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Technology working hand-in-glove with eon-honoured biologically-driven growth dynamics, organics, sustainable approaches, and complex, high-fidelity strains galore. What wonders weave! For many cultivators, cultivation fans, and consumers this is the stuff dreams are made of. Galenas of Akron, Ohio have it all in spades. Recently they took time out to share some insights on how they combine modern, innovative cannabis growing hardware with organic principles at their licensed cultivation facility.

Above: It’s Christine DeJesus – Galenas’ Director of Cultivation, let’s see what she has to say…

Christine DeJesus – Galenas’ Director of Cultivation, walked us through exactly how their guiding principles are put into practice and where AutoPot watering systems fit in. There’s perhaps nowhere better to start than Galenas’ growing media of choice. 

In order to “fine-tune a cannabis-specific live soil”, which fully lives up to Galenas’ environmentally friendly ideals, they have worked extensively with their soil provider, Tilth. Part of a local organics recycling company, Tilth have produced an excellent media that, as Christine says, “works great in AutoPot watering systems”. 

Above: Galenas’ organic, tier-2 licensed medical cannabis growing facility

Naturally any soil in a watering system will require something to enhance its capacity to wick moisture. To these ends Galenas add Yucca extract, an intriguing and highly effective input, sourced from Ohio Earth Food. They are another eco-conscious supplier with whom Galenas work extensively in “trialling and purchasing trusted, proven organic agricultural products.”

Tilth’s locally-produced soil is a great fit within the facility but also comes with superb eco and community credentials. As Christine notes, “it saves many tons of food waste from landfills each year”, furthermore Galenas donate spent soil to ‘Let’s Grow Akron’ to build community gardens in urban areas with limited access to fresh food.

Above: The fine tuned cannabis-specific live soil is devised with local organic recyclers Tilth

Scrupulous management of soil inputs is overseen by Christine. Her twenty years experience in regenerative-organic agriculture has made her, in her own words, “very picky about which products are applied to our plants or soil.” Understandable given that organic isn’t, or shouldn’t be, a half-measures kind of endeavour where it comes to business. Aside from the philosophy of organics, the time, dedication, effort, and cost that true organic growers devote to achieving their goals are such that, arguably, the status really should be sanctified.

As Christine explains, “using living soil means there is a higher labor demand, as we need to move heavy pots up and down every few months. At Galenas we only use OMRI-listed products that will have no impact negative impact upon our consumers, our plants, or our soil microorganisms. If we supplement our soil with any nutrients, they must be compost-based or certified organic fertilisers at very dilute concentrations.” This results in “flower that is extremely clean, residue-free, and safe for consumers.” 

Above: Patient-focused, craft cannabis cultivation means a lot of strains

It is true that outright productivity can be affected by organic growing, but there are appreciable upsides. “Living soil can translate to somewhat lower yields than hydroponically grown plants, but the flower is often more chemically complex and enjoyable. We feel that going the extra mile is worth it to create what we believe is a superior product.”

And what of the product? “We are a smaller, craft grower, so we run a lot of strains. Some of our favourites are Crescendo, Blueberry Cookies, Gorilla Nut #9, Electric Peanut Butter Cookies, Banana Hammock, Grape Diamonds, Orange Velvet Underground, DoSiCake, and a few exclusive strains named Second Breakfast and Astral Destiny.” Galenas have worked with concentrates but move almost all of their product to the market as flower.

Above: Living soil can translate to somewhat lower yields than hydroponically grown plants, but the flower is often more chemically complex and enjoyable

Christine is aware that those who purchase organic products such as Galenas ‘beyond organic’ flower are often heavily invested in knowing that producers “are strictly adhering to organic agriculture requirements, and taking a holistic view on cannabis production.” Needless to say Galenas’ growing hardware of choice is, necessarily, chosen on the basis of this holistic outlook.

