For Andrew Robinson - President and Master Grower at Robinson's Cannabis - creating the best cannabis you can all comes down to getting your hands dirty.
"It's not really a tip, but if you ask me what would be the number one factor I would say it's education and experience. Knowing how the plant works and just having the experience. The more experience you get, the more you kind of realize different varieties all act differently," Robinson told Civilized. "Different types of plants will react differently to different situations."
That said, Robinson doesn't want to underplay the significance of education and research. While doing the dirty work is important, you still need to study up.
"I've got a degree in agriculture, I'm a plant science major. Before I went to school I had read all the grow books I could possibly find and I was kind of getting to a plateau, where I was reading the same things over and it wasn't taking me to the next level. So then when I went to study plant science I started taking the two things together and meanwhile I was growing at the same time. I had the three components."
How has cannabis cultivation changed over the years?
It's different now in this industry because it's typically much bigger crops than it used to be. But now you're seeing the same types of problems as other crops. One thing that's really going to be different in this industry - versus just people growing for themselves - is you get a lot more disease and pests.
Then there's other pressures too, like your boss, your business. You need to make sure everything is copacetic. You don't want to have any economic losses or not be able to provide a product for a customer. In this new industry, it's the old things being amplified...the bigger the crop, the bigger the pressure, the bigger the risk, the bigger the loss. And the easier it is for the pests. A lot of these challenges that were dealt with before in a small scale, now they're going to be on a bigger scale.
If you've never had a pest like spider mites before, and you don't know you have it until it's an infestation, that puts you at a real disadvantage. But if you've dealt with it before you know what conditions will bring them, and you know how to prevent them. You can get them out in the first place - monitoring is important. Then you can catch them early.
What were some funny things about cannabis or weird stuff that you you didn't really realize until you got into the industry?
I wouldn't say the weirdest thing, but the biggest change as of lately is the fact that it's all legal now. It's not done behind closed doors. You can access other resources, you can bring in other experts, things like that.
The other weirdest thing for me is that I've expected it my whole life and I kind of geared my education and my whole career towards legalization. But for me, though, that's the weirdest thing - even though I've expected it, it's becoming legal October 17th, it's weird. Just the fact that we're going from something that was completely illegal to something that's legal, and allowed, and federally regulated. We have our own cannabis minister now. That's just - it's weird! It's great, and I love it but that's the weirdest thing for me.
What do you see as the next big thing in the cannabis space?
I see world markets. I don't know where and what's going to be out there for plants available, but with this new nursery license, it's going to be incredible. And I think it's fantastic that Canada is basically opening up the genetics. They're going to allow growers to declare certain varieties, and strains, and seeds as well. Even under our medical program since 2001, it was a serious restriction. Places like California have so many awesome varieties because their dispensaries can sell clones. Ours couldn't. So I mean that's a big jump too as far as the advancement of cannabis in Canada and the world. Because once we have all these in our legal federal system, if another country comes on board, we should, in theory, be able to sell them the genetics they need. It's a huge opportunity. Before you had to do it in the dark, or you had to use something the government gave you, just a registered variety or two.
Right now we have some pretty incredible varieties that get every flavor from oranges and lemons to skunk, chocolate! Really big advancements are going to happen on the genetics side. And it's already advanced a lot compared to even ten years ago. There's a lot of improvements - everything from extracts, to genetics and growing. Now we have LED technology. And it's not even legal yet. It's really exciting.
And the beauty of it is there's actually going to be a lot of money and technology thrown at this crop, which is going to advance agriculture in all different sectors, not just cannabis. That's a pretty big change and I think that's pretty significant.
Who's your money on for the next big international market?
Well, I don't know when it'll be, but I'd say the big opportunity, of course, is the USA. I don't think it'll be that long. And really I just think any other markets are big. In area, Canada is pretty big, but in population, we're not. Like if the Netherlands legalized - they're basically the leaders in agriculture. Everyone thinks cannabis is legal there, but their grows aren't 100 per cent legal. So if they were to go legal then you've got the best agriculturists in the world growing more cannabis.
There's a lot of opportunity and I don't know who the next biggest thing would be, but I think the American market would be pretty big. They're so close to us and we we typically export a lot of things there, so I think that's a pretty big opportunity, but I don't know when it'll happen.
Assuming we can get all of our trade relations sorted out.
Yeah, exactly! I won't make any Trump comments, but yeah. You never know, maybe it'll come around, maybe someone else will come in and they'll have a completely different view. They'll want to do lots of free trade, and they'll want to open it up and let Canadian companies work in the USA. We're not quite there, it's not a bad thing. It gives us a little bit of time to get going. But it's really unfortunate for the people of the USA that they have remain illegal.