May 2021 Grower of the Month

There’s nothing better than being the grower

Each month here at AROYA®, we like to highlight growers we think are blazing exciting new trails in how they work. They do things differently; maybe a little dangerously, but they’re definitely doing it right.

We bring ‘em in live, we let our Cannafam join in, and where it goes from there is anyone’s guess. One thing we know is you’ll always get that good-good. Fresh insights by the O-Z. These high-caliber cultivators know their plants inside and out, and we’re thrilled to be a part of their continued growth.

This month, we brought in Dylan Proctor, Owner of Maine Strain and East Coast Cure, for a feature. He’s an industry vet embarking on his biggest venture yet, and raps at us about genetics, extracts, what he’s growing now, adjusting for your environment, and why every day feels a bit like vacation.

Read through the Q&A below, and remember to hit up Maine Strain on Instagram right here.

AROYA: Alright, let’s get to it. Today, we’ve got a special guest. Dylan [Proctor]'s joining us from Maine Strain. He's really a great grower. He's got a lot of nice, unique genetics that I haven't seen too many other people running, so it's always fun talking to him. Should be a fun one. Welcome, Dylan. Please go ahead and introduce yourself.

Dylan: All right, I'm Dylan. I run Maine Strain and East Coast Cure, and I oversee our sister company at Hierarchy Gardens … our greenhouse. I do a little bit of everything, as far as the agricultural world goes. Nutrients, mediums, 3D designs and anything you might need for your garden. We're vertically integrated. That's what we do.

AROYA: And I see you’re also designing facilities a lot now.

Dylan: Yeah, we've been designing a lot of irrigation for facilities that are trying to automate it. A lot of it has to do with what you guys at AROYA are putting out, and trying to show them the proper ways to irrigate, and then I get those proper dry-backs and all the proper data.

AROYA: Yeah. I was really impressed with the work you're putting out. So Dylan, let’s ask you what we like to ask everybody: What first brought you over to Aroya?

Dylan: Yeah. So probably over a year and a half ago, maybe close to two years ago, I was following you and seeing what you were doing over in Northern California. I was pretty impressed and I saw you talking about the AROYA Platform coming out and it was pre-launch before you guys went to Vegas and came out public with it. Then we just started chatting about it. I really wanted to get into knowing what was going on in my medium, just so I wasn't kind of shooting from the hip and I was actually being precise with my garden. Not just guessing every day, basically.

AROYA: What's been your favorite feature of it? What's the most common feature on the platform you get into?

Dylan: So our biggest thing that we really use it for is we really like to be able to check our water content, our EC content, and just to be able to kind of diagnose anything from happening before I notice it in our plants. Like if our EC starts to get a little bit out of range, I know that I'd give it a little bit more water. I like being able to see what's going on in a medium, but environments are super important … just as important. So that's our other big feature. We've also been able to kind of get away from a lot of spreadsheets and Excel and stuff by being able to use all the other AROYA features as far as scheduling and IPM features and stuff goes.

AROYA: How often are you changing your irrigation schedule when things are going right? If everything's clicking and firing off, are you changing your irrigation every day? Is it every three days? What are you typically seeing?

Dylan: I mean it kind of varies in the beginning. The first couple of weeks we've got to have a little bit higher dry-backs just so we can kind of stack the EC and get the nose, and be a little bit closer and be able to push those little bit bigger buds. Then once we're getting a little bit further into flower, like day 28 (give or take) we're going to start bringing those dry-backs down a little bit less further, just so we can start getting that water content a little bit higher. We might increase it daily. It could be weekly. Just really depends on how much these plants are raging. They can get water anywhere from five to 20 times a day.

AROYA: Nice. Now you're managing a greenhouse location and an indoor location: how many rooms in your indoor location are you managing right now? How many are at your greenhouse? I know you're expanding right now, as well. But, what are you currently managing day to day with the platform?

