In this final installment of the Beyond the Bud series, we’ll examine the need for tissue culture and diagnostic labs that service the cannabis industry. Tissue culture is a method of plant propagation used worldwide to ensure that farmers start each crop with genetically consistent, disease-free plant material. The process involves the sterilization and duplication…
The post Beyond the Bud: Earn More Money From Your Cultivation Business, Part 3 appeared first on Cannabis Business Executive – Cannabis and Marijuana industry news.
In this final installment of the Beyond the Bud series, we’ll examine the need for tissue culture and diagnostic labs that service the cannabis industry.
Tissue culture is a method of plant propagation used worldwide to ensure that farmers start each crop with genetically consistent, disease-free plant material.
The process involves the sterilization and duplication of plant tissue under laboratory conditions. The amount of plant material needed to begin the duplication process is negligible (hence the term “micropropagation”), so thousands of identical plantlets can be created from just one plant.
Diagnostic labs help identify the presence of disease pathogens.
Plant diseases like bud rot and powdery mildew are common fungal infections of cannabis crops that are easily and immediately recognizable. However, there are much more sinister pathogens that attack cannabis plants and whose symptoms lie dormant or are difficult to identify.
Fortunately, random testing and early identification can help alert growers to plant-damaging pathogens within a crop, allowing them time to mitigate damage before it spreads throughout the facility.
For example, a diagnostic lab recently found that a pathogen called Hop Latent Viroid (HpLVd) was present in 1/3 of randomly tested cannabis crops in California. HpLVd results in stunted plants that grow slower and yield less than their healthy counterparts. Other states are facing the same pathogen problem, given the frequent exchange of plant material between growers.
HpLVd won’t be the last viroid that poses a severe economic threat to growers. As more states legalize cannabis cultivation, more plant diseases will jump from traditional crops to cannabis, as growers have already seen with Lettuce Chlorosis Virus and Tobacco Mosaic Virus.
The only way to battle these enemies is with early detection (diagnostic labs) and propagation of sterile plant material (tissue culture).
The business opportunity
This situation presents a lucrative opportunity for cultivation businesses looking to diversify and increase their annual revenue.
The few tissue culture companies that currently service the cannabis industry offer plantlets from $10-25 each, but they are spread out across the US. Even if the market is small within your state, interstate transport is expected to ease up before federal legalization, opening up your potential customer base to every state that allows commercial cannabis production. Once federal legalization happens, the potential market expands to any country that can legally import cannabis plants. Today, there are only a few global suppliers of cannabis tissue culture plants, which means there is room for more.
At just $20 per plantlet, selling 100,000 plantlets in a year would bring your business an additional $2 million in revenue.
Consider that most customers order thousands of plantlets at a time, and that number becomes feasible very quickly. Add diagnostic services at $50 per test, and you’ve got a well-rounded business that isn’t subject to the price fluctuations of a typical cannabis flower grower.
If you’re interested in expanding your business to include micropropagation or diagnostic lab services, keep these five tips in mind:
1. Start planning now
It takes 18-24 months to design and build a tissue culture lab, obtain the equipment, hire and train the personnel, and reach the point where your company consistently produces hundreds or thousands of disease-free plantlets on a schedule. If you’re thinking about launching a tissue culture lab this year, it’s already too late. Start planning now for success in 2024 and beyond.
2. Don’t use a book, use an expert
Theory and practice are worlds apart. There’s plenty of information online about do-it-yourself tissue culture, but savvy entrepreneurs recognize the value of learning from someone that has “been there and done that.” Skip the learning curve and align yourself with a tissue culture expert from the start.
3. Practice shipping, but not with cannabis
Ensuring your plantlets arrive safely from your lab to the other side of the country is no easy task. Since interstate transport of cannabis is prohibited, shippers and customers are hesitant to move rooted plants across state lines. For now, practice rooting and shipping plantlets of other species to nail down service logistics without the fear of interception.
4. Offer to consult after diagnosis
Crop advisory services can prove valuable to growers who learn their crop is infected with a pathogen. If you offer diagnostic services, don’t let the sale end with “You’ve got HpLVd. Have a nice day!” Instead, offer consulting as a value-add to your diagnostic services. Share options, insights, and best practices for improving the situation. If you also provide micropropagation services, offer to clean up your customer’s genetics and supply them with rooted plantlets on a set schedule to help eradicate the issue from their crop.
5. Keep customer’s dirty samples away from your clean stock
Ensure that employees in your diagnostic lab don’t also work in your plant production area. If your lab is located at the same site as your grow operation, there is a serious risk of spreading pathogens from your customer’s samples onto your own crop. Establish workflow protocols and vigorously enforce them.
Interested in learning more about diagnostic lab equipment for plant diseases? Reach out to Medicinal Genomics.
As cannabis becomes normalized, our industry will more closely reflect the world of traditional agriculture, where tissue culture and diagnostic laboratories play an important role.
Why not get ahead of the curve and start offering these services today?
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