry, hand trimmed, and cured for min. 2-3 weeks before it hits a jar. People that appreciate the fine details of cannabis would pick up on these features. But this is not meant to exclude those with a little less experience, at micro crops we focus on the finer details to create differentiating aspects of our flower. We then look to educate our consumers on these differences. This allows for even the novice user to understand our product, the inputs, and the difference craft from corporate.

What types of products MC puts on the market?

MC: We aim to produce only high-end handcrafted products. Our preferred products are dried and cured cannabis flower, hash and pre-rolls.

What is your preferred growing cultivation? 

MC: We have chosen an indoor conventional growing model using rockwool or coco substrate. We use the best lights on the market, Photontek full spectrum LEDs. We push the boundaries of what can be achieved with as little space as possible, to achieve this we need maximum quality and maximum yield. For this reason, I was in search of a light fixture that had a very good PPFD distribution and that showed high values along the boundary of a 5x5 footprint.

"After comparing specs across all leading LEDs on the market, the Photontek XT 1000w fixture demonstrated the average PPFD was greater than the competitors."

MC: The fixture is lightweight, and easy to assemble. I am presently measuring above 700 micromole at the edge of the canopy and have well over 1500 throughout the center.

MC: Compared to the leading COB style fixture, the bar style fixture of Photontek allowed for removal of bars to reduce heat load, adjust lighting, or otherwise adapt the light to what the plant needs. It also allows for easier replacement down the road. The fixtures also allow for the ballast to be removed and placed in a different room which further reduces heat load.” No issues hitting those high DLI targets while reducing HVAC loads. You will need to run CO2 to take advantage of the extra PAR levels.

Photontek XT 1000

The Photontek XT 1000w CO2 LED selected by Micro Crops Inc.

Why did you choose this model?

MC: Growers are creatures of habit. I grow this way because it is what I am comfortable with. But we do experiments. For example, I designed and built my own vertical wall hydroponic system, this really changes the way you grow and even see the plant. So although we have our sure fire ways, we are always learning new techniques and tricks. 

How did you select your cultivars?

MC: This is really my favourite part of the process, selecting cultivars to grow is a very meticulous process. We look for a variety of features (phenotypes). Some fo more notable parameters are:
· Vigor
· Bud size and shape
· Internodal gap distance
· Calyx to pistil ratio
· Trichome distribution, density and type
· THC levels
· Terpene profiles
· Flower cycle length
· Foliage production rate
· Resistance to pests and disease
· And characteristics of how the feed and their water uptake.

MC: There are many more traits we look at. But these are some of the main ones.

What are your genetics that made your reputation ?

MC: We carry a variety of in house cultivars stabilized and seeded from our legacy days. Currently we are running a crop of First Class Funk by Ghost drops and bred my Motherlabs. We also carry a legendary Larry cultivar bred by Apollo Green Inc. We are now licensed to produce and supply high end clone varieties for micro and LP. We are proud to support LP and micro to build their reputation based on the best genetics in the market.

What will influence the choice of your next cultivar selections?

MC: Cannabis industry is constantly changing. Right now, we are growing high potency and terpene profiles which is what the market likes, we also look for large buds that carry lots of trichome and colour. But these trends are likely to fade as the consumer becomes more educated on cannabis flower, and the impact of entourage effect. Such changes will require us to grow more cannabinoid rich and complex cultivars that leverage this entourage effect. Hopefully this means less emphasis on High THC and more on the composition of cannabinoids present in the flower (ie. CBD, CBG. CBN. THC etc).

— The market —

How is the market performing since legalization?

MC: We are seeing a steady increase in legal sales, in fact they surpassed black market recently. I think the legalization market is still very young and does not quite know what it wants yet. We see this huge gravitation to high potency products and flowers, retailers are really selling the consumer on high potency. The unfortunate part is THC is the only cannabinoid of interest in this conversation and customers are losing out on the entourage effect that all the other cannabinoids in combination with each can produce. When we focus only on THC, we are basically diluting this wonderful plant from 15+ cannabinoids to only 1-2 cannabinoids. I think this will change though, it will require more education courtesy of the budtenders, to bring about this conversation when talking to customers.

Have customer consumption patterns changed?

MC: I feel like they slowly are, and we can only expect that they will. The more people interact with cannabis the more educated they get. As long as we continue to lead and educate the customer, consumption patterns will evolve. I strongly feel that flowers will always be the staple product and smoking will be the predominant consumption method. Interestingly over the last 3 years we saw a rise and fall in flower supplanted by an increase in vape/concentrates usage, and now we see that many vape pen skus are stagnant with craft flowers taking off along with concentrates made from craft flowers. So it's going to continue to change and 5 years from now we may not recognize the cannabis space as it once was. We also see a shift in demographic with younger consumers entering the market and the older ones learning new ways. So this will also bring about a change in culture surrounding cannabis which will influence consumption methods.

