New cultivation businesses should have saleable product within 18 months from the day they receive their license. While there is nothing that cultivators can do to make their plants grow faster, there are steps that start-ups can take to shorten their time to market. If a first-mover advantage is desirable for your business, consider the…
The post Getting There First: Three Tips for Shortening a Cultivator’s Time to Market appeared first on Cannabis Business Executive – Cannabis and Marijuana industry news.
New cultivation businesses should have saleable product within 18 months from the day they receive their license.
While there is nothing that cultivators can do to make their plants grow faster, there are steps that start-ups can take to shorten their time to market. If a first-mover advantage is desirable for your business, consider the following three tips for beating your competition to the finish line.
1. Buy starter plants
New cultivation businesses can shave months off their start-up timeline by launching production with starter plants. Not all jurisdictions allow licensed cultivators to buy live cannabis plants, so clarify the legality of this option before moving forward. In states or countries where this is permitted, investigate acquiring live plants from any of the following:
• Home growers
• Licensed commercial cultivators
• Dispensaries that sell live plants
Sometimes there are restrictions on the number of plants that can be purchased to start a cultivation business. Still, even a few dozen plants can help growers skip the genetics refinement process and jump-start propagation.
Although buying several hundred plants to start each crop is not a sustainable strategy for the long term, a rapid arrival to market can help justify the price. There may be royalties attached to each plant purchased or some agreement to pay a percentage of the value of the final harvest. These one-time payments will undoubtedly eat into a company’s profits from the very first harvest, but if rapidly securing a market position is essential to your business, purchasing live plants is certainly a feasible option.
Dispensaries often sell a mix of clones at retail. If they don’t have a cultivation department that grows these clones for sale, identify the grower providing them to the dispensary. If it’s a commercial grower, they likely have the capacity to fulfill a large order of starter plants.
As part of the agreement, request to see the growing facility, the stock plants, and the propagation department. If the stock plants aren’t healthy, or the propagation area is unkempt, look elsewhere. Buying hundreds of infected cuttings is not going to help your business. But if the facility is professional and clean, and the company has a history of successfully propagating large volumes of cuttings, it may be a golden opportunity to come to market at record speed. Launching a grow operation with healthy, clean, and mature starter plants could shorten the crop cycle to just ten weeks.
2. Come to market with small lots
Sometimes how fast is more important than how much. First-mover advantage is not a question of volume, it’s a question of speed. Being first with quality product in a hot new market—even with only a little to sell—is better than waiting an extra ten months until you have something more compelling to offer.
Selling out in a new market is not a bad thing. Cannabis enthusiasts will post photos and reviews to social networking sites within minutes of purchasing your product. If the quality is excellent, a limited supply will only help to drive consumer interest in your business. The positive buzz will last until your next, larger harvest comes to market.
The key with small lots of cannabis is to make sure that the crop is of high quality. Consider harvesting only the “cream of the crop” in terms of flower size and quality, and then hand-trim the harvest for an impeccable presentation at retail. Don’t rush the drying process; slower drying results in a smoother end product.
Also, consider establishing a way for interested customers to track the progress of your next harvest. If the quality of your first product is good, anticipation will build for the next crop already in the pipeline. Providing customers with an option to track crop progress—perhaps by video cam on your website—will draw people to your site and help familiarize new customers with your brand and company.
3. Limit first lots to oil or milled products
When new cannabis businesses start a cultivation program from seed, they must spend considerable time growing out and refining their genetics before cultivating them on a commercial scale.
It is difficult to sell a crop that was started from seed but not refined down to plants that exhibit similar characteristics. Not only are seed crops tricky for growers to manage due to their varying growth habits and plant requirements, but it’s also difficult to sell a batch of cannabis whose active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) vary from plant to plant.
Most regulated cannabis markets require that each lot of dry cannabis flower be analyzed by a lab to determine API levels and detect the presence of contaminants like fungus, bacteria, and heavy metals. One plant could yield cannabis flowers that contain 25% THC, while the plant growing next to it has only 5% THC. This scenario can be problematic since labeling cannabis flowers for API content would be impossible to do accurately.
Start-ups who wish to sell product from their first seed lot still have a few choices for quickly going to market.
One option is to extract the oil from the first few lots but not sell any dried flower until the genetics have been refined. Oil extracted from different plants will have differing levels of APIs, but mixing the oil together will create one homogenized lot that can be analyzed in a laboratory and accurately labeled for sale. For example, a batch of plants that tests anywhere from 5 to 25% THC can be processed into one homogenous batch of oil that tests around 15% THC.
A similar approach can be taken to homogenize a batch of seed plants if there is an overwhelming demand for dry flower.
Milling is a process where all of the flowers from a harvest are finely ground together to create a consistent product from an inconsistent group of plants. Similar to the example above, by grinding up dry cannabis flower with THC levels that range from 5 to 25%, a business can create a milled dry flower product that consistently tests around 15% THC. This ground product can be smoked, vaporized, or used in cooking.
The only disadvantage of this process is that milled cannabis does not appeal to the connoisseur cannabis consumer. The visual quality of a well-grown and finely manicured flower greatly influences the buyer’s decision at the retail counter. Although milled flower is just as effective as whole flower, more discriminating cannabis aficionados will turn up their nose at anything short of whole cannabis flower. In contrast, medical patients new to cannabis will have no problem buying and using a milled product.
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