Revolution Cannabis – Chicago, Illinois


Revolution Cannabis — Chicago, Illinois

In the first issue of our Grow Operation Overview series, we interview Dustin Shroyer, COO of Revolution Enterprises. Dustin has been a legal cannabis grower in Colorado since 2006. He has worked as a dispensary owner, lead grower, and consultant in the cannabis industry.

Dustin Shroyer, COO of Revolution Cannabis.

The following is an interview with an industry leader. 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:

  • Revolution Enterprises
  • A Little History
  • Operations
  • The Vision for Revolution
  • Resources
  • Comments

  • Revolution Enterprises

    Revolution Enterprises is the largest cannabis cultivator based out of Illinois. With a total of 150,000 square feet between two facilities, Revolution is also currently one of the largest cannabis companies in the United States.



    A Little History

    We bring together 70 passionate people who love what they do and are excited to be a part of this revolution of our culture, industry, and the western medical system.Dustin Shroyer
    I have a background in retail and have always been a passionate health advocate. I combined my passion for health with my skills as a cannabis retailer. Growing and selling cannabis is the perfect avenue for me to practice the things I love and enjoy.

    I started off as a wholesaler grower in Colorado back in 2006 when I saw the industry taking off. I did not originally want to open a dispensary, but the law stated that only dispensaries could sell cannabis legally. So, I started a small, wholesale dispensary and opened a yoga studio at the same time. I ran the dispensary until late 2012, when I merged it with a larger company.

    I wasn’t able to push my dispensary to the highest level possible. I moved on because I wanted to do something bigger. I needed to find the capital that would allow me to build a company that could achieve the best. That required investments and connections. So I consulted for a few years, winning cultivation licenses for clients in every state where it was legal, including Massachusetts, Illinois, Nevada, and more.

    During that time I learned about the Illinois market. Illinois is a new market, and a new opportunity for better practices. I always wanted my business to be pesticide free. For a time in Colorado, the majority of crops were heavily contaminated with pesticides, creating an uneven playing field for people trying to produce a clean product. I knew Colorado was going to get their pesticide laws right someday, but after four years of no regulation I was tired of waiting. So I went to the new market in Illinois. Here at Revolution, zero pesticides are sprayed. We use naturally derived methods of pest control.

    I met a team with the ambition to build a company I could get behind. We started one of the biggest national cannabis companies out there and brought science and compassion together. We combined our knowledge of how to make quality cannabis for medical patients with a large, dedicated company.

    Operations



    We have two goals: Make cannabis jobs for the people who want to be in the cannabis industry and maintain high-quality standards. We bring together 70 passionate people who love what they do and are excited to be a part of this revolution of our culture, industry, and the western medical system.

    We oversee two growing licenses in Illinois. Each license allows a building that is over 75,000 square feet and since we have two facilities, we have a total of 150,000 square feet of space. We do everything under one roof: cultivation, propagation, flowering, breeding, genetics, and laboratory work. We’re currently growing about 10,000 plants. Despite being a large company, we do everything by hand, boutique-style. We eschew any type of machine trimming.

    Revolution Cannabis-Barry, named for Barry, Illinois.

    We also have a full lab setup. Our lab produces shatters, live resins, nutraceuticals, sublingual sprays, and everything related to vapor cartridges. We even distill our own terpenes to make full-flavored recreations for our vapor cartridges. In this industry, it’s very uncommon to have a full terpene profile attached to a distillate. We test every product and only release the greatest. And, best of all, everything is 100% pesticide free.

    We grow completely indoors. We’re not opposed to other methods of cultivation, and they have their place, but we believe the best way to achieve high-quality flower is indoor cultivation.

    We’re open-minded, though, and are thinking about expanding into greenhouses with some organic lines, because we grow via bioponic methods in living soil. We’re waiting for future phases of buildout to evaluate greenhouses.

    Between the two facilities, we have a variety of rooms, including agricultural laboratories, hot houses, propagation, vegetative, and flowering rooms, and more. Each facility has identical rooms.

    Revolution Cannabis-Delevan, named after Delavan, Illinois.

