To skip to any section within this article, click the links below:
About The Glass House
Introduction to Canna Cribs
Nate: Hi, my name is Nate, owner of Growers House, one of the top suppliers of cultivation equipment in the world. I help growers source equipment and put together some of the largest, most advanced growing operations. I am constantly looking for the top products and methods needed to grow the best cannabis. Join me on a tour, where I get inside access to the industries leading cannabis grow ops. This my friends, is Canna Cribs.
Introduction to Glass House
Nate: Everyone, welcome to Canna Cribs episode 1! I’m here with Kelly and Graham from Elite Gardens to see one of the most sophisticated growing operations in the world. So, let’s take a tour! Let’s definitely take a tour.
Graham: Really where we are, we call it “Glass House.” It’s at the forefront of compliant cannabis in California from a cultivation point of view today.
Nate: What I want to do is see how you take an environment like this and turn it into… Ok, let’s go through the life cycle of a plant. The pots, all the way through flowering, and eventually curing and trimming.
Graham: Ok, we’ll start at the beginning and show you how we do it.
Graham: These pots are… we call them the Elite Grow Platform. It’s a system we designed, developed, and manufacture. It allows the plant to basically have a hydroponic or soil as well as an aeroponic section. What it allows us to do particularly with scale like this is… the efficiency with which you can harvest and replant is key. This pot-sock system allows us to go through, where a few-person crew can do a whole bay here, which is almost 500 plants.
Nate: And you leave it connected to irrigation.
Nate: Bottom’s ready to go.
Graham: The other big thing about it is that it recaptures 100% of the overdrain from the plants. No water is left on the floor to evaporate and cause humidity problems in the greenhouse. No water is wasted. You literally get everything the plant doesn’t use, take it back, and in this facility, reuse that.
Nate: Bang boogey! So here we are. This is where the mothers are. This is where the entire operation starts. These mothers are acting almost like queen bees. They’re giving off a lot of foliage, so we can take clones from these mothers and end up propagating them from little babies to go into the vegetative phase and then the flowering phase. I heard you guys were taking a lot of clones per week, what’s the number exactly?
Kelly: Every five days, we’re taking a little over 500 clones.
Nate: Let’s check out these little babies. I want to see what they’re doing and how you guys tend to those little guys so we can move on to the veg.
Kelly: Come on over.
Nate: Cool, let’s do it.
Kelly: Under this veil are just clones from a little earlier today. As you can feel, it’s nice and hot and humid in here. 100% humidity. Make these guys get to where they’re going to be in about 10 days. We’ll have a lot of thick, white, almost fish-scale looking roots just blowing through the bottom of this. Then it’s time for us to change it over to the one gallon pots with the coco medium. It’s a tender beginning for these guys, so they have to be handled very well. Just have to make sure that it’s got the perfect environment.
Nate: Ok, well, let’s see what they look like when they get a little bit older.
Kelly: Cool, alright. We’ll go over to the one gallons.
Nate: Ok, so we’ve got them propagated. They’re rooted, they’re happy, they’re healthy. Then they move over to what I will call “Aluminum Tray #1” rolling bench.
Kelly: Correct. These are about 10-11 days old. You can see what I was talking about… the little white, hairy, fish-scaly looking guys. That means we have a healthy root base.
Kelly: And these just slide. So… once they’re put into these one gallon pots, the entire tray will slide all the way down this line. As you can see if you look down, it’s like a wave. They will just rest in this tray sliding, as more come online.
Nate: So… these ladies are looking pretty nice. So what strain is this?
Graham: So this is SFVOG that we got from our friend Doctor Kenobi. He does some really great genetics work, and these girls are gonna be awesome.
Nate: I looked up and down your rows. You don’t have any burnt tips, no yellowing. For a facility that’s this size, that’s very, very impressive. I’m wondering, what do you guys use for pests? Do you have pest management? Do you guys have spider mites and broad mites like everybody in California?
Graham: We basically… the two things that we’re dealing with are spider mites and powdery mildew. One of the nice things about being in a greenhouse is that we have a lot of environmental control. So, using good best practices, we can avoid a lot of the pesticides that you would otherwise need. Actinovate, Regalia are some of the ones that we use. Really, our goal is to use as little as possible of them and instead control for the environment.
