Between a staff of researchers and a top-notch grow facility, Caliva is refining the process behind incredible bud.
On a stifling hot day in July, I headed to San Jose for what I thought would be a straightforward tour of a high-end cannabis grow operation. Having never toured a grow-op before, I pictured a glorified garage filled to the brim with plants and too-bright lights. But to my pleasant surprise, Caliva’s grow-op was anything but average. Compared to the warehouses full of weed you might find on Instagram, Caliva’s indoor setup was more of a Wonka-esque funhouse of botanical miracles.
Caliva, in case you didn’t know, is a cannabis brand and dispensary boasting a wide range of product offerings from flower to low-dose pre-rolls to sleek, strain-specific
Walking around the building with Rosie Rothrock, Caliva’s VP of Marketing and Branding, my nose was quickly overwhelmed by a tidal wave of complex fragrances. One room containing Strawberry Banana smelled overwhelmingly of—you guessed it—strawberries and bananas. It was as if my favorite lunchbox fruits had been distilled and restored as one potent plant. As Joel Warner described in his review of Willie’s Reserve flower, not everyone is stoked about the pungent smells coming out of large-scale operations like these. I’m sensitive to smells, so I can empathize, but
On our tour, I was able to see just how many people are involved in the process of pumping out this much high-quality weed. Maya Kochman PhD, Caliva’s Director of Research, knows firsthand how much effort goes into developing something truly consistent and unique—a harder balance than I previously imagined. Before this gig, Kochman worked at Impossible Foods developing sustainable plant burgers that “bleed” like the real thing. With a background in analytical chemistry, it should come as no surprise she has a molecular sense of what makes a good product good.
The way Kochman sees it, we’re barely scratching the surface when it comes to understanding the potential uses of cannabis. While most of us see products in terms of
Between water, temperature, light, and airflow, there are a number of factors to consider before you even begin to think of planting your first seed—or in this case,
But that’s only where the variables (and opportunities to fail) begin. Once you’ve got adequate lighting set up, it’s time to worry about managing temperature and humidity levels since a few degrees could impact growth phases significantly. Just don’t let that distract you from the soil quality—drainage, aeration, and fertility all determine whether your plants ever get a chance to lift off. And if you’re worried about getting good yields, water can be your best friend or worst enemy. Use it to deliver nutrients to your plant babies, balance pH levels, and maximize flower size, density, potency, aroma, and yield. Mess up on the water and nutrient front and you can get all kinds of wonky weed.
Once you’ve checked all those boxes and your plants are growing strong and tall, it’s high time to consider airflow. Air becomes the MVP, breaking heat stamps created by artificial lighting, improving stem strength, and preventing mold and mildew. Spacing your plants also becomes increasingly important, as we wouldn’t want any big trees taking all the spotlight. As soon as your plants reach maturity, it’s time to harvest those buds—just be sure to dry,
See? Growing weed is as simple as that.
“We built our grow and our product line around the notion that happy plants equal happy people.”
— Rosie Rothrock
Sarcasm aside, seeing the grow-op in every stage of this complicated process increased my appreciation for good cannabis by tenfold. It’s kind of like sitting through the credits of an incredible movie and wondering how so many people could be involved and still pull it off. Then there’s just the scale of an operation like this that’s impressive in its own right. In one storage room, surrounded by bins of weed stacked to the ceiling, I asked Rothrock how much one bin might retail for in the recreational market. She said one pound of trimmed
As impressed as I was by the whole operation, it appears Caliva is just getting started. For Rothrock, it’s all about responding to what consumers want and need. Right now, they have a topical for pain in the works and are looking to refine their strain offerings according to the data they collect via surveys and focus groups. “Part of the problem with the industry,” Rothrock says, “is that different data sources aren’t connected to each other.” She and her team are looking to not only change that, but change the industry as a whole to better serve a widening market. “We built our grow and our product line around the notion that happy plants equal happy people,” Rothrock says. “Cultivating them with care and good intentions makes a difference in both the final result of our product and in the health and well-being of our employees, our plants, and ultimately our customers.” I can get on board with that.
Photos by Anthony Tripoli.
This article was created in partnership with Caliva.