Tahoe Hydroponics Co. looks ahead as marijuana industry grows
Mark Bruno, chief operating office and co-founder of Tahoe Hydroponics is no stranger to the cannabis cultivation industry, but experienced some new challenges with their facility in Carson City.
While giving the Northern Nevada Business Weekly a tour of their hydroponic growing facility located at 3535 Arrowhead Dr. Bruno explained, “it took us just under two years to get operational.”
During the first few months of cultivation, the self-funded founders of Tahoe Hydroponics saw a $500,000 loss due to issues with Carson City’s water supply.
“We planted our first room and within 30 days we started to notice a lot of deficiency in our plants and that was something we had never seen before,” Bruno said.
At first, they thought it was a result of the recent construction. Upon closer examination they discovered Carson City flushed their water lines, something they do periodically, resulting in their plants basically being starved of all nutrition.
“We ended up loosing our first five entire rooms,” Bruno said.
After that, they came up with a plan to stabilize their water supply.
“We designed, internally, our own RO (reverse osmosis) system, because we have a unique situation,” Bruno said.
Having spent time in California, which is a different climate than northern Nevada’s desert, Bruno addressed air conditioning as another difficulty they have had to navigate with their plants.
“One of the big issues moving here is the climate change,” Bruno said.
He explained that the air hitting the roof top units and producing condensation impacts the plants, which was a new obstacle compared to their cultivation facilities in California.
“HVAC has been the biggest struggle here from California,” Bruno added.
“We have been adding supplemental dehumidification to every room,” he added.
Tahoe Hydroponics isolates each grow room so they can manage each space in its own right. This also allows them to isolate problems, rather than their entire crop being impacted.
Part of what sets Tahoe Hydroponics apart is their harvest per rooms, yield per light and quality of product.
“We are hitting on all three, which is a pretty big thing,” Bruno said.
They currently have five rooms they move the plants through, resulting in very little downtime.
“We are all about cycles per year to produce the most revenue,” Bruno said. “We harvest every 15 days on the button.”
Their flower cycle is 63 days and they focus on farming to that number.
After a room is harvested, it’s cleaned and emptied and prepared to handle the next set of plants the following day. Their model allows them to produce a bigger yield out of 12 plants.
“Less is more, especially coming from the California side where you have a plant count issue,” Bruno said.
Bruno explained most of their cultivating process to be unique.
“We pride ourselves on curing on the vine,” he said. “Which is something we have learned over the last 15 years.”
Having navigated early challenges and getting their successful cultivation model operational in Carson City, Tahoe Hydroponics is now looking towards the future.
They recently swept the 2016 Jack Herer Cup, taking home first place for indica, sativa, and hybrid flower.
Bruno explained what this means for their product.
“First off pride,” Bruno said. He has been in the business a long time and found it gratifying to have someone stand behind their product with an award.
“Price-wise it allowed us to hold at the numbers we were at,” he said in regards to their product being more expensive than some.
“I am a little concerned as a business owner where wholesale flower prices are going and where they are going to be,” Bruno explained. “It makes me a little concerned as a long-term business owner in the industry because the margins will continue to shrink.”
Plans for the coming year include expanding their existing cultivation facility to take up the entire half of their current building in northern Nevada.
“It would mean expanding from five flower rooms to 12,” Bruno said. “We think the market is ready for it.”
The expansion would more than double their current size. Bruno estimated they would be harvesting every five and half days and moving a lot of product through the process.
The only hold back for him in Carson City is the moratorium that the city put in place last month.
If Carson decides to wait and let Reno and Las Vegas get recreational use moving, Bruno feels it could box Tahoe Hydroponics in and put them behind in the industry.
Those factors will be determined in the coming months.
“Ideally we would like to rec grow in here,” Bruno said. “Time will tell on that situation.”