Nate: What about the insides of the systems? I see… I think of these like the intestines. But I don’t know which tube is which. How does this system work? How does this make your plants grow?
Graham: This is irrigation line. This goes back to our fertigator, which we can look at in a little bit and explain how that works. What these are is they are actually… they’re radiator pipes basically. We’ve got a central boiler back in the warehouse…
Nate: So this is providing heat?
Graham: Yeah, so this is heat. We circulate… to control the temperature in the greenhouse, we circulate hot water through these pipes. It’s right here at the root zone of the plant, which is where we want to concentrate heat. So the next… if you go over here… this pipe is plumbed in. One of the benefits that we mentioned of the Elite Growing Platform is that it captures 100% of the water the plants don’t use.
Nate: Ok, so no water on the ground?
Graham: Nothing in here to create humidity. Instead it all goes back to this pipe. Every plant, every row goes back to sump. We pump it out of here, we sterilize it, and we can actually use it to re-irrigate the plants and keep up the efficiency.
Nate: So water, heat, drain runoff and…?
Nate: CO2. In a greenhouse.
Graham: In a greenhouse. It’s pretty special to have that. And it’s actually a really neat system. So the same boiler that heats the water for the pipes to control the temperature also produces CO2. We try to be as efficient as we can because at the end of the day, at a scale like this, we want the highest quality product at the best possible cost point.
Nate: Ok… so we started from the bottom…
Nate: … now we’re here. So… tell me more about this greenhouse. Who manufactures it? Why are you guys using it?
Graham: So this particular greenhouse was made by Systems USA. It’s a Dutch-style greenhouse. It’s got double-ridged vents, which is really nice because it gives you a lot of control for the environment.
Nate: You guys do have some lighting up here. You said earlier on that you were experimenting a little bit with supplemental right?
Graham: Yeah. So there’s really two different kinds of lighting that go on in a greenhouse. One is the smaller lights, the smaller LEDs, we call those photoperiod control lights. It’s really one of the things we’re trying to figure out right now… what makes sense for supplemental lighting in a greenhouse?
Graham: Other things that we have up there… you can see the bottom, the black curtains. That’s blackout. That’s for the opposite issue, which is when the days are too long and we want to force the plants to flower… how do we want to get rid of the sun? Those are triple layer, breathable blackouts. We can close them, close the sides, and right where we’re standing here, you wouldn’t be able to see your hand in front of your face in the middle of the day.
Nate: So I know it takes a lot of technology to run a greenhouse like this, so let’s go check it out.
Graham: Let’s do it.
Graham: So that Agrowtek sensor that I showed you… it comes back to this box. We’ve got six of those sensors, one in every bay in each greenhouse. And they come back here, where we can see everything that we need to know about the environment. We’ve got temperature, we’ve got humidity, we’ve got CO2, and we’ve got light. So we can log in on that, get notifications if things go out of range. So this is what we use to monitor. These boxes over here are what use to control it. This is essentially the climate computer’s interface with the greenhouse. It allows it control the ridge vents, the shade cloth, the CO2, the hot water, and keep the environment where we want it.
Graham: Now that we’ve showed you how we control the greenhouse, let’s go check out some of the back end systems.
Nate: Yeah, I’d love to.
Nate: So, as we were leaving the greenhouse, I asked Graham, “How do you make sure your neighbors don’t go after you, because it’s going to smell?” He showed me this thing and I was like, “Ok, explain this thing to me.” This thing is huge.
Graham: This is the big gray beast. It’s all about being respectful of your neighbors. It’s an odor control system. It uses a biodegradable food-grade chemical that it nebulizes. And all around the property are pipes. It takes that, ducts the vapor around, so that any odors it encounters it neutralizes them and brings them down to the ground so that we don’t bother anybody else.
Graham: So this is the boiler. This is what heats the water that goes throughout all the greenhouses in the facility. We use that to control the temperature to warm things up. One of the cool things about this is that most boilers would run at night when it’s cool. We’ve actually got the ability to run ours during the day because we have a hot water storage tank. So what we can do is heat the water during the day, capture the CO2 that would normally be wasted into the atmosphere, cool it down, and pipe it into the greenhouses. So, going back to the idea that you don’t want to waste anything… that’s how we’re able to make use of what’s normally a product that’s thrown away.
Nate: So tell me about this RO system.
