In this episode, Nate from Grower's House takes a trip to Spokane, Washington to see one of the most successful growing operations there: Grow Op Farms or Phat Panda. In fact, Phat Panda is the top producer and processor in Washington state. It encompasses 60,000 square feet of space and is in a warehouse setting. Phat Panda is actually a cannabis brand that was created by Grow Op Farms.
Nate starts the episode dressed in all-white garb and a hairnet before perusing the gardens backstage. One of the rooms is designed specifically for research and development, however, there are a whopping 200 strains or more growing in a 2,000 square-foot room. This area is built to find the perfect strains for mass production.
The propagation area is 12,000 square feet altogether, but the mothers live in a 6,000 square-foot room. It fits 300-400 mothers from which to clip. There are 180 different strains represented in the room total!
Because the plants are growing in a warehouse (rather than a greenhouse, for example), quality lights are absolutely essential. The facility utilizes Gavita 1000 lights with wide dispersion reflectors. The plants underneath these lights are clearly thriving, so it is obvious that the lights are worth trying.
Cleanliness is key in a grow operation like this, due in part to the fact that they have 25 different staff members and lots going on in these rooms. They have a weekly and bi-weekly regimen to keep things clean. They use Flying Skull's Nuke Em regularly to prevent any pest issues from developing. Nuke Em is an insecticide and fungicide effective against any unwanted visitors. They also use liquid 3-in-1 sulfur bi-weekly as well as Botanigard Maxx drenches and their own teas. OG BIOWAR root pack and foliar pack are used weekly on plants in the propagation room.
Another product used by this facility is an insecticide called AzaMax. They use it on a regular basis to keep potential pests at bay, and it is highly effective. It is used on the mother plants as well as the vegetative plants.
Medium and Pot
The medium used by Phat Panda is the Coco Coir along with fabric pots. These pots are biodegradable and never used twice to cut down on any pests from being passed on.
Cloning is a huge part of Phat Panda's growing operations. They clone between 500 and 1500 clippings per week. Nate and Brooke (who oversees the propagation building) take some clones from the delightful mother plants and plant them by using Grodan Rockwool Cubes and Clonex Rooting Gel. They use trays with 72 cell plugs as well.
They dip the ends of the cuttings into the Clonex solution to assist the rooting process, stick it into the Grodan cube, and then pop that into the cell pack. A couple reasons to use the Grodan cubes is that pests don't bug them and they have a high success rate in rooting the clones. In fact, they have a 90% success rate with rooting clones, and that’s with having around 4,000 clones working on growing at once!
The plants start out in the nursery after rooting in the propagation area, where they grow for about 2-3 weeks in individual pots. Many of the pots contain a little packet on a stick from Bioline AgroSciences. These packets include different species of attack mites to help prevent pests from becoming a problem. The key is to prevent pests rather than react to infestations.
Another way Grow Op Farms/Phat Panda prevents and controls pests is the ZeroTol 2.0 fungicide, bactericide, and algaecide. It is primarily used to prevent any powdery mildew from developing.
The grow operation has their own homemade ducts and ventilation system, but they also use Hurricane floor fans, 6' HyperFans, and wall mount fans from Global Industrial. The fans are always blowing in the nursery and vegetating warehouses.
Here we see the Gavita 1000 adjustable lights, just as in the propagation area. The 150-degree open hood helps spread out the light across the entire garden rather than just shining brightly on one centralized spot. This also helps the plants when they are transitioning from one location to another – the shock won't be as severe with these lights and their wide dispersion reflectors.
Pots and Nutrients
The plants begin in the vegetative phase in a 5x5 GrowPro Pot and then are moved into a 5, 7, or 10 Grower's House Essential Fabric Pots.
One of the helpful additions the folks at Grow Op Farms/Phat Panda use to give their plants a boost is the House and Gardens Roots Excelurator Gold. This is fed to plants before they are moved to the bloom room for their flowering phase.
There are dozens of flower rooms at Phat Panda – 40, in fact! Each of these flower rooms is personalized to make sure the strain growing in there is getting the optimal growing environment to produce some amazing bud. Shooting Powder is used to help the plants bulk up in their 7th or 8th week of blooming.
Irrigation and Training
Water is controlled by their digital controls and goes through piping to the plants via an Octa Bubbler.
Trellis Netting from Grower's Edge is used 3 to 4 layers high to keep the plants kept in place as they are flowering. Some strains that aren't trellised well enough will fall down on top of each other, preventing proper ventilation and lighting.
Ventilation and humidity
The Quest 506 Dehumidifier that they use wasn't even available for purchase yet at the time of filming. It is a dehumidifier unit that can go through 8 pints per kilowatt-hour. Dehumidifiers are absolutely crucial for keeping the humidity levels consistent and healthy. In fact, Phat Panda hasn't had any powdery mildew issues in more than 2.5 years!
There are numerous dry rooms at Phat Panda. It takes about 10 to 14 days to dry their products to thoroughly and gently dry the bud. Fresh air is piped in via hyperfans through a carbon filter, keeping the air slowly coming in to cool things off. The air is then pumped back out through another carbon filter.
Moisture samples are taken after about a week to start monitoring what is happening with the drying buds. Phat Panda prefers 11 to 12% moisture levels before they remove the buds from their drying lines.
Trimming takes place in the "Rainbow Room" of Phat Panda. Everything is hand-trimmed, as preferred by consumers because it helps keep the product high-quality and unadulterated. 20+ pounds per day, 100+ pounds per week are generally trimmed. They use TrimBins to help them a bit.
It may seem slow to do things by hand, but nonetheless, Phat Panda is selling more marijuana per week than Alaska (the whole state!) does in an entire month.
10,000 to 12,000 joints per day (70,000 per week) are produced in the Rainbow Room. They use a machine from Futurola to speed up the process. The machine rolls a hundred joints, and then they are perfected by human hands. The trim and joint departments are running 24/7 and are the only departments at Phat Panda that do so.
Grow Op Farms' Dabstract Laboratories processes everything from Phat Panda. They perform precision hydrocarbon extraction, which looks intense but is actually quite simple. A tank contains the solvent, a column has the weed, and another tank is where they boil off the solvent. The crude extract is taken from that, and the solvent is reused later.
Cascade Vacuum Ovens do the magic of taking the crude extracts and turning it into a purer product with very low residual solvent numbers. The different products they create include cake icing, terpene sugar, and THCA (which is 96% THC).
Nate heads over to "Candy Land" at Phat Panda. This facility takes care of the edible production. Keef is extracted from stems, distilled, and then turned into homogenized sugar. There is a diverse range of potency and effects represented in these sweets.
Hard candies, taffies, caramels, chocolates, and drops are all part of the production here (75,000 per week are produced). They received consultations from giants in their respective industries to ensure the most delicious products possible. They are all labeled with the Hot Sugar! brand.
Packaging needs to be double packaged, as required by state law. The product needs to be child protected and invisible, making branding and labeling extremely important in attracting the attention of consumers. With their focus on branding and marketing, Phat Panda is top in the state.
Regarding joints and jars of weed, they use an Autolabe machine (custom-built) to make labels for the jars and joints as well. The machine can do 80 jars per minute, and four machines pump out 18,000 – 20,000 per day! Although Nate is a grower rather than a packager, he had lots of fun trying out the labeling process.