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Interview with Emily Kowalski, Director of Cultivation at Leafline Labs

October 2, 2019


I’m the Director of Cultivation
here at LeafLine Labs. I’m in charge of all of the cultivation and
processing of all of the plant material that becomes our medication
for our patients in Minnesota. I came from what I would call the
‘traditional horticulture background’. I received a Bachelor of Science from
University of Wisconsin, Madison. The LED, I think, is really interesting
from the standpoint of there’s not that radiant heat that you get off those
HPS (High Pressure Sodium), so you’re not trying with your– with your temperature controls
of your ambient room temperature, you’re not trying to fight this heat coming off the HPS. And because this was a purpose-built building, we have high ceilings because
there’s somewhere for the heat to go. And that was a purposeful part of the design. But, with the LEDs, that did also give us
the height to be able to do a multi-level cultivation racking system with even being
able to have some ceiling height above that. What I’ve noticed with the LEDs and
from talking to other cultivators and suppliers, the radiant heat is less, which means less evaporation,
which also means we have to water less. You’re not trying to compensate for the heat
coming off the HPS by just puttin’ more water on, because it’s–we’re watering more ’cause
there’s more of that evaporation that’s happening. And then that also means less humidity in
the room because less water in, less water out. While you were vetting different mobile vertical
racking solutions, what were some of the criteria you were looking for when you were trying
to come up with that selection? We were ready to go with a different
mobile vertical racking system supplier, and then we found out that they
were unable to meet our lead times. So, we actually ended up calling Pipp four weeks
before we needed the racking system up and running, and Pipp Horticulture was able
to meet that very short lead time, which I found really impressive. That’s when we decided to call Pipp Horticulture and– See what’s possible? Yeah, and I was really impressed by the response. The, the designs were completed
probably that same day? Maybe the next day? And then I think by the end of that week,
we were, you know, set, signed, and ready to go for the install,
you know, three to four weeks later. Nice. So they were–Pipp was able to meet that deadline
with kind of a last minute call. Absolutely, they were. That’s great, always love to hear that. Yeah, it was really great. And then the install was great, too. The install took three days. I remember we had a–we had a construction
company kind of working on our HVAC system and installing our lighting. They were, you know, they were really impressed
that that went up in three days. We were really impressed with Pipp as they–at
how well they worked together with our electricians and with our construction team. So Pipp Horticulture offers a
plastic ABS tray, a corrugated metal tray, and a 16 gauge aluminum tray under
the Greenhaus Industries kind of brand. So you had some decisions to make, and what led you
to go with the 16 gauge aluminum Greenhaus tray? Yeah, we decided to go with that tray for,
honestly, ease of cleaning and ease of workability. Like any responsible cannabis cultivation operation, cleaning is just as important as growing the plants, because your plants won’t succeed
unless you have a clean, nice growing environment. Agreed. Agreed, right? That tray is a tray that’s gonna be with you for
a long journey. You know, with these plastic trays from
traditional hydroponic stores, if you will, you know, I was throwing them out every year or two. They were cracked and like you mentioned earlier,
there was just a lot of cleaning. And at scale, you start to measure these seconds,
and these seconds turn very quickly into human hours and high labor costs and can also slow down
how much time it takes you to turn over a room. Right. So I think one of our goals with that tray
was to really make sure that we gave you a– a 10+ year product. Even just from the four months,
I can already see the value. Let’s figure out the best way to do things. So, you know, getting all those efficiencies
into place and getting all the correct equipment and investing in that early on is really important.
Instead of– Yeah it goes back to adaptability, right? Absolutely. So what is the experience like with this
new mobile vertical racking system? So far, it’s been really great. All of my cultivators are kind of
clamoring to work in that room. They say “Oh, these plants really need pruning!” I’m like, alright, calm down. Yeah, everyone’s trying to get in there. Well, I was like “We’ll getcha in there, you know, we have to prioritize some other things today, but yeah!” So what’s really impressive is
right when you walk in the room, it’s different than our traditional single-level
under HPS (High Pressure Sodium). It’s impressive because of the height. It’s impressive because of the lighting–
it’s that full-spectrum lighting so it doesn’t have that orange-y feel? And then, even just seeing plants on–growing
on multi-levels, multi-level is impressive. You can’t walk in there and not be, you know– Have some kind of an emotional reaction, right? –Yeah, have this reaction of “Wowwww!” And so many people haven’t seen systems like this. I’ve shown plenty of people Pipp’s videos
already, as, you know, an example of like, “Oh this is what our room is going to look like!” They’re always like
“Wooowww, that’s a very cool system.” And it’s very new, cutting-edge, it’s maximizing
your space, it’s increasing your canopy. The ease of moving those racks is fantastic. It’s almost like… fun. Talk to me a little bit about some of
the canopy metric changes going from single-level HPS
to a multi-level LED approach. By going to the multi-level LED,
we’ve increased our canopy in that room by 140%. -phew- Which I think is very impressive.
It is impressive! And that’s also another reason why it’s
so striking when you walk in there, ’cause you can go into one of our rooms that’s
still single-level HPS and it’s still impressive and gorgeous and I’m very proud of what we’re doing. You know, I don’t want to play that down. But as we’re trying out this
multi-level vertical racking system, it’s… When you go and see, you’re like… “That’s a lot of plants.” The plants, they’re stout, and gorgeous
and look healthy and beautiful. I mean, I’ve really been impressed
growing under these LED lights. Nice. The plan is to be transitioning all of our rooms– That’s exciting! –to the Pipp Mobile racking system. In addition to working with a great
sales team and support team at Pipp, has also been the expertise in cannabis and
in horticulture that Pipp Horticulture can provide to all the growers that are using
these mobile racking system. And, to be able to, you know,
pick someone’s brain who’s been here before.

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