Graham: Yeah, so this is our “insane-in-the-membrane” RO unit. It’s a 40,000 gallon per day unit. From here we clean the water, and then the next step is we inject the nutrients, set the pH, and feed it to the plants.
Nate: Ok, I want to see this injector.
Graham: Let’s do it.
Nate: So we saw the water made by the membrane. It goes into the storage tanks, then we have to take it from the storage tanks into the gardens we just saw. So this is the gizmo that makes it happen. This is your dosing?
Graham: Yeah, so the next step after using the RO system to take everything out of the water is to put back in exactly what it is that we want to feed the plants. So what this unit does is that it takes the perfectly clean RO water and injects it with what we’re going to feed the plants. That’s Elite Nutrients. One of the great things about it is that it’s a super simple system. It’s only got five parts to it. That and setting the pH is all the plants need to be happy.
Nate: Wow. Look at that. That is a shit-ton of plants.
Graham: Pretty awesome huh?
Nate: Yeah, that is crazy. How many square feet are we in right now?
Kelly: 70,000 square feet.
Graham: One of the things to keep in mind here that we mentioned is that with the Elite Growing Platform, the plants don’t actually move as they switch from veg to flower. Once we plant them in here, they never have to move again. We just use the blackout to change the light. So as you walk through this greenhouse, you’re literally walking through the life cycle of the plant. Back there in the beginning, they’re fresh out of the propagation house. These are a couple of weeks into flower. The next ones are a few more weeks into flower, and by the time you get to the end, you’ll be ready for harvest.
Graham: Yeah, every single plant in this greenhouse is fed nothing but five bottles in the Elite Nutrient System. So… there’s four parts of nutrients and a mycorrhizae called “Root Ignitor,” and that’s what making all these plants as happy as you see here. What you’re smelling when you talk about that, is the effects of Resin B, which is really the essential pack on both the aroma and the essential oil production. When we say we’re not just another nutrient company, this is what we mean. This is our R&D platform. This is how we know the product we’ve developed works.
Nate: Let’s keep going, can’t stop now.
Nate: Ok, so now that we’re in one of the curing rooms, I really want to go over all the stuff you guys do in here. What do you guys try to keep here?
Kelly: We try to keep it about 65 degrees Fahrenheit in here. We try to keep our humidity around 55-60%. These plants here… they’ve been drying for six days now. They’re going to do… on average we do a 10 day dry cycle here in the curing room. Then we take them down, we buck them after that. That way the nose will stick on the plant better. The curing process… you can take the best genetics, grow it the best way possible, and if you don’t cure it and prop it… it just… it’s all done.
Kelly: These plants, as I said, have been six days in curing right now. And I’m going to take you into the other room that we just harvested yesterday. When we open up that door, the scent is going to knock you on your ass, because it’s super ripe up there. The difference after six days is… night and day.
Kelly: This plant was just harvested yesterday, as were all the plants in this room. As you can see, most all of the fan leaves are removed before we bring it into the curing stage. We really want to keep the nose on this plant perfect, because if it doesn’t smell, it doesn’t say.
Nate: That’s the saying man.
Kelly: It’s an important thing for us.
Nate: So I noticed you guys have all Greenbroz trimmers over here. I know they have a unique style of trimming… I just really want to pick your brain about that a little bit, I mean why…
Kelly: Yeah, it’s a good question. We used to do 90% of all of our trimming by hand. All of the trimming machines previous to this were a tumbler, like a dryer. All that does is just knock the trichomes and destroy your flower. When we got a demo on these, it changed everything. Our fastest trimmer could maybe do three pounds a day. Now every trimmer is consistently doing 2 pounds an hour.
Nate: So Kelly gave me the coat, gave me the gloves. I think I might be joining the team, we’ll see. We’ll see how good my skills are. We’re going to try trimming some cannabis, let’s do it!
Kelly: So what we do is start off with a bucket like this, pour it into the machine here, and now we’re going to fire this baby up.
Nate: Yeah. Turn it on?
Kelly: Go ahead and hit the forward button. So you’re just lightly tossing it like that… that’s great. What’s going on right now is that these guys are just very, very gently being trimmed. All the trim is coming down into a lower chamber here. It’s just super, super clean. It doesn’t have any residual oil on it. So people that use extracts much prefer a completely clean trim versus one that’s got coconut oil residue or something other than just pure trim from the bud.
