Math doesn’t exactly align with the romantic idea of cannabis cultivation that most people, especially craft growers, tend to envision. The process is supposed to be reminiscent of art – intimate, intuitive, deeply individual and subjective.
Image Credits: FolioGrow
And while this isn’t some out-of-touch concept, such old-school mentality alone can only get most cannabis operations so far. To make the most of your hard work and dedication, this hands-on approach needs to be enhanced by some modern, more precise and objective practices.
And what is more precise and objective than math and its indisputable laws?
This is the philosophy that FolioGrow was founded on, an innovative platform that couples the science of farming with math and algorithms into cannabis cultivation operations that are analogous to stock portFOLIOs, hence the name. By constantly analyzing which stocks, or crops, yield the best results and weeding out the ones that perform poorly, growers can optimize their processes, reduce expenditures, and maximize their profits at virtually no additional cost.
The idea of recreating these math principles in other, seemingly unrelated fields isn’t novel. In fact, we’ve already seen it on the big screen, which is precisely how it was entrenched into the mind of Brett Strauss, FolioGrow’s CEO.
“The original inspiration for FolioGrow came from a visit to a grow in Denver where I saw employees using whiteboards and pads of paper to track their daily interactions with the crop. I’m a huge fan of the movie Moneyball and how software and technology were used to alter the way a baseball team was built and managed. I felt the same logic could be applied to the cultivation process,” he explains.
Similar practices can be seen in other fields as well, even ones that revolve around the human aspect, like healthcare. Many hospitals have teams, solely responsible for the administrative and business aspect, making sure the hospital can operate as a business and as a place where people can get help.
That’s the idea behind FolioGrow – it’s not to replace the human aspect of cannabis cultivation, but to facilitate it, augment it, and streamline it, making it more precise and lucrative.
“By adopting a platform like FolioGrow, cultivators can spend more time with their plants and less time tracking team members and their activities,” Strauss says.
He believes that by handling everything themselves, growers are likely to spread themselves too thin to be able to harness all the business operations data and the precious insight it holds.
“How much knowledge and actionable information was being lost by not tracking crop interactions? What could be learned from doing standard A/B testing during a regular workday in the grow? Which team member is the best at lollipopping your plants? Which plants are your most profitable? Which lights are generating the best yields? Which cultivars respond best to different feeds/soils? Decisions should be made on logic and math, not your gut,” Strauss explains.
FolioGrow helps growers gain an in-depth, nuanced understanding of all those matters and offers much more, including features like the “Just in Time” training, a resource library of videos.
“If a team member is assigned a task like “lollipopping,” they have access to a 30-second video on how to properly lollipop a plant. It’s the exact amount of information you need at the exact point you need it,” Strauss explains. “FolioGrow comes with a set of training videos developed by seasoned cultivators. Each FolioGrow customer has the ability to create and upload their own training videos or pictures as well.”
Another highly robust and insightful feature allows cultivators “to track plant genetics in a “generational” format. For instance, growers can track and monitor cuts taken from their mother plants over the course of many generations. Did your third round of cuttings from said mother perform better than your second round of cuttings? Did THC levels or grams-per-plant decline and how quickly? Why/what did you do differently? FolioGrow will answer that,” Strauss says.
And while in the world of FolioGrow, black-or-white math is king, the platform does account for the gray areas, where numbers can’t tell the full story. For example:
“Sativas take 30% longer to grow than indicas, meaning they cost more in terms of rent, electricity, human resources, legal, etc. They are generally less profitable to grow than indica cultivars. But customers demand variety when they are shopping in the dispensary. Basically, you are required to have a decent amount of varieties for sale regardless of each plant’s profitability,” Strauss explains. “Like stock investing, it’s important to diversify. A good balance of what’s most profitable to your business and what is desired by your customers will yield your maximum profitability.”
Even so, some growers are perhaps so devoted to the cult of old-school craftsmanship, they believe the implementation of any math or technology would tarnish their legacy.
“There are growers who will never modernize. Many of the old-schoolers in Oregon and Washington and NorCal have been growing for decades, have an established market for their products, and grow nice looking plants with big buds. They sell out of their product shortly after harvest. How can you improve on that? There are several ways,” Strauss says. “For example, 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.”
“With an industry that fluctuates daily, understanding how and why your business is making money is critical to survival. Anyone can profit when flower is selling for $2,800 a pound. When that price drops to $700 due to market influences, you will not survive unless you are squeezing the maximum amount of profit out of your grow.”
The bottom line is, no business can just neglect its bottom line. And if improving it doesn’t come at the cost of moral compromises, then why forego the innovations we have at our disposal? Math-based modernization doesn’t have to obliterate traditions. On the contrary, it can help preserve and even build on them.