What do you think are the main characteristics that customers are looking for?

MC: Customers want quality and consistency. At Micro Crops we aim for top notch bud aesthetics such as density, stickiness, and structure, we look for great terpene strength and unique signature aromas, and a dryness in the 11-14% range.

Compared to your initial vision, has the market changed or evolved?

MC: The market has both changed and evolved. Vertical integration was a big thing when I started, but I now see the need for more differentiated cannabis businesses that help larger producers with the smaller tasks. This is where I see Micro Space evolving. We are low overhead companies that can perform services with cannabis for low cost. WE serve as a great alternative for many brands to get their products processed, packaged or grown. Next, the biggest way the industry has changed is in terms of facilities. In the Early days it was about building the biggest and most technologically sophisticated facility, now we see the best product grown in small rooms, using manual/legacy era cultivation methods. Hence the rise of the Micro Cultivator.

What are your apprehensions about the market for the coming years?

MC: I think the provincial governments need to step away from the cannabis supply chain. Licensed Cannabis Cultivators and processors should be able to sell directly to their customers and provide them products without the government being the middleman. The taxes on these products are concerning and this will price most consumers out of the legal cannabis market forcing them to go to the black market for cheaper products that aren't insanely taxed. Another apprehension is this focus on high THC. Although it sounds appealing, many consumers don’t like the extreme psychoactive effect of highly potent cannabis, some prefer a more-mild THC that allows for several doses throughout the day. It's not just about high THC, we need to broaden our understanding of this plant and produce cultivars that offer a broadening experience for different people.

How have you adapted?

MC: Although I say the above, I speak for the entire industry. Micro Crops will continue to provide high potency THC because that is what we are good at, and what we see the craft market liking. 

"We are going to keep it small, stay true to our craft roots, and educate our consumers."

— Conclusion —

Micro crops is a successful model to be inspired by for companies who want to start their cannabis production operations. You have to be smart in the way you start a new business in this field. Too many people have a vision of becoming a multinational company, but success comes through hard work, passion and the desire to go beyond your limits. The cannabis industry is a unique world. You should not hesitate to surround yourself with competent partners and consultants who will be able to guide and support you throughout your journey to build a successful business like Micro crops. 

PHOTONTEK XT 1000W CO2 Pro LED Grow Light
PHOTONTEK XT 1000W CO2 Pro LED Grow Light
PHOTONTEK XT 1000W CO2 Pro LED Grow Light
PHOTONTEK XT 1000W CO2 Pro LED Grow Light
PHOTONTEK XT 1000W CO2 Pro LED Grow Light
PHOTONTEK XT 1000W CO2 Pro LED Grow Light
PHOTONTEK XT 1000W CO2 Pro LED Grow Light
PHOTONTEK XT 1000W CO2 Pro LED Grow Light
PHOTONTEK XT 1000W CO2 Pro LED Grow Light
PHOTONTEK XT 1000W CO2 Pro LED Grow Light
PHOTONTEK XT 1000W CO2 Pro LED Grow Light
PHOTONTEK XT 1000W CO2 Pro LED Grow Light
PHOTONTEK XT 1000W CO2 Pro LED Grow Light
PHOTONTEK XT 1000W CO2 Pro LED Grow Light
PHOTONTEK XT 1000W CO2 Pro LED Grow Light
PHOTONTEK XT 1000W CO2 Pro LED Grow Light
PHOTONTEK XT 1000W CO2 Pro LED Grow Light
PHOTONTEK XT 1000W CO2 Pro LED Grow Light

PHOTONTEK XT 1000W CO2 Pro LED Grow Light

CAN $2,050.00

PHOTONTEK is ready to bring you our most powerful grow light to date. With the perfect balance of quality and quantity, the XT 1000W will deliver the best light spectra on the market combined with ultra-high PPFD levels. Designed for a 5’x5’ space with use of CO2 supplement for maximum performance, the XT 1000W gives growers the opportunity to massively boost yields without the need to increase space.

Producing extremely high levels of PPF output of 2925 µmol/s and a Photon Efficacy (fixture efficiency) of 2.9 µmol/J, XT 1000W CO2 Pro LED creates a homogeneous light spread at close distance from the crop canopy, resulting in outstanding results when used in 5’x5’ coverage indoor grow areas with Supplemental CO2 use.