    Every propagation room has multiple tiers where clones can root or wean off of 100% humidity. We have two or three vegetative rooms in each facility which have three tiers to conserve space. We also have two very large free-flowering rooms where plants get accustomed to more intense lights and more vigorous growth. And last, but certainly not least, we have two large mother rooms where we store genetics.

    We grow via a bioponics method. That means we use organic base nutrients in a semi-soil mix with a light substrate. When we water the plants, we use a top-drip system in order to get more vigorous growth.

    An example bioponic system using fish waste for fertilizer.

    The substrate we use contains dried compost which comes back to life when watered. The compost adds a lot of microbial life and a large amount of carbon. We also brew our own compost teas in-house because we believe in a living soil that needs to be fed regularly with microbes, teas, and other organic nutrients.

    Editor’s Note: Keep an eye out for future articles on compost teas!

    We are currently running 400 lights. We prefer somewhat diffuse lighting over direct lighting because we want the cola to receive light from all angles, rather than just straight down. My preference is ePapillon lights because they don’t direct the light straight down onto the plant. They cast a wide light instead of just down.

    We also use different lights for different stages. Right now we use a full-spectrum T5 fluorescent light for veg. We also use DE blue-spectrum MH for veg.

    With LEDs, we’re not seeing any major benefits yet. Right now, we think we get the most value with our DE lights per watt of electricity used. We’ll consider LEDs for future phases, but they’re not quite where we need them to be yet.

    We’re growing about 50 strains right now, we’re always looking for and selecting new strains. Some of my favorites are Girl Scout Cookies, Triangle Kush, Wedding Cake, Crosses with White in them (IE White Widow, White Rhino, etc). We also grow lot of OGs, Kushes, Huckleberry, Caramel Candy Kush, Charlotte’s Web, Clementine, Tangie Banana, Alien Purple Kush, Alien Rock Candy, and many more. Those are all strains that we’re breeding with to make newer, better strains for the future.
    We don’t use environmental controls specifically made for the cannabis space. Instead, we use environmental controls designed for data centers or server rooms of companies like Google and Apple.

    Server rooms produce a large amount of heat and are sensitive to temperature.

    We can control the environment down to single minute increments if we choose to. We don’t have to wait for the compressor to kick on before the AC mitigates the humidity or temperature. We want to keep our environment tightly controlled, so we went all-out on our sensors and environmental control units.

    It’s really great. Every door has a monitor outside it that reads environmental data. I can look at my temperature, humidity, and CO2 levels all in one unit. At any time I can look at a room’s environmental data down to the minute for the last 6 months and spot anything that might’ve been an issue, which is imperative when I’m troubleshooting a room.

    My number one strategy is don’t get bugs. My second strategy is control my environment.

    Put down tight biosecurity controls for your employees. My growers have to walk through 5 doors in the facility before they ever enter a grow room. You can’t just walk from the outside into a grow room. You have to scrub in, change your clothes, put on your work uniform, and change your shoes. That prevents a lot of contamination from outside sources.

    Very tight biosecurity controls. Image courtesy of NASA.

    The second strategy involves strict environmental control and monitoring. Certain problems like spider mites or powdery mildew cannot be allowed in whatsoever, but some “pests” can be used to benefit your plants. Turning a “pest” into a “friend” is what I like to call it. These are pests that can be your friend in the right proportion. For example, soil needs a certain amount of variation, and some bugs crawl through your soil and fluff it out, making a nice spot for your roots. As long as they don’t reach a certain threshold where they start chewing on your roots, these “pests” can be good. They can be kept under control with natural solutions like diatomaceous earth and other methods.

    Scanning electron microscope images of diatoms, the key component in diatomaceous earth.

    Editor’s Note: Diatomaceous earth (abbreviated as DE) is an effective tool for dealing with certain insect pests. When diatoms, a special kind of algae, die, they leave behind hard, spiny shells. These jagged microscopic shells disrupt insect exoskeletons, killing them in minutes.



    Revolution’s Vision

    I’ve faced almost every challenge — it’s what makes me so good at my job.Dustin Shroyer
    I’ve faced almost every challenge — it’s what makes me so good at my job.