The very fabric of Galenas’ 11,000 square ft facility is highly efficient “and designed to be renewable-energy ready.” It doesn’t stop there. For “reduced energy consumption and for the quality of flower that they deliver” LEDs have long provided Galenas with an efficient lighting solution. And Christine has no misgivings over the performance of modern day LEDs – with good reason, given the results they’ve achieved. “We have cultivars that have tested over 33% THC and 4% terpene content”. It’s not just content either. In Galenas’ experience “LEDs are excellent for secondary metabolite production, as well as optimising plant health.”

Above: A facility fit for Galenas’ sustainable, holistic philosophy

When it comes to watering, as it always does, Galenas chose to outfit both flower rooms of their facility with nearly 2,200 AutoPot 1Pot XL Modules. Aside from their capacity, responsiveness, and the yields of which they’re capable, the XL Modules offer facilities such as Galenas’ tremendous flexibility, efficiency, and space optimisation. Each module operates independently within the system meaning modules can be positioned and repositioned at any time, the pot and plant within can also be removed and placed in another tray at any point. The modular design enables Galenas to create a layout of any shape or size, which can be altered or infinitely extended.

Above: 1Pot XL Modules on the uppermost of three tiers

The modules each have their own AQUAvalve regulating the flow of water and nutrient solution according to each individual plants needs. This occurs only as and when required – meaning the plants aren’t being bombarded, no water is wasted, and computers are not necessarily required to calibrate watering regimes. There’s no recirculation so there’s no waste water to plumb for or dispose of, and cross contamination between plants via the water supply is an impossibility. The sustainable credentials of the AutoPots further tie in with Galenas approach, in that the AQUAvalves themselves utilise float valves in order to operate power-free.

Above: Rolling racks mean that height is no impediment to access

The standard pattern is that “plants flower for 8-10 weeks, after spending 2-4 weeks in veg depending upon the strain.” Christine says that, in terms of yields, “there is some variability among strains, but our good yielders are producing over 65 grams per square foot of dry flower.”

Clearly Galenas’ guiding principles of growing “connoisseur-grade, craft cannabis in an organic, or even regenerative-organic agricultural method” are all-encompassing. However, the way in which they apply their growing philosophy is, in part, governed by forces beyond their control.

Above: Tiered growing is essential given that Ohio’s licensing laws focus on floor space

Licensed cultivators the world over have their growing arrangements shaped somewhat by local cultivation legislation. Where legislation turns on plant-count growers might focus on fewer, larger plants. Where the laws pertain to canopy size the choice of strain or training of plants may come into play. In Ohio the defining aspect of legislation is flowering area floor space. Naturally, Galenas have taken an enlightened view of how to make best use of their floor space allowances.

Essentially, if it’s not on the floor it doesn’t count. Therefore vertical cultivation offers Galenas a straight-forward (or straight-up?) means of optimising the space they are permitted. Both of Galenas’ flower rooms “use rolling racks with three benches stacked on each rack.” Again, as the AutoPot modules do not require plumbing for waste water they’re an ideal fit. Clearly this serves Galenas’ purposes perfectly but it is equally useful where growers are simply looking to make the most efficient use of the space they have.

Above: A little local colour – for those wishing to picture Akron, Ohio

Taking a wider view, the contrast between Galenas and the historic orientation of businesses in the Akron area is both stark and encouraging. In some ways Akron might be described as an archetypal former-industrial hub. Like many industrial areas it has latterly experienced some concomitant negative environmental and health impacts. Galenas posits an alternative way forward. 

Their aim is to “close resource loops, build community, and provide healthy, safe medicine to consumers with an environmentally-conscious approach.” It’s perhaps easy to imagine progressive cultivation facilities springing up in idyllic rural heartlands and areas with historic ties to forward-thinking techniques. Arguably it is at least as important to see environmentally-conscious growers setting up in areas where a change of tack can contribute, not only to cultivation or licensed medicine but to broader positive change.

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