In August I had a wonderful opportunity to tour the growing facilities at Grow West. The tour was very impressive and left a great impression on me. Grow West by far sets the standards in my eyes on how flower should be grown in a mass production setting.
Stop 1. Mother Room.
The first room on our tour was the mother room. At Grow West they use clippings from the mothers to start their new plants–they do not grow from seeds. These mothers are rotated every 4-5 months with new mothers replacing the old ones. They feel that after 4 months the plants start undergoing more stress from growing which effects the quality of the cuttings they are trimming to create new plants. Keeping a steady stream of younger plants is leading to better quality sprouts from the cuttings. After being trimmed, the cuttings are transferred to an “Aeroponic” tub to stimulate healthy root growth.
Stop 2. Aeroponics.
The difference between aeroponic and hydroponic is that with “aeroponics” the roots are suspended in a pocked of air above the water instead of being submerged in the water. The “aeroponic” beds have misters built in that spray the roots of the plants with water from the bin as well as enzyme that are added to help stimulate growth. I believe the grower said they prefer using aeroponics because it leads to better quality roots and faster. As you can see in the photo below, the roots of this cutting are white and healthy.
Stop 3. Young Cuttings.
When the roots of the cuttings have grown out and are healthy–its time to get potted. In the next part of the tour we were taking to a room with young cuttings.
Stop 4. Warm LED Lights.
During this early stage of growth, the plants are being grown with LED lights in a large warm room with high humidity. The growers work very hard to inspect all plants making sure there are no insect infestations, molds, or fungus. At each stage of growth the plants are giving a specially designed blend of water with enzymes to help promote growth and production of colas.
After growing about 10-12 inches, the plants are transported to the next room. This room uses LED lighting with a warm temperature but with slightly lower humidity. Throughout the growth cycle the humidity will gradually be decreased. While the plants are young, the higher humidity helps the plants to take in more water and enzymes through their leaves which will help the plant further develop. Decreasing humidity is also important as it can help prevent mold and fungus from growing. As the plant is growing and the leaves are getting bigger, there is more area for mold and fungus to grow on making it very important to control the humidity levels.
As the plants grow, they are trimmed from bottom up. This helps the plant save energy to focus on growing healthier leaves and flowering. I tried to get a nice shot but these two kept getting in the way!
Stop 5. Middle Growth Stage.
In the next room, the plants were put under a different style of lighting that removes blue spectrums. This room also happened to be very warm. The different phases of growth do best with different styles of lighting.
During this middle growth stage the plants branches are spread out using the wire that runs across the grow troughs. What they are doing is spreading the leaves out away from the center so the main stem area gets more lighting. They are also working on getting the plant to grow out wide rather than tall.
In the photo below we can see the plants are in their flowering stage. The colas on the plants were very thick and some were dripping with resin. Despite the yellow from the lights, it was quite a sight to behold. And very smelly.
Stop 6. Pre-Harvest.
The next part of the tour was the rooms in which the plants undergo the last part of their growth cycle before being harvested. In this room the plants were put under white led lights and a cooler temperature. The focus is making sure the plants are focusing their energy on growing and maintaining the colas. As you can see, the plants have grown in a short and wide manner due to having the stems spread out using the wires running across the troughs. The colors and aromas from these rooms was mesmerizing.
Stop 7. Drying, Curing & Storage.
After the plants are harvested, its off to drying and curing. During the first part of the drying process, the stems are hung from a wire with a colas dangling down. They will remain in this dry room for up to a week before the final cure and trim processes. After drying its off for trimming then finally to storage. I did not take any photos of the employees trimming. They were using a variety of techniques such as hand trimming and using a tumbler machine for their gold bags. After trimming it was off to storage. So many bags of flower! It was quite a sight to see so much cannabis being stored in a room. One part of the tour I was not allowed to take pictures of was bubble hash room. Grow West is currently working on producing bubble hash which they hope will be available soon. The employees were making hash from several different strains. The end result looks like piles of sludge. It was quite interesting. Look forward to trying the product in the future.
Stop 8. Outdoor Grow.
The last part of the grow tour was the outdoor area which will be used for concentrate production. The head grower who led the tour was not in favor of selling outdoor flower for smoking insisting there’s too many issues such as insects, molds, and fungus that are hard to manage and that only a select few of the outdoor plants would ever be good enough in his eyes for smoking. He does not believe Maryland has the climate for growing outdoor cannabis to the quality it needs to be for smoking. On an interesting note, he did mention that outdoor plants actually tend to have higher THC percentages partially due to the amount of sun the plants get.
This was a very educational and interesting tour. Learned a lot about Grow West and I came away appreciating their products much more. Overall I felt that they were a good company and it looked like the employees were enjoying working there – lots of smiles. Grow West is one of the largest employees for the town of Cumberland, they play an important role in that community. If you look behind us, you may notice a hill – that hill is West Virginia! They were located right on the border of MD & WV, I thought that was cool. There is so much more to their grow process than what I can remember. I would encourage every to try to go on the next tour and please make sure to carpool – it was a long drive but the education was worth it. SHOP GROW WEST HERE.