Dylan: So I may be able to look at the platform now. I'm able to go back and forth between the two grove locations. I have grove, needs, and managers at both locations that know our parameters and what we need to stay in between. So I kind of oversee what they're looking at, just so I can make sure they're reading the data correctly and I know exactly what they're doing, and the crops are going the right way. Typically, I'll start looking at the greenhouse in the morning just because I got to beat the sun. That's already around 8:00. So I'm trying to catch up looking over its water content and stuff, making sure it doesn't need more waterings that day. Then I go over to the warehouse facility that has two rooms, two 1,000 square-foot rooms now, but we're going to have 10, maybe 40 light rooms here. It'll be about a 500-lighter, double-tier. It's going to eventually be about 7,000 square feet of canopy. Then we've got two greenhouses over at the other location. That's about 2,000 square feet of canopy.

AROYA: To you what is important, the greenhouse or the indoor?

Dylan: It's a tough decision. I like them both for different reasons. I always get in ... I like to have both there for the customer aspect of the greenhouse, and it’s a little bit more of an affordable product. It's still great quality, but then we have the indoor that's kind of a little bit more of a dialed environment–a little bit cleaner–so we just kind of have ourselves situated on both ends of the market. I love growing them both. I started outdoors and then worked my way into little hoop houses, and just kept advancing my way from there until I got my actual full-season greenhouses. But, it's a tough decision, I definitely like the greenhouses as far as just being able to work in the fresh air and not feel trapped inside. It's definitely a nice feeling.

AROYA: Do you test your Terpenes on your products?

Dylan: Yes. So, we test our Terpenes–usually the Terpenes in the greenhouses have a much higher percentage, because they have much more UV and green in the spectrum out under the sun. So typically we just see much larger Terpene levels, compared to if you put a bunch of CMHs or LEDs in your indoor rooms.

AROYA: Yeah, we’ve found the same thing. The Terpene coming out of the greenhouses were higher than the indoor. Do you run your same strains, indoor and in the greenhouse? Or does it depend?

Dylan: So for the past couple of years, well, first we run like a hundred per different genetics and varieties. Some are different Finos, some are completely different genetics. But over the past couple of years, I've been testing which ones do a little bit better. I've noticed at least over here on the East Coast that cookie variant strains do a lot better in the winter time. And then OG-based strains do really good over here in the summer. I don't like to do too big or dense buds, or not dense but two bigger buds just because we have high humidity over here at the end of the season. So I don't like to push it. Just because there's mold or whatever else might pop up.

AROYA: Yeah, you're basically changing your genetics, as well, according to the season in your greenhouse, because of the climate parameters you have.

Dylan: Yeah, we're changing based on the season, but we're also always having to test new stuff. So it's always changing, but I try to base it on bud structures, and what I know does better in different types of seasons.

AROYA: I'm sure you're gearing up for quite a genetic library now with your new Mom Room that you built, and then you're building also–correct me–is it a Tissue Culture Lab you're building? Or are you just doing the Cloning Facility?

Dylan: So we have our nursery license–or we're going to be having our nursery license here shortly–and we'll be doing tissue culture and clones, but working with DST labs. He works with Compound Genetics and a few guys at West. He's going to be bringing some TC Tech over here to Maine, and just trying to clean up some genetics, get some old ones over here, and get them on the shelves for the customers.

AROYA: I'm sure you'll be able to even expand your genetic library, because once you have Tissue Culture you can have a lot of genetics in a very small place.

Dylan: Yeah

AROYA: Are you creating profiles on a lot of your genetics within the platform? So you can start understanding exactly what they do? What are the things that you're usually looking for in a strain, for it to become one of your recurring ones that you regularly run?

Dylan: I mean, so I look at all of this. Basically everything was part of the plan–as far as vegging, flowering, color, test results … it can vary. But, like we were saying, I do them indoors, outdoors, and at the greenhouse. One might not do well indoors. They also see it before I chuck it in the greenhouse, because it might fit perfectly in there. So there's a lot of testing that goes into all of these strains. It probably takes... I mean, some people will run it a round or two and call it good. I like to run a strain at least two … three times before I call it. And there's a lot of testing that goes into finding these Finos.

AROYA: Yeah, we have the same thing, unless it's going outdoors, If I'm taking clones off and running it, I usually don't see the full expression until it's matured a little bit (in terms of the plant). So my second- or third-round cuttings seem to produce the best product. I'm always hesitant to get rid of a genetic until I've run the third round of cuttings that came from it.

Dylan: I mean, sometimes what you saw it do in first-generation might not be how it looks in second and third generation. We check the data; it could have to do with what was going on in the medium or environment. We want to be able to know completely before we get rid of that strain.

