On his quest to find the best growing operations around, Nate, owner of Grower's House, starts his journey with Elite Garden at the place they call "Glass House." According to Nate, Glass House is one of the most sophisticated growing operations in the world. As the episode continues, it becomes clear that his assessment is absolutely right. For a hobby grower, Elite Garden's growing operation is unimaginable. For a commercial grower, it is breathtaking, and a dream come true.
Glass House is located in California and covers a whopping 350,000 square feet. The plants grow in massive greenhouses that have the capability of blacking out the light with triple-layer blackout curtains that are surprisingly breathable. The greenhouses also have double ridge vents to allow for controlling the climate and ventilation as necessary. These state-of-the-art greenhouses are made by Systems USA to be in the Dutch style.
The best part about it? With the right equipment, it doesn't seem so impossible to do. Let's take a look at some of the products and techniques that Nate discovered when talking to two of Elite Garden's own, Graham and Kelly.
Glass House has a garden filled with mother marijuana plants. These are the cream of the crop, explicitly used for clipping and cloning purposes. Dozens of clippings are strategically taken every week from these mother plants, and then the clippings begin to root and then grow into healthy plants in their vegetative phase.
Jiffy Soil Pods
These handy pods are where the young clones begin their rooting and growing process. They are all kept in a mini grow space (covered by an opaque tarp) that keep this microclimate at 100% humidity. As you can see in the video, these young plants thrive in here and are rooting in no time.
As the young clones grow up, they are transferred into bigger pots containing Grow!t Coco. This provides enough nutrients for the young plants to build a strong foundation for their future maturing and growth.
Vegetation & Flowering
Cannabis growers everywhere know well that every nutrient and resource counts when it comes to the vegetative phase. There are plenty of best practice examples that can help the vegetative phase be a successful one, but sometimes the right products can make an explosive difference as well. Let's look at some of the vegetation products that the growers at Glass House use.
Elite Growing Platform
Graham starts out by introducing Nate to their Elite Growing Platform (which was made by Elite Garden themselves). This platform is designed not only for hydroponics, but it also contains an aeroponics section. That allows for a more efficient grow and use of resources in general. There are just a few staff members manning a whopping 500 plants, so an efficient system is absolutely crucial.
Speaking of efficiency, the Elite Growing Platform is efficient in other ways as well. It traps all of the extra water that is considered "overdrain." In other words, the water that the plants' roots don't absorb. Normally this water would end up sitting on the floor or in the pot, but this water is trapped, steriized, and then used to water the plants again. Resources are certainly not being wasted here at Glass House.
Integrated Pest Management
Even though Glass House might seem like a fantasy, they too have to deal with the same pests as other Californian growers. The two main pests that threaten their plants are spider mites and powdery mildew. In the video, Graham emphasizes the fact that they try to use an integrated pest management method, which involves controlling the environment and climate perfectly to prevent pests from ever becoming a problem.
While this isn't a certified organic farm, the Elite Garden grow operation nonetheless tries to use as little in the way of pesticides as possible. They do use two products when necessary, however. These products are Actinovate and Regalia.
Nate made a point to ask about the pipes running along the bottoms of all the vegetating plants in the greenhouse. Some of those pipes are used for heat. By circulating hot water around the bases of the plants, they can help maintain a consistent temperature in the greenhouse.
These pipes are also used to pump that overdrain water (mentioned above) back to be sterilized and reused for safe and sustainable watering. Another pipe is for carbon dioxide. This is a rare practice for a greenhouse, but it is clear just by seeing the healthy plants that it is working well for the Elite Garden growers.
An operation like this can't get very far without a central "nervous system" of sorts. There are six Agrowtek sensors that send information back to a central screen that tells the growers exactly what the air temperature, humidity, light, and CO2 levels are at. If these environmental aspects go out of range at all, the team receives notifications so they can help get the climate back on track right away.
While the Angrowtek sensors are there to monitor everything, there is additional central technology that helps them make the changes they need. The Agrowtek GC-ProXL Control System handles that, allowing the grower to adjust the "settings" of the environment these plants are growing in.
Of course, that's not all there is to running a giant grow setup like this. Piian Systems offers industrial odor control equipment that prevents the overwhelming scent of hundreds and hundreds of marijuana plants from escaping into the surrounding area. In other words, it is there to keep the neighbors comfortable and happy, since not everyone would be happy to have that smell fill the air. It uses a biodegradable food-grade chemical that gets spread throughout the greenhouses via piping, allowing all the scents to be neutralized right where they stand.
Of course, there is also a boiler that heats up water. This is nothing particularly unique, but what is unique is the fact that Elite Garden actually heats up the water during the day instead of at night, which is standard practice. They can do this because they're able to store the hot water after heating it during the day, trap the CO2 created through the heating process, and send that CO2 to the greenhouses to keep the plants thriving. Then the hot water is used at night to keep the greenhouses warm enough.
Glass House's RO unit is from Saftronics. They use a GP5 Series model to clean the water, add nutrients, and balance the pH when it comes through. It can go through 40,000 gallons of water per day. They are able to set the pH levels through this membrane machine and then send it to the plants.
Of course, that machine can't do it on its own. The nutrient injector is the Senmatic DGT Nutrient Doser. The water is sent from the Saftronics GP5 unit to a storage unit, where it then gets sent into the gardens. This nutrient doser controls the water and nutrient levels that go into that water.
The nutrients used by these growers are, of course, their very own Elite Nutrients. The nutrient system is genius because of its simplicity. Just Base A, Base B, Root Tonic C, Resin D, and Root Ignitor are used in this grow operation. Graham emphasizes the importance of Resin D and Root Ignitor in particular. It is indeed a testament to the effectiveness of these nutrients since they use them themselves.
One of the amazing aspects of this grow operation is the fact that the plants don't even have to be moved when they go from the vegetation phase to the flowering phase. Because of those massive blackout curtains as part of these Systems USA greenhouses mentioned above, the amount of light can be carefully controlled by the growers to initiate the flowering phase whenever they deem the garden ready for it. This minimizes stress on the plants since they don't have to have their climate dramatically changed from moving from one place to another.
The curing room at Elite Garden is kept at a consistent 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18 degrees Celsius) and the relative humidity of between 55% and 60%. The growers at Glass House take pride in the strong aroma of their curing plant matter. According to them, "if it doesn't smell, it doesn't sell."
Trimming is an important step as well. They use a machine from GreenBroz Inc that gently trims two pounds of bud per hour, making clean trimmings perfect for creating extracts.