The Grow-Off: Quantitative Cannabis Competition

The Grow-Off: Quantitative Competition

In this Growers Spotlight, we interview Samantha Sandt and Jake Browne, the founders of The Grow-Off in Colorado. We also questioned several competitors in The Grow-Off about their experience and the value they see in the competition.

The founders of The Grow-Off: Samantha Sandt and Jake Browne.

The Grow-Off is a new cannabis growing competition whose goal is to eliminate the subjectivity present in prior cannabis competitions. All competitors receive the same unknown strain of cannabis and can compete in three categories: Potency, Flavor, and Yield.

The following is an interview with industry leaders. Growers Network does not endorse nor evaluate the claims of our interviewees, nor do they influence our editorial process. We thank our interviewees for their time and effort so we can continue our exclusive Growers Spotlight service.

To skip to any section within this article, click the links below:

  • The Grow-Off Basics
  • The Quantitative Quest for the Best
  • What the Competitors are Saying
  • Resources
  • Comments

  • The Grow-Off Basics

    The Grow-Off intends to eliminate the subjectivity found in many cannabis competitions. To achieve this goal, every competing grower is given a clone of the same unknown strain of cannabis. They are allowed to raise the clone via whatever methods they believe are best and allowed by Colorado state law. The cannabis will then be collected in early February and submitted for laboratory testing. Based on the results of the laboratory testing, winners will be selected for Potency, Flavor, and Yield.

    When testing for potency, The Grow-Off will examine the full spectrum and concentration of cannabinoids found in each competitor’s plant. This means evaluating not only THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (Cannabidiol) content, but other cannabinoids such as CBN (Cannabinol) and CBE (Cannabielsoin), which appear as the result of degradation of a cannabis sample.

    When testing for flavor, The Grow-Off will examine the quantity and variety of terpenes found in the competitors’ samples. While some might argue that certain terpenes have better flavor than others, the goal of this test is to see whose technique can “coax” the most terpenes out of the plant. Terpene-rich strains show great potential in the concentrates market.

    When testing for yield, The Grow-Off will be comparing the dry mass of each specimen (one full plant) submitted. The competitor who submits the most massive single dry plant will win this category.

    The Quantitative Quest for the Best

    That’s the point of The Grow-Off: identify winners based on measurable results.Samantha Sandt
    We’ve been in the industry for 5+ years. In fact, we met through the industry.

    When we examined the Cannabis Cups, we grew tired of the hoopla. There was no rhyme or reason as to why one company would win and another would lose. With huge strides in lab testing over the past few years, we knew there had to be a better way.

    Editor’s Note: The Cannabis Cup is a competition regularly held by High Times Magazine. Criticisms have been leveled at High Times for lacking clear criteria and for the subjectivity involved in judging the competition. Past categories for winning include:

    1. Best Medical Hybrid/Sativa/Indica Concentrates
    2. Best Medical Hybrid/Sativa/Indica Flowers
    3. Best CBD Flower/Concentrate/Edibles
    4. And many more!
    When you introduce new genetics to a grow, people are concerned about the clone’s cleanliness initially. You can’t put a price on a clean grow, so we had to earn the growers’ trust. Fortunately, Natural Remedies has a sterling reputation in the industry and there wasn’t a single issue.

    Editor’s Note: For most growing facilities, it is common practice to quarantine new plants in order to isolate any potential pests carried by the plant.

    Related Article: Integrated Pest Management

    We hope to help the competitors better understand their systems and improve their processes so they can grow the best cannabis possible. We’re excited to see the data analysis our title sponsors at Grownetics will be putting together based on the weekly reports from our competitors.

    How are the final results publicly accessed?

    Top winners in each category (Potency, Flavor and Yield) will be celebrated across multiple media outlets. We also plan to discuss why these growers did better than the rest with the help of Grownetics.

    That’s the point of The Grow-Off: identify winners based on measurable results and educate the public as to why they’re doing better than the rest, while helping other competitors improve for next time.

    Will the winners be required to disclose any of their growing methods?

