Hurdles to starting a commercial microgrow operation (and how to overcome them) : Augusta Free Press

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A few years back, microbreweries specializing in delicious golden ales and hoppy IPAs hit the world by storm. Now in 2020, it’s still all about the “micro”, but instead of focusing on alcoholic beverages, the new thing is the commercial microgrow op.

A microgrow operation is a full scale cannabis grow op that operates on a commercial level, but on a much smaller level than the big guys with huge warehouses filled with thousands of plants. This type of operation is easier to handle, but don’t let that full you. There are still a lot of hurdles involved.

Below you’ll not only find the most common challenges that the average microgrow op owner faces, but also tips for overcoming them and coming out on top.

Jumping in the Game Too Quickly

This first one isn’t just a hurdle for microgrow ops just starting out, but for startups and small business owners in general. It’s jumping into the game too quickly with properly strategizing and establishing a solid business plan.

There’s a lot that goes into successfully running and scaling a microgrow op, and a lot of it doesn’t even have to do with growing at all. Achieving success first requires locking down a grow space, finding employees you can trust, partnering with distributors, management of finances… this “To Do” list could go on for a while.

A major part of the early stages is to establish your main goals, set specific objectives for achieving those goals, and focus on a realistic timeline. Don’t expect to have the idea of starting a microgrow and figure out all the details overnight. It takes time and effort to figure out the logistics.

The Growing Industry … aka Fierce Competition

Competition in the cannabis industry is more fierce than ever, and it’s understandable why so many companies want a slice of that pie. This is a booming market that’s worth billions of dollars, and there’s no sign that it will slow down any time soon.

More and more small cannabis-focused businesses are getting in on the action. Even though competition is a good thing by keeping microgrow owners and operators ahead of the game and preventing a sense of complacency, it means that there will be some who get left behind.

Michigan’s Marijuana Microbusinesses

It’s not the competition between small microgrow operators that’s worrisome, though. It’s the fact that the micro guys (and girls) have to compete with the “macro” players of the industry. Take Michigan, the 10th state to legalize recreational marijuana in the US, as an example.

In Michigan, there’s something called a Marijuana Microbusiness license, which grants Michigan residents looking to enter the state’s recreational marijuana market an in. A license holder can cultivate up to 150 marijuana plants, harvest and process them, and sell them directly to the buyer.

It sounds like a dream come true, but the these license holders have to go up against massive cannabis producers who have been growing, processing, and distributing for a lot longer. It’s the standard David and Goliath situation.

The only advice to give to small microbusiness owners is to avoid competing directly with the big guys. There’s very little chance of winning since they’re able to mass produce products at a lower price point. Instead, find a niche to focus on, like competing in terms of quality or better customer service.

Cultivating Quality Products

Just as you don’t expect to walk into a microbrewery and order a Bud Lite, you don’t expect to buy low-grade bushweed from a microgrow business. Since you’re harvesting strains in small batches, customers who buy your products will expect only the highest quality cannabis.

The good news about this is that you’ll be able to charge more for your products, and true cannabis fanatics are OK with that since they’re paying more for quality. The bad news is that even if you do whatever it takes to cultivate AAAAA products, some aspects of a cannabis grow op are out of your control.

Things like pH imbalances, spider mite infestation, and humidity fluctuations can take a major toll on your crop. You might end up harvesting bud that’s not even worth selling. To reduce the risk of this happening, the key is to automate as much of your microgrow as possible.

The most common problems happen due to human error, so just avoid the risk of making mistakes through automation. With grow room automation, it’s possible to control everything from watering and light schedules to environmental factors like temperature and humidity.

More Accessibility for Cannabis Users

This might actually seem advantageous to the average microgrow owner, but in a way, it can do more harm than good. The fact that there are more dispensaries popping up all over the place means that, as a microgrow operator, you have the potential to connect with many different distributors. And we can all agree this is a good thing.

But the real threat is that cannabis users are starting to access products in another way: by growing from home. Just take Canada’s ACMPR program as an example.

In Canada, medical marijuana users have been legally growing from home since 2001. All they have to do to receive growing licenses is apply through the government by proving their need for medical marijuana with a valid prescription and filling out a bit of paperwork. It’s actually very simple, especially with the help of companies like this one here.

What’s even worse is that it’s not just the medical growers who are growing from home, but also recreational cannabis users. Thanks to the Cannabis Act, most provinces now allow for growing 4 plants at home. Since more and more Canadians are choosing to grow from home, microgrow operators have a major hurdle to overcome.

The good news is that growing from home is definitely not for everyone. There will always be some cannabis users who prefer the convenience of shopping for weed – and hopefully they’ll like what you’re selling.

Story by James Clarkson


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