AROYA: So I see that you got some beautiful plants. What's the genetics you're running right now?

Dylan: Thanks, so in this room (pictured), we’re running a white truffle. It's garlic butter. It's our first run with it. Not quite sure how it's going to do. We're just testing it out. Adjusting, growing out less to this environment, and a few other guys. It's looking really good. Nice and frosty. It's stacking pretty well inside.

AROYA: Yeah, I like the structure of it.

Dylan: It's looking pretty good, now that we've got our old reliable blue cookies. It's the one we've been crossing, basically everything to my friend Turkey Bag Flick out in California. He found this over 10 years ago, and we've been running it since, and crossed it to everything: 60+ strains. So right now we're working on going through them. We’re going to be releasing some of them to the made man genetics later this year after we get some testing done.

"Just invest in yourself. Always keep studying, try to take bits and pieces from everybody, and take everything with a grain of sand. – Dylan Proctor, Owner of Maine Strain"

AROYA: What lights are you running? What nutrients are you running? What's your setup like?

Dylan: So right now we've got good Vidos in this room. We've got some Luxes going up in the other room. I work directly with Lux and a few other manufacturers, so I've been really wanting to get those in here. I've been seeing a lot of my customers crushing it with the Watson, but I haven't been able to use them myself, so I really can't wait to use them. But yeah, right now it's good Vidos and we're using Athena at this location. Athena Pro Line: those have drawn set up direct-inject fresh nutrients every time there are new plants.

AROYA: Dope. You're running Rockwell-block on slab, yeah?

Dylan: Yeah. We're running a 4x6x2.5 on a three-foot slab.

AROYA: And then how many sensors are you usually setting up in a room right now for yourself? When you're doing substrate sensors, are you doing one per table? Are you doing multiple per table? What is your desired set up?

Dylan: I like to do at least two per table, just so I can at least build an average off of two sensors instead of just having one sensor. One sole plant might be completely different from what's going on with the rest of the table, so at least two per-row or per-table, in at least 40 light rooms with about 14 to 15 media centers, at least. It gives me a pretty good average.

AROYA: That's dope. Now, what's your greatest challenge that you have as a grower? Like what's the most common thing that you're running into? Or is there something that you're like … “wow, you know, this has been the hardest part about all this?”

Dylan: I mean, it varies every day. Each day there could be something … say EC breaks. I've lived where it gets below zero. So it could be EC or heat issues, but Zero has helped me a lot. It's helped me watch my plants and be able to help me stay out of that, so at least I don't have to worry about that so much anymore. I can kind of focus on the mechanical issues that happen day to day.

AROYA: Yeah. That seems to be the greatest challenge that we all have as growers because every single day a mechanical issue comes up. So anybody that thinks that you're going to turn a facility on and the first run is just going to be perfect, you have to expect to have some issues mechanically. Even when you've got a long-running facility it's going to happen. Mechanical issues are part of all of it.

Dylan: Yeah. There's always going to be something that breaks. The big working machine, and there's always going to be something that goes down.

AROYA: Yeah. There’s never been a perfect design. Everybody is like, “oh I can design a perfect facility.” Well, when you actually implement the design, it never works out right, or equipment that you think is going to be the best just isn’t.

We're all still trying to figure out how many, how much, how many times we see per light we really need and how many pines of heat humidification. Those numbers change depending upon what lighting source you have and what type of plants you're growing. We're all still trying to crack that code.

Dylan: Yeah. It definitely varies. So many variables.

AROYA: What's your favorite part about growing? Like what do you love coming into?

Dylan: I just love that it really never ends. Something that always needs looking after, it's always expanding, and always needs something. The work never ends. So I've always liked that it keeps me busy. The stuff that I've always enjoyed doing all really involves just being in the garden. It’s a nice environment … feels like I'm on vacation all the time.

AROYA: Yeah. Nothing better than being in the grower, right?

Dylan: No. Nothing better than being on the grower.

AROYA: What are you currently smoking on lately? What products are you using in the Basins in terms of what you're growing?

Dylan: So lately I've been trying out a lot of my Finos that we just made. We just made Panna Cotta and the Babe, which is an Ice Cream Cake crossed with Blue Cookies, but I’ve also been smoking a lot of that Huff … the strain we've been growing for the past like year or