    They’re not required to, but we hope they don’t mind opening up about some of their processes. We’d never ask someone to put down their entire operation on paper and give it to their competition, because, in some cases, it’s their life’s work. We want to honor that while still helping move everyone forward.

    We have cultivation facilities of all sizes competing and we’re excited to see how David stacks up against Goliath. On one hand, smaller operators are more flexible to focus on the competition plant, but the bigger guys have a larger staff and potentially more advanced systems. We’ll find out what worked best at the end of the competition!
    Our lab partners at TEQ Analytical Labs test for overall cannabinoid and terpenoid profiles. We’re interested to see the differences coming from identical genetics and who can bring out unique traits. For yield, we want to see who can take one plant and get the most flower out of it, so they’ll report their final cured batch and hold it for inspection if required.
    We wanted something really unique from Natural Remedies, as they’ve had some tremendous genetics projects in their nursery over the years. One of the bonuses in competing is that you get to introduce something new to your garden, and we wanted to make sure it wasn’t Blue Dream. No one needs more Blue Dream.

    No one.

    There’s a huge push towards testing from all parties. States want to make sure the cannabis being sold is safe and accurately labeled. Growers want to improve how they cultivate, and objective metrics are better than merely smoking the product. Additionally, consumers want to know how potent every strain on the shelf is. We expect testing to become the rule rather than the exception.
    Yes, that is the plan, but we need to identify states that have a larger quantity of licensed cultivators, rules in place for clone distribution, and registered labs. We’re as concerned with the scientific nature of the competition as we are with compliance. These are the 2 pillars of The Grow-Off, if you will.

    Currently, you only accept recreational growers. What about medicinal growers?

    We’re hoping to launch a medical competition next in Colorado and will be announcing that in the next few months.

    How many entries will you accept per state?

    That will depend on our genetics partner and how many clones they can make available to our competitors. Ideally we’ll never have less than 40 competitors in any one competition.

    We hope to help cultivators understand how they stack up against others in their state and how to improve. Grownetics has a big hand in helping. Their current clients are seeing a 60% reduction in operating costs.

    What the Competitors are Saying

    The Farm – Stephen Lipton – Director of Cultivation

    The Farm entered the Grow Off because it is the first competition that is utilizing actual lab results for the competition. This is very exciting since it will level the playing field and provide an accurate representation for the winner.

    Good Meds – Keenan Brown – Head Grower

    We decided to enter the grow off to showcase our Lead Gardener and Grow Staff abilities as compared to other top companies in the industry. We strongly believe we have some of the best gardening talent in the Colorado area.

    Sweet Grass Kitchen – Jesse Burns – Director of Marketing

    As an edible manufacturer we saw the Grow-Off as an opportunity to demonstrate our often overlooked skills at growing the cannabis plant. Many edibles companies use exclusively trim to produce their products whereas Sweet Grass Kitchen uses mostly whole flower to infuse our cannabutter. In addition to highlighting our grow, this competition has allowed us to playfully compete against our customers who purchase and sell our baked good products in their dispensaries.

    The Clinic – Josh Malman – Grow Operations Manager

    To compete against other growers in the state in a new and interesting competition.

    Natural Alternatives for Health – Josh Bowman – Master Grower

    Competition keeps work fun, also its fun to have such a diverse community to compare yourself to.

    The Farm – Stephen Lipton – Director of Cultivation

    The Farm is trying to win all 3 categories.

    Good Meds – Keenan Brown – Head Grower

    ALL OF THE ABOVE. Here at Good Meds, we leave no stone unturned when it comes to the overall quality and production of flower our facility is putting out!

    Sweet Grass Kitchen – Jesse Burns – Director of Marketing

    We are competing for flavor and potency. As an edible producer with a small, boutique grow room we search for that perfect balance of potency and weight.

    The Clinic – Josh Malman – Grow Operations Manager

    All of them!! I don’t think that Yield, Potency and Flavor have to be mutually exclusive. With the right genetics and growing techniques, you should be able to get good results in all three categories.

    Natural Alternatives for Health – Josh Bowman – Master Grower

    Flavor is our most sought after award. Because we grow organically we should have an edge.

    The Farm – Stephen Lipton – Director of Cultivation

    We think the strain is some type of OG based upon the structure of the plant.

    Good Meds – Keenan Brown – Head Grower

    The growth traits and leaf structure of this plant leads me to believe it is some sort of “OG” or “Sour” variety.

    Sweet Grass Kitchen – Jesse Burns – Director of Marketing

    If we get one guess it’s Do-si-dos. If we get three guesses let’s throw in Triangle Kush and Platinum Cookie.

    The Clinic – Josh Malman – Grow Operations Manager

    Definitely leaning towards an OG, with the stretch both in veg and flower and the flower structure. Has hints of lemon (limonene) and pine (pinene).

    Natural Alternatives for Health – Josh Bowman – Master Grower

    Some kind of OG hybrid is my best guess.

    Editor’s Note: We noticed that all the respondents believe the strain to be some kind of OG. We’re interested in finding out once the results are available!

    Also, today we learned during the process of research, that OG originally stood for “Ocean-Grown”. Thanks Leafly!

    The Farm – Stephen Lipton – Director of Cultivation

    Our competitive advantage is that we have a highly skilled grow team that always strives for the best. We are humble but feel that we grow some of the best product in the state. We also have multiple entries under different lighting and conditions so that should provide a different advantage.

    Good Meds – Keenan Brown – Head Grower

    Having graduated from CSU with a degree in Horticultural Science and a concentration in Food Crop production, I believe my formal education gives me a leg up on the competition. Having over a decade of hands on experience with the Cannabis plant and hydroponic equipment, my intuition and understanding of the plants’ needs is my strongest advantage.

    Sweet Grass Kitchen – Jesse Burns – Director of Marketing

    At Sweet Grass Kitchen we have one grower (who actually also does our butter infusions). As a one-man show with a small controlled room we are able to focus on microbiology and create a healthy, holistic growing environment. More than anything though we shower the grow with the same good vibes and love that we give the cookies that come out of the oven everyday.

    The Clinic – Josh Malman – Grow Operations Manager

    Highest quality lights in veg created a healthy, large plant. High quality, knowledgeable growers.

    Natural Alternatives for Health – Josh Bowman – Master Grower

    Our competitive advantage is growing organically. By avoiding synthetic fertilizers we consistently have a smooth flavorful smoke, just as nature intended!

    The Farm – Stephen Lipton – Director of Cultivation

    Yes we plan on entering next year. This is a great, different idea for a competition and also one that is respected by the MED so that is why we would enter again.

    Good Meds – Keenan Brown – Head Grower

    We would love to continue to participate in the Grow Off competition and showcase our talents!

    Sweet Grass Kitchen – Jesse Burns – Director of Marketing

    We want to keep competing! The Grow-Off team has created a really unique platform to share, learn, and become better growers as well as building a community around legal growing.

    The Clinic – Josh Malman – Grow Operations Manager

    Yes, a very cool new twist on cannabis competitions

    Natural Alternatives for Health – Josh Bowman – Master Grower

    Yes, we hope to participate in every competition we can. It helps us to continue to grow and push ourselves.

    The Farm – Stephen Lipton – Director of Cultivation

    The Farm is a large cultivation facility.

    Good Meds – Keenan Brown – Head Grower


    Sweet Grass Kitchen – Jesse Burns – Director of Marketing

    Boutique 😉

    The Clinic – Josh Malman – Grow Operations Manager


    Natural Alternatives for Health – Josh Bowman – Master Grower

    Small, definitely one of the mom and pop shops in the competition.

    Do you have any questions or comments?

    Feel free to post below!

    Want to get in touch with The Grow-Off?

    You can reach The Grow-Off via the following methods:

    1. Website Contact Form
    2. Phone: 720-371-2860
    3. Email: [email protected]


    1. Want to learn more? Head to The Grow-Off website.
    2. Sponsor of The Grow-Off: Grownetics
    3. Laboratory performing tests: TEQ Analytical Labs
    4. Strain Supplier: Natural Remedies
    5. Interview with one of the competitors: Veritas Cannabis
    6. High Times Cannabis Cup

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    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.