Nate: So this is where most of your extracts are coming from?
Kelly: Exactly. And people literally line up to get it. So that’s our finished product all the way from the beginning to the end.
Kelly: This is where it’s done. Finally, through all the processing you saw earlier, final burping goes on here. Then bagging, and then ready for sale. Each one of these bags represents one pound of product. You’ve got your Daywrecker, your Yoda, Uncle Creepy OG, Sour OG, Strawberry Shortcake here. Actually, it smells like strawberries.
Nate: Let me see this… that is unreal.
Kelly: Isn’t that killer?
Nate: That’s unreal.
Kelly: We package everything up into one pound units like this. Then we put them and seal them into mylar bags, which are ten units per mylar bag. They’re good for transport manifests.
Nate: Ten pounds?
Kelly: Ten pounds. Do a little weightlifting with it, maybe go to sleep. We’ve got these bags that are smell-proof if we’re not using the mylar, but most people choose to use the mylar. From this property alone, during our prime season, which we’re in now, we’re going to be doing about 1200 pounds of finished product per month. To put it in perspective, that’s 1200 of these bags going out every 30 days.
Nate: And that’s on this property, and you guys have…?
Kelly: We manage several properties, yeah.
Nate: It’s been a nice, long day, but thank you so much for letting us come to your operation. This place is amazing.
Kelly: I’m glad you got to have the experience, and I’d like to give you a little parting gift… some Daywrecker.
Nate: This is uhh… you’re going to have to share this with me.
Nate: Just watch out. I don’t want you handing it to Graham. He’s flying me home in like 30 minutes.
Graham: Gotta get you home safe.
Nate: I mean, there’s all these countries that are now starting to go legal, and I’m happy to say that I feel like we’re one of them, I just don’t know how soon it’s going to be.
Graham: California’s got a pretty rich addition. We’re one of the first in the country to legalize. It’s been medically legal here for 20 years. Prop 64 just passed with a 62% margin, which is about as close to a political landslide as it gets. As the saying goes, as California goes, so goes the nation. It’s probably more true here than anywhere else.
Nate: So goes the world. I mean that’s why we did an episode like this. I just really wanted to show the world what the cannabis industry is doing. How far it’s evolved. Where it’s gone from in the shadows to in the light. This is huge for that. I think we’re speaking out. We’re advocating for it. We’re making it happen.
Graham: Out of the shadows and into the light.
Kelly: And it’s true that you can actually be high and not act like an idiot. You’re actually quite articulate right now.
Nate: Well, I am quite high. I am quite flattered. I’m flattered that you think so. Maybe on that note, it’s a good time to catch a flight back ala Graham air. That’s a wrap. Canna Cribs, Episode One. Later guys!
Editor’s Note: Growers Network appreciates its readers! If you are limited on time, we are now offering abbreviated versions of our articles. Click below to view.
Canna Cribs: Glass House — Santa Barbara, CA
Our cultivation facilities are multiple greenhouses laid out with a modular design. The facility is approximately 200,000 square feet and is broken up into a number of bays, each with their own lighting, blackout and fertigation.
Once we plant in the greenhouse after propagation, each plant spends its whole life there, never needing to move again. We’ll typically run one or two strains per bay. We stagger the timing of the bays so that we’re doing a continual harvest every 3-7 days.
What kind of equipment do you use?
Right now we’re using Phantom DE 1000W HPS lights and 315w Sunburst CMH lights. We keep them at least 10 feet above the canopy as supplemental lights. We also run LED photoperiod control lights to adjust flowering schedules.
Priva automation controls the majority of our greenhouse environment. We back up the Priva system with Agritech climate sensors, which alert us if anything goes wrong. We’re proactive in our temperature and humidity management, using blackout curtains to control light and heat in each individual bay.
We use a double-bucket system to recapture all of the runoff water. That water gets piped off for treatment before being recirculated back into the system.
How do you shift from propagation to veg and flowering?
We use a labor efficient system:
- Clones are grown in coco and perlite.
- We transfer clones into one gallon pots as a sort of “pre-veg”.
- Once they’re rooted, we plant them in our 13-gallon Elite Grow Platform Pots.
