by Brett Strauss, President of FolioGrow
As with any industry experiencing unparalleled growth, the cannabis industry is going through a few growing pains in these early years of legalization. Cultivators especially are feeling the pinch as long-standing business practices no longer achieve the competitive edge in a crowded playing field.
Commercial operations look much different today than they did even a decade ago. It’s no longer about experienced growers nor about high tech solutions—the best practices for cannabis cultivation in 2020 come down to the math.
As we head into 2020, how do you increase yields, shave down production costs, and use metrics to manage future harvests? Start with the numbers and drill down.
Despite the advances in automation, cannabis still requires a human touch. From California to Ohio to Florida, labor is consistently a producer’s most significant business expenditure. As the largest monthly expense, labor is always a top priority when working on the bottom line. No matter how skilled or educated, human labor is still prone to inefficiencies, wasted time and costly mistakes. Keeping employees on task, consistently trained and accountable can go a long way towards reducing sky-high labor costs.
The best practices on labor in cannabis cultivation aren’t just about hiring the most talented person or operating with the leanest workforce, it’s about running a tight ship. Reduce costs through automated team management or digitally track to-do lists to assign the perfect employee to the most appropriate task. By focusing on improving the efficiency and value of each team member, you’ll create a measurable reduction of labor costs.
Analyze Past Performance for Better Forecasting
Unsurprisingly, cultivators can no longer rely on intuition and handsome experience as a means to produce a premium product. Detailed analysis of past crop performance is the only way to outperform the competition and predict future profits.
Accurate and detailed crop analysis creates consistency between harvests (which translates into consistent sales). It can also help improve the crop with minute adjustments during the growth cycle. These tiny tweaks are not feasible if your crop management is based on whiteboards and notepads.
We are working with a grow that will harvest 30,000 plants this year. If they were able to increase their average grams per plant by just one (1) gram, they would see additional sales of $385,000, at nearly zero additional dollars to grow that single gram. Crunching the data from past crops will help grow more profitable future harvests.
The Growing Demands of Metrc
The wrath of the regulator is increasingly prevalent within established markets. With 11 states and counting adopting Metrc (Marijuana Enforcement Tracking Reporting Compliance), it’s become a non-negotiator. Metrc is a mandatory requirement placed on all players in the industry to track, trace and stay compliant.
In many regions, Metrc is required by the state. As a cultivator, making Metrc a priority reduces risk and establishes your product in the market. If you can consistently master the rigorous requirements of Metrc, it’s setting the business up for long-term success.
Data is King, So Lean into the Numbers
Again, cultivation experience is only one piece of the equation these days. Data analysis is an increasingly necessary path towards larger harvests and to keep the costs-per-pound in check. Cannabis cultivation management systems (CCMS) facilitate the move off of whiteboards and spreadsheets into an automated, algorithmic analysis.
Without crunching hard numbers, it’s impossible to determine which strains are the most profitable. It’s equally as painful to decide which employees are the most efficient at which tasks. While spreadsheets can capture massive amounts of data, few companies have an experienced data analyst capable of performing the analysis. It’s why a CCMP is no longer a luxury, it’s become a best practice within commercial operations.
Controlling the Costs of Cultivation
The margin matters in the cannabis industry in ways it never has before. Beyond labor, how does the cost-per-pound break out? Spend the time (and the money) for a deep dive into your largest expenditures directly related to the grow. Examine the costs associated with standard utilities, nutrient procurement, pest management and waste management services to identify areas suitable for cost-cutting measures.
Which services are best farmed out to third-party contractors? What automation can be implemented to cut the cost of the process? Would an upfront investment into more efficient lighting or an on-site biomass cleaning facility make long-term sense? All are important questions to consider during this analysis.
The best practices in cannabis cultivation in 2020 are all about drilling down on the numbers. This is where a CCMP comes into play. It’s about saving on labor without cutting capacity. It’s about assessing the statistics of past harvests to develop a better product.
Cultivators need to have a solid grasp on the minute details contained within their cost-per-pound to shave pennies from utilities, pest control or waste management. At the scale of most commercial grows, pennies per pound transform into significant annual increases in profitability.
Brett Strauss is President of FolioGrow, a cannabis cultivation management system developed with the express purpose of using math and algorithms to help improve yields and profits for cannabis and hemp growers. Get a free 30-day trial or follow the company on LinkedIn, Instagram or Facebook.