Key Specifications

Product Code: PTEKLED020
Efficacy:
2.9 µmol/J
PPF: 2925 µmol/s
Input Voltage: 120-277V, 50-60Hz
Input Power (100%): 1005W (277V); 1025W (120V)
Coverage Area: 5’x5’ with Supp. CO2; 6’x6’ without Supp. CO2 used at higher heights.
Waterproof: IP65
Lifetime: 60 000 Hrs
Light Distribution: 120°
Light Source: Higher Spec Osram and Diodes
Dimmable: OFF-25%-50%-75%-100% with 0-10V Light Dimmer (Included)
External Control: With Digital Controller
Weight: 39.68 Lbs
Dimensions: 46.50’’x 42.95’’ x 4.16’’
Spectrum: Full Spectrum


Full Spectrum

Features

– Highest Market Fixture Efficacy 2.9 µmol/J
– High PPF output for high intensity 2925 µmol/s
– Lowest $/µmol
– World Class Diodes & Drivers
– Designed to produce utra-high PPFD for CO2 supplemented Grow Areas
– CO2 Supplemental: A ratio of 1:1 CO2 PPM should be added once a PPFD of 1000 µmol/s/m2 is exceeded
– New Clear Glue Technology on the LED Bars Protection Cover
– Optimized Full-Spectrum
– Detachable Driver
– Fully Dimmable
– External Control with Digital Controller
– Interchangeable Magnet LED Bars
– User Friendly & Easy Set-Up
– 5 Year Warranty

What's in the box

– 10 x 100W 2.9 Full-Spectrum Magnet LED Bars
– 1 x 1000W Driver with Connecting Cables
– 1 x LED Structure with Connecting Cables
– 1 x Power Cable with NEMA 5-15P 120V Plug (NEMA 6-15P 240V also available)
– 1 x 0-10V Light Dimmer + Velcro
– 2 x Metal Cable Hangers
– 1 x Manual

PHOTONTEK, creating better light for growers.

Only the highest-grade materials and components are used in PHOTONTEK’s LED fixtures. Delivering safe, dependable light PHOTONTEK fixtures have industry leading performance. By perfectly balancing a high quality, full spectrum light with highest intensity PPFD delivered through a multi-bar, Linear design. PHOTONTEK Creates the ultimate ceiling of light for the entire plant growth cycle, making these LEDs the smartest option for a higher and faster return on investment.

Producing extremely high levels of PPF output of 2925 µmol/s and a Photon Efficacy (fixture efficiency) of 2.9 µmol/J, XT 1000W CO2 Pro LED creates a homogeneous light spread at close distance from the crop canopy, resulting in outstanding results when used in 5’x5’ coverage indoor grow areas with Supplemental CO2 use.

The use of CO2 with this unit is not imperative, but if you choose to run it without it, then we recommend a longer canopy distance to the fixture, ensuring the optimal PPFD levels recommended to the grow stage. Utilizing this last method the expected coverage area gets to 6’x6’ but with lower levels of PPFD intensity concentration.

Supplementation use of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) in your controlled environment can significantly improve the yield of your crop if used correctly. A good rule is that once you exceed 1000 µmol/s/m2 PPFD levels, you should be 1:1 with CO2 PPM – up to 1500. So at max PPFD = 1500 µmol/s/m2, CO2 would be 1500 PPM (a little lower, 1400 PPM may be the safest to start).

When compared to regular similar wattage High Pressure Sodium solutions the XT 1000W CO2 Pro LED can achieve 30-40% less HVAC capacity and increased yields of up to 30-60%.

The XT 1000W CO2 Pro LED is built using high quality and durable PHOTONTEK drivers and top bin LEDs from Osram and Lumileds generating an optimized full-spectrum light source ideal for veg and flowering stages.

The XT 1000W CO2 Pro LED is designed with both vegetative and flowering growth periods in mind and the LED may be dimmed, allowing you to adjust PPFD levels produced without losing efficiency.

This dynamic, highly efficient and low powered LED fixture configuration, with ten 100W 2.9 LED bars reduces the temperature of the LEDs increasing the output and improving light maintenance.

Choose to run anything from a single light bar to the full 10 line-up at any intensity you need by simply adding or removing the desired amount using the fixtures’ innovative smart and easy, click-magnet design. The driver can also be detached from the fixture and used away from the fixture for your convenience.

In addition, the XT 1000W CO2 Pro LED fixture can be externally controlled with a PHOTONTEK Digital Lighting Controller featuring light timing, automated dimming (1% increments), temperature safety control, Sunrise & Sunset Mode for up to 100 fixtures per controller.

Universal Control Systems Compatibility
PhotonTek Pro LED Fixtures can be fully controlled with either the PhotonTek Digital Controller or with any other Control System that utilises 0-10V output signal. Even if your Universal Controller has an RJ port interface, you can still run our LEDs by using a signal converter RJ to 0-10V control adaptor.

Interview credit : Carl Foisy and the kind participation of Sam from Micro Crops Inc.

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