Growing hemp and capitalizing on the emerging CBD industry appears to be simple and straightforward; however, successful, large-scale cultivation of industrial hemp requires vigilant attention to starter seed, as well as cutting-edge science. At Green Rock Hemp Holdings, LLC we offer solutions across the supply chain. As a vertically integrated solutions provider, our family of companies – GeneticsCubed, LLC; Mesa Rising Hemp Farms, LLC; and Red Mesa Science & Refining, LLC – provide the highest quality products and solutions and bring proven business practices to the emerging hemp industry. With the inaugural growing season at Mesa Rising Hemp Farms successfully completed, we learned valuable lessons that will result in improved yields in the future.
Lesson One: It’s All About the Seed
The importance of genetically superior hemp seeds cannot be overstated. We have learned that it is critical to be vigilant in each process and disregard claims that are not appropriately backed. Going forward, we will now purchase seed exclusively from our affiliated company, GeneticsCubed, LLC. GeneticsCubed designs and clones hemp seeds with genetic characteristics that promote growth and maximize CBD content, and this will take the risk out of seed purchasing.
As we prepare the fields and farm for the next growing season, we will work alongside GeneticsCubed, LLC to plant genetically superior seeds that raise the standards for industrial hemp. Led by University of California, Berkeley scientist Dr. Thomas Azwell, and award-winning cannabis breeder, Arthur Adams (Purple Caper), GeneticsCubed designs hemp seeds and clones with best-in-class genetics, resulting in uniform, fully-feminized hemp plants that maximize yields and reduce processing costs – seeds that a farmer can trust. As a professionally run, high-level genetics company, GeneticsCubed takes the risk out of seed purchasing and gives small- to large-scale farmers peace of mind when making crucial seed purchase decisions,
Valuable Lessons Learned
At the beginning of our inaugural growing season, we talked with a number of seed growers and brokers in our quest for high-quality feminized seeds. Many of these brokers provided guarantees of 100 percent feminization and 99 percent germination rates. They also provided Certificate of Authenticities (COAs) from third-party companies that showed great cannabidiol (CBD) numbers, paired with low tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) numbers, as well as an impressive CBD/THC ratio and sex-testing and germination test results.
However, after taking a deep dive into seed production and what it takes to produce such a promising seed, it became clear that many newly-emerging companies are profiting from misrepresentations, and often the COAs and test results were from previous generations of seed batches or the single outlier rather than the average. We learned that in this nascent industry, transparency can sometimes be lacking. Was the seed generation purchased grown in an identical manner as the generation tested and would the results show the same? If there were a slight change in processes, would the results be changed? We learned to ask these questions, and that seed producers, the critical starting point of a farmer’s journey, should be able to answer them for complete transparency.
Genetic Variations Impact Yields
Once our seeds were purchased and propagation of our 1,400,000 top-of-the-line feminized seeds began, we saw a drastic drop from our expectations. We outsourced propagation to well-established greenhouse nurseries that followed our fertilizer regimen requirements, yet only 1,200,000 seeds germinated, representing a more than 13 percent reduction from what we were initially guaranteed from seed providers and brokers. Our most critical lesson was to be vigilant in each process and disregard claims that aren’t scientifically and appropriately backed.
Once our seedlings became well-established in the Green River, Utah climate, we were shocked at the genetic variations of the plants. Alongside our beautiful 4’ to 5’ plants with large colas and great trichome development, were stunted plants, a foot high with little to no resin development with minimal signs of budding. Many of our plants looked fantastic, but some looked sickly, and while some performed well early, others took longer but became the best in the lot. In one of our fields, we discovered a wide variety of genetic traits within what was supposed to be the same genetics.
Not only were plant genetics inconsistent, we found over 2 percent males with an average 100 male plants per acre – a number that is devastating and potentially ruinous to an untrained eye. At scale, on a farm with 325 acres planted, that means around 32,500 males had to be identified and then culled – a highly laborious and expensive task. Fortunately, we caught this early and remedied the situation. However, for some, this could almost guarantee female plant fertilization which in turn leads to significantly lower Phyto cannabinoid levels as each plant’s energy shifts toward seed development. Without dependable and predictable plants, farmers assume additional costs, decrease their projected yield, and are left wondering why their promising seed purchase took a turn for the worse. Everyone says to check the COAs, but do the harvest’s results measure up? Most likely they don’t – other than the single unicorns in the field of green.
Professional Solutions Across the Vertical
As we prepare for the next growing season, we will use these lessons to enhance our yields and work toward our goal of becoming an industry leader. Our affiliation with GeneticsCubed will take the risk out of seed purchasing and provide peace of mind knowing we have dependable, predictable plants. In retrospect, our first growing season truly reinforced the benefits of the Green Rock Hemp Holdings’ vertical structure. With professional solutions across the supply chain – from seed to CBD, Green Rock Hemp Holdings and its affiliates—GeneticsCubed, LLC; Mesa Rising Hemp Farms, LLC; and Red Mesa Science & Refining, LLC—provide farmers, consumer goods producers, and end customers with the highest quality products and solutions and bring proven business practices to the emerging hemp industry.
About the author:
Julian Zhao serves as the Director of Operations for Green Rock Hemp Holdings. His primary focus is assisting Green Rock’s subsidiaries with initial startup operations and monitorization. He currently assists GeneticsCubed in the creation of an inventory tracking system, process flows for selective breeding, and clone development timelines, as well as IP strategy implementation. He oversaw the operations for the Company’s Mesa Rising Hemp Farms during its inaugural season, from facilitating the planting schedule to hemp biomass preparation for extraction.
Previously, Julian managed a global cryptocurrency arbitrage fund that had $6M AUM at its peak. He was the architect to an automated trading system that involved multi-level trading between five different exchanges. Prior to his involvement in the cryptocurrency industry, he worked in the entertainment industry at companies such as Universal Music Group and Exclusive Media.
Zhao attended the University of California, Riverside as a Business Economics and Media & Cultural Studies major, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree. He has lived and worked in the U.S and China, and is fluent in English and proficient in Chinese.