Marijuana Business Magazine March 2019

Marijuana Business Magazine | March 2019 90 SCALING NEW HEIGHTS PRODUCTIVITY BOOST A tissue culture typically takes 10-14 weeks, beginning with clipping very small leaf, stem and root samples to ob- tain cells and then letting them establish themselves in a nutrient mix, where they eventually multiply. Those cells grow into leaves and stems without roots. About six to eight weeks in, those young plant samples are transferred to another medi- um where they grow roots, a process that takes three to four weeks. The final steps involve two weeks of acclimation and plant hardening. (See “Tissue Culture Review of Stages,” above.) Tissue culture has a few critical advantages over cloning. Tissue culture produces far more starter plants than cloning. Jones noted that 100 clone cuttings per month (a relatively high number) can yield about 5,500 clones per month, or 66,000 clones per year. By contrast, 200 nutrient vessels with five plant clippings each will yield 2.4 million clones per year. (See “Micropropagation Vs. Traditional Cloning,” above.) There is also less genetic variation in plants grown from tissue culture than plants clipped from mother plants. Clones are used longer and therefore exposed to environmental and contami- nant hazards that plants supplying tissue culture don’t face, said Grant Guelich, a cannabis consultant for Vancouver, Brit- ish Columbia-based Weekend Unlimited, which bought Washington state cultiva- tor Orchard Heights. “Your genetics are safer and better long term,” Guelich said of using stock created from tissue culture. “You’ll have a larger, well-preserved library.” ADAPTABLE FOR MULTIPLE COMPANIES Another advantage of a tissue-culture operation is that it requires less space than clones do. Guelich estimated that outfitting a tissue-culture space costs about 75% more than a space needed to produce an equivalent number of clones; the tissue-culture space, however, will be roughly 10% the size of the space needed for clones. For example, if you wanted to make 2 million clones yearly with traditional methods, you would need a 30,000-square-foot space. To make 2 million clones with tissue cultures, you need only 2,000-3,000 square feet, Guelich estimated. These advantages make tissue culture conducive to multiple different business models. Large Canadian cultivators such as Canopy Growth and AgMedica Bioscience are setting up tissue-culture operations to produce at least some of their plants. They also see it as a way to outproduce the competition in a national marketplace, industry insiders said. Others have harnessed tissue culture to start nurseries that provide cannabis plants to farmers. Front Range Biosciences in Colorado, for example, uses tissue culture to breed high-CBD strains and recreational-market strains, then micro- propagates those to produce young plants that are sold to farmers. Front Range CEO Jonathan Vaught said the company has dozens of marijuana customers in Califor- nia and Colorado, plus dozens of clients in the United States and Canada are buying the company’s plants that were bred and propagated for CBD. “On the production side, tissue culture is a tool to produce cleaner, healthier, more efficient plants,” Vaught said. Investors believe in the practice, too: The company has raised more than $13 million since last year. Tissue Culture Review of STAGES Stage 0 : Prep Explants Stage 1 : Establishment Stage 2 : Multiplication Stage 3 : Rooting Stage 4 : Acclimation Estimated Timelines 4-6 wks per multiplication cycle & Hardening > AUXIN Cytokinin 3-4 wks ~1 wk : Acclimation ~1 wk: Hardening ~1 wk Depending on explant # Vegetative Propagation (Cuttings) Tissue Culture Space & Density 2,000 ft 2 mom room 3-foot radius/36 ft 2 per mom = 55 moms 2,000 ft 2 culture room Annual Production 100 cuttings per month 5,500 clones per month 66,000 clones per year 5 explants/vessel 40 vessels/shelf (x5 shelves/rack) = 1,000 plants/rack 2,400,000 clones per year**** Annual Costs ~$80,000 ****Labor is limiting factor ~$0.0803 (cost before labor) Micropropagation Vs. Traditional Cloning Hope Jones gave a presentation about tissue culture at MJBizCon last November. Slides courtesy of Emergent Cannabis Sciences Grant Guelich is a cannabis consultant for Weekend Unlimited. Courtesy Photo