After that, we never move the plants again. Instead of separating vegetative and flowering, we use a combined system with our individual greenhouse bays.
How do you manage the environment in a greenhouse?
It depends on the facility. We try drive our temperatures and humidities based on Vapor Pressure Deficit, and the ideal VPD changes based on temperature, humidity, and CO2 levels.
What does your pest management look like?
New clones are quarantined until we’re certain they’re clear of any pests. When we get a new mother plant, we test it in our test bay.
We’re fortunate in regards to pests because of where we’re located. We only worry about spider mites and powdery mildew, which we keep in check with careful monitoring and climate control.
Other than that, we use our environmental controls to prevent a problem in the first place. Most pests have a narrow range of environments that they can tolerate, and we try to avoid those conditions.
How do you feed the plants?
We use a fertigator system designed by Priva. It takes clean RO water and adds Elite Nutrients and beneficials as needed. It then adjusts the pH and doses directly to the plants. The water is then fed to the plants via top-mounted drip feeds, which ultimately drains back into the catchment system.
Since we grow a limited number of strains per bay, each bay gets a slightly different recipe. We program each bay to get fed 2-3 times per day, depending on the strains and plants.
What are your harvesting methods?
When a bay finishes flowering, we harvest around 500 plants from it. We essentially let the plants die on the vine, cut them down, and hang them in a dark room set to 55% humidity and 60 degrees Fahrenheit for a couple of weeks to cure. After that, they’re trimmed and processed according to client needs.
What are your long-term goals?
Elite Garden Wholesale is a company for growers, by growers. As cultivators ourselves, we make products that we want to use. For our cultivation sites, we’d like to grow bigger, better products more efficiently. We want to be able to provide all kinds of products to the California industry.
What have been some of your biggest challenges?
Despite California’s reputation, cannabis has always existed in a legally gray area. We have had to jump through a lot of hoops that you wouldn’t experience in any other industry. That’s the cost of being on the forefront of something new.
Another issue is that it’s a big operation with a lot of moving parts. The challenge lies in how you coax out the same quality that a small grow can in cost-efficient way. It takes a lot of planning and infrastructure to make it all happen.
What advice do you have for new growers?
Assuming you already know your plants, the number one thing that you need is a functional system in place. You have to have a plan and standard operating procedures. You have to work smart in order to work at a commercial scale, because it’s impossible to work hard enough.
We try to work smart, because we […] don’t want 30 people sitting around twiddling their thumbs or working overtime to trim excessive amounts of product that will end up rotting.Graham
Once we plant in the greenhouse after propagation, each plant spends its whole life there, never needing to move again. They stay in the same bay until they’re ready to harvest. We’ll typically run one or two strains per bay. We stagger the timing of the bays so that we’re doing a continual harvest. We’re harvesting a bay roughly every 3-7 days.
Editor’s Note: For people keeping score at home, the facility described above can grow up to 10,000 plants.
Right now we’re using Phantom DE 1000W HPS lights and 315w Sunburst CMH lights, both made by Hydrofarm, in all of our rooms. We keep them at least 10 feet above the canopy, although they’re just supplemental lights because we are in a greenhouse. Additionally we use LED photoperiod control lights to adjust the plants flowering schedule.
Our climate controls are different from most indoor grows. We are working with nature: sunlight, ocean breeze (truly Ocean Grown OG), shade cloth etc. We’re proactive in our temperature and humidity management, using blackout curtains to control light and heat in each individual bay as needed.
We use a 13-gallon double-bucket system, made by Elite Garden Wholesale, which recaptures 100% of the runoff water. That water is then piped off for treatment before being recirculated back into the system.
Editor’s Note: Want to see what their geneticist is cooking up? Check out Dr. Kenobie’s instagram!
Because of our sheer size, the propagation bay is essentially a 5,000 square foot dome. We keep them in there under the sun, right up until the point they’re ready to go into vegetative.
- Clones are grown in coco and perlite.
- We transfer clones into one gallon pots as a sort of “pre-veg”.
- Once they’re rooted, we plant them in our 13-gallon Elite Grow Platform Pots.
- After that, we never move the plants again, which is nice when we’re talking about 10,000 individual plants.
- Then, using a combination of light deprivation and productivity control, we put them into flower.
Basically, instead of separating vegetative and flowering, we use a combined system with our individual greenhouse bays.
