Our AROYA Grower of the Month series spotlights the stories of craft cultivators who inspire us with their ingenuity and resourcefulness. Each feature is a moment to shine a light on growers who push the limits in the garden, while highlighting the innovative tech and tools they use to do it.
Our April AROYA grower of the month is Acacia Eide, Lead Cultivator out at American Apothecary in sunny CA. She and her team have been tapped into AROYA since the very beginning, using the platform to dial in on things like drybacks and give them insights into what cultivars to focus on (they’ve never run the same strain twice). Learn what Acacia is doing to grow that top shelf quality on our next feature.
[This interview has been edited for length and clarity.]
AROYA: Well thank you, Acacia, for joining us this morning. I’ll jump right in; how long have you been growing?
ACACIA EIDE, LEAD CULTIVATOR AT AMERICAN APOTHECARY: Almost two years now, full-time. Other than that, this is pretty much my life. I have some hobbies outside of work, but this is my life.
AROYA: Yeah, this is life. I feel that. Yes. Okay. So you are what's your title at American Apothecary?
ACACIA: It's technically still a lead grower. We have nobody above us. So we are running the show basically as the lead.
AROYA: So you've been working with American Apothecary for two years?
ACACIA: Yeah, about two years officially. It's hard because they've just been up and running legally, like on the toes of everything. Three years now. And then I started out under the table, basically.
AROYA: Does it feel like it's been two years or longer than that for you? Cause I know for me, when I look back, I've been at AROYA for a year and a half. I'm like, “Only a year and a half?” I feel like I've done so much in that time.
ACACIA: I feel like I've been here for at least five years, and that's not like a bad thing.I've seen so much, this company has been through so much, and I've learned so much.It's good. I love it. I love it. It's always something to do.
AROYA: What really got you into cultivating? What's your origin story?
ACACIA: To be honest, my boyfriend actually got me into it. A lot of underground things going on…
AROYA: Some basement grows?
ACACIA: Haha, yes. I started helping him with that. He was doing it for X amount of years, and then you're the one that actually started here. He basically built this place, everything from ground up, and then some things happened and he stepped away and I basically took over. He basically got me started here and I've been here since.
AROYA: He almost mentored you, then.
ACACIA: Yeah, I worked just like him and he's shown me a lot. So that's definitely a big help.
AROYA: What do you love most about cultivating? What really drew you to the plant?
ACACIA: Just that things are constantly changing and it's always something new to learn. There's so many different ways to do things.
AROYA: It's like an art and a science at the same time.
AROYA: If you could only grow one strain, which, what would you choose and why?
ACACIA: We've never grown the same strain more than twice here. So we've had hundreds of different strains now, and there's a few that are on the top notches, but I like running different things. Sometimes it's cool to see different things. So I don't want to grow the same thing to be honest.
AROYA: That's awesome though. Okay. Let's go back to that. How are you guys selecting which cultivars y'all are running?
ACACIA: At first we were just, “Oh, like looks and what will you look at the statistics of everything.” But because it's such a new company, we're going off of basically what the buyers want. We're still switching nurseries, trying to figure out what's best for us. Because we've changed our girls’ media. So a lot of things are constantly changing here. Every day is so different.
AROYA: Can you give me an idea of what strains you're growing right now? I love hearing what they're growing in different areas.
ACACIA: Right now we actually have one of the most popular strains we've had, which is grapes and cream. We've had a few runs of them. We just got pinnacle in our veg, and then we just got a little sneak peek on Dr. Jay and orange creamsicle from one of the nurseries. So we got a little exclusive on that. We have Tuscan gelato.
AROYA: A pretty good selection. I would tell them. So let's see. What are your philosophies on growing? Why do you do this? What really gets you up every morning? And what makes you love this job?
ACACIA: I worked in retail for quite some bit. And I was also in the medical field for a little bit. It's just more mind-soothing to me.I like it because I can really center myself and plants can’t talk back. But you don't have to have any issues with them, but it's their needs. Like it's the complete opposite for retail. In the garden, it's based on what they [the plants] need when they need it, when they want it. Bending to them is a little bit easier than bending to people.