    The number one challenge I faced was coming online in 2010 and starting a 100% organic brand. Facing off against competition willing to use PGRs, poisonous pesticides, and other unhealthy methods was difficult.

    One of the other biggest challenges is the market. It’s a struggle to deliver something healthy to people without turning them off on price. If I had to sum it up, that’s what I’ve been learning to do over the course of the last 10 years.

    Cutting corners with patient health is not a good practice.

    Another challenge is training new people to grow. Giving people the ability to grow the best dank in the world on day one is almost possible. I think one of the things I’m best at in the world is training people to cultivate. I’ve done it hundreds of times in my life, and I’m getting better. You have to make things fun and keep morale high. You don’t have to grow in your closet any more. You can come to me and I can teach you.

    Editor’s Note: PGR stands for Plant Growth Regulator. PGRs are defined as a pesticide by law, although their action is different from most pesticides. Check out our related article on pesticides for more information!

    My biggest success has been the creation of a scalable value chain. I’m elated with what we’re doing right now and what our current menu looks like; only 12 months into operation and we’re producing cannabis on par with the best in the world.

    Our edibles have zero taste and maximum effect and absorption time. Our nutraceuticals are benefiting people who don’t want to take an RSO that tastes awful. Well, I can make medicine that tastes great! I’m bringing people a new way to experience cannabis right now.

    Quite frankly, it’s amazing what we can do.

    Editor’s Note: RSO, or Rick Simpson Oil is an extract of cannabis made from ground-up cannabis flowers that have been washed with a solvent such as isopropanol, petroleum ether, or acetone and then strained. The remaining liquid is then heated to remove the solvent and leave the extracted cannabinoids behind. It is typically applied to the gums or other mucous membranes. Another name for Rick Simpson Oil is Full Extract Cannabis Oil (or FECO). See our related article on cannabis extracts!

    We call ourselves Revolution because we want to take on a screwed-up system. We don’t want to see another person jailed for choosing a natural medicine. It is a revolution of common sense. It is a revolution to stop destroying people’s lives by locking them up.

    We’re here to use cannabis as a gateway medicine, to open people’s minds about medicinal cannabis. Many have been misguided by the Western medical system their entire lives. There are numerous natural medicines avoided by pharmaceutical companies in order to make a profit. It’s wrong.

    I have two main pieces of advice. They might seem simple, but people don’t seem to understand them:

    1. Stick to the basics.
      1. When you’re in the cannabis industry, you have 100 problems all the time and you’re always problem-solving. Your number one goal is solving problems. You’re going to work to fix them. You need it 100% right.
    2. Don’t overthink it.
      1. Don’t solve problems that aren’t there. When people look too far outside the basics to solve a problem, more problems arise. By fixing a problem that doesn’t exist, you’re creating a new problem and exacerbating a problem that already exists. Now you have more problems because you fixed the wrong problem. And now you’re fixing more of the wrong problems and you have even more problems. You get an exponential increase in problems. What you need to do is stick to the basics.
    We’re open-minded about expansion. For example, we just won a license in Maryland. We have a very strong model that anybody can operate as they grow. Our model is scalable and easily replicated.

    We also want to find like-minded partners that share our core values and mission. They should want to help us expand and get this medicine to people who need it. They understand that we may be the partner they’ve been looking for this whole time. Our goal is to fight for righteous change in society by shifting the status quo of cannabis in America, as well as the rest of the world.


    Do you have any questions or comments?

    Feel free to post below!


    Want to get in touch with Revolution Enterprises?

    You can reach Revolution via the following methods:

    1. Website Contact Form
    2. Phone: 312-881-4250
    3. Email: [email protected]

    Resources:

    1. Revolution Enterprises Website
    2. Want to learn more about bioponic agriculture? Saturn Bioponics is a UK-based company dedicated to the practice.
    3. Want to learn more about the advantages of greenhouses? Check out our article on greenhouses!
    4. Want to learn more about the production of extracts? We have an article about extracts too!
    5. If you’re interested in learning more about pest management, check our article on Integrated Pest Management.

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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.