We try to drive our temperatures and humidities based on VPD or Vapor Pressure Deficit. The ideal VPD changes based on temperature and humidity. If you’ve got a higher CO2 level, you need to raise temperature and humidity accordingly to maximize CO2 usage. If CO2 levels are lower, then you don’t need the higher temperatures and humidities.
We’re also fortunate because of the area we’re located in. Our primary concerns are spider mites and powdery mildew. We keep them in check using a combination of the proper climate and beneficial insects; we very rarely touch any pesticides.
Other than that, we try to use our environmental controls to prevent a problem in the first place. Most pests have a narrow range of environments that they can tolerate, and we try to avoid those conditions.
Since we grow a limited number of strains per bay, each bay gets a slightly different recipe. We program each bay to get fed 2-6 times per day, depending on the strains and plants.
We also SCROG each bay so that each individual plant has a canopy around 4’x4’. Our goal is not to have a tall canopy with hundreds of plants, but to have fewer, bigger plants, that are more spread out.
While a bay is being harvested, we have someone pull out the pot stock, which holds the medium. We put in fresh pot stock, refill the medium and then put in our next set of plants to keep the bay continuously growing.
We hand-trim the top-graded product, and use GreenBroz trimmers for the mid-to-lower-buds product. Afterwards, we do final quality assurance, test everything, and then package it into mylar bags.
We want to work with nature to grow the most-consistent, high-quality medicine for people.Graham
Elite Garden Wholesale is a company for growers, by growers. As cultivators ourselves, we make products that we want to use. We believe that there are many technological improvements in the near future for growing cannabis, and we hope to be part of that.
Another issue is sheer size of our operation. It’s a big operation with a lot of moving parts. We have to coordinate carefully. The challenge lies in how you coax out the same quality that a small grow can in cost-efficient way. It takes a lot of planning and infrastructure to make it all happen.
We know our nutrients work because we’ve got 350,000 square feet of cultivation running nothing but Elite. We know the efficiency of our growing platform, because we’ve used it on a large scale. And then we’ve got a great group of people who work with us, making a great product.
I enjoy putting something like this together. It’s amazing to keep building on top of our success. Cannabis provides relief for people, makes medicine, helps people relax and enjoy themselves. It feels good to be building a business that is true to your morals, and is part of its emergence from prohibition.
There aren’t any regrets that I can think of. Every day is filled with many successes and many failures. No matter how good you are at growing, you can always do it better.
Prohibition is a cure that is worse than the disease.Graham Farrar
It may sound strange, but I like to be on the bleeding edge. I like to be in brand new markets: internet, high-definition audio, smartphone apps, and cannabis. It’s my passion.
I’ve been a hobbyist grower for a long time, and I enjoy the feeling of creating something from nothing. I realized not long ago that I could combine my passion for being on the bleeding edge of a new industry with my knowledge of technology. And that’s how Elite Garden Wholesale and the Glass House were born.
The “Glass House” is almost 200,000 sq. ft. These greenhouses are heavily automated for everything. CO2, EC, automated fertigation and irrigation, lights, blackout, and more.
The other is Elite Garden Wholesale, which I call a pick-and shovel business. We sell products to cultivators, including a line of nutrients, called the Elite Growing Platform. Not only does Elite Garden Wholesale sell to cultivators of all stripes, we also use its products in the Glass House, so you know that we test our products extensively in real-world scenarios.
Gentleman Toker – Kazooted Infused TrufflesFebruary 22, 2018
Good Mother Plant Nutrition – Necessary for Successful CloningFebruary 21, 2018
Micronutrients: Part 2February 20, 2018
Pro Tips: Curing CannabisFebruary 19, 2018
Do you want to receive the next Grower’s Spotlight as soon as it’s available? Sign up below!
Want to get in touch with Graham?
You can reach him via the following methods:
- Interested in learning more about VPD and using it to grow cannabis? Check out our two articles about VPD!
- Interested in owning a greenhouse of your own? Check out our article on shopping for your own greenhouse.
- Interested in purchasing some of Graham’s growing equipment? Check out his website to learn more.
Do you have any questions or comments?
About the Author
Hunter Wilson is a community builder with Growers Network. He graduated from the University of Arizona in 2011 with a Masters in Teaching and in 2007 with a Bachelors in Biology.