AROYA: That's interesting. It's like you're tapping into the needs of the plants, but it's almost more fulfilling.
ACACIA: Yeah, like, I've talked to them.
AROYA: Yeah it helps the carbon dioxide, right?
AROYA: Yeah, that's what I've learned. man. That's beautiful. I love this. Okay, cool. I want to ask a couple questions about y'all's facility. What kind of setup do you guys have? How many flower rooms?
ACACIA: We have nine flower rooms right now; eight are operational. Some of them are different sizes and they have different amounts of tables. They hold anywhere from 500 to 700 plants. And I believe there's 45 lights, if I'm not mistaken. So we've got a pretty decent size operation. So about 1,500 plants in veg.
AROYA: Can you give me an idea, what's your canopy size usually?
ACACIA: That's also changing too. We've gone from 20 plants to 15, just trying to determine what's best. They're still chasing. So they're trying to see: more plants, less plants, bigger yield, less yield….What's going to be the best?
AROYA: I see. Okay. It seems like you guys are dialing in on a lot of things right now.
ACACIA: We're definitely trying to.
AROYA: You said you switched medias. What'd you guys switch from?
ACACIA: We were using Rockwool. Now we are in coco.
AROYA: I always like to stay tapped into what is working! So data and transparency—we're all about that in our platform, being able to use data to guide your plans and your business. How are you guys using data in your facilities?
ACACIA: I would say with AROYA, the water content data and just the basic things on the charts.
AROYA: For sure, people usually start with the EC and the drybacks in the platform; that's the thing that you can read in the graphs. So how did you first hear about AROYA?
ACACIA: I know I was asking the company a little bit of questions about this back in the day, and at the time I was told that AROYA was the most efficient and the price was right for them. So that's why we originally go with AROYA. And I think there's still so much on the platform that’s new to me, that I don't even know.
AROYA: So since installing AROYA tech, what are some of the ways that you've seen your grow improve?
ACACIA: To be honest, we've had AROYA since the building's been up and operational. So that's hard to know. But the original set of growers didn't really get the chance to use it. The second set of growers is when we really started using it, and they started explaining how we could actually use it. And once we started realizing what we could do with it, we were actually able to start seeing our drybacks, when to properly utilize them, the readings with the manual readers.
AROYA: So it sounds like it is helping with your irrigation strategies.
ACACIA: Absolutely. Yeah. So that's the biggest thing that they've used it for. Which is probably the most common thing.
ACACIA: AROYA is really helping us on the irrigation part for sure, because with the the Hugo blocks, we were having a lot of drybacks there, they were getting way too dry, constantly. And with AROYA and coco, we're able to more closely monitor it, because it maintains its water content a little bit more. So that's really good for us.
AROYA: This has been a really great conversation. I guess I have a couple of questions about your tech and stuff. You mentioned you have our soil sensors. Do you have the ATMOS 14? Do you have anything that helps you with your climate and stuff?
ACACIA: Yes, we have at least three per room.
AROYA: And then what types of lights do you guys run?
ACACIA: We're actually in the process of trying to get LEDs right now. Yeah. We have the original HPS. Obviously, we're changing things too. So they're realizing that the industry changes; you've got to go bigger and gotta go better things, constantly cleaning. So they're realizing that LEDs might be more beneficial.
AROYA: A lot of people are doing that, and there's actually markets like New York city, they have to have LEDs. I think a lot of people are moving in that direction.
ACACIA: Yeah, we just changed all of our times to fit our energy levels because we're utilizing it too late into the day.
AROYA: So you're considering things like sustainability in your day-to-day planning and everything?
ACACIA: We’re trying. We're doing it on our own. We don't have somebody with all that knowledge giving it to us, so we're learning as we go too. So I guess it's good.
AROYA: Yeah. Yeah. That's how it is. And we all are learning as we go. Awesome, Acacia. I think that this was a really great conversation.
ACACIA: Awesome, thank you so much.
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Our conversation with cannabis cultivator Joshua Anderson, Co-founder & President of SKöRD
Our January AROYA grower of the month is actually a team of cultivators, Zach Schopp and Ryan Miller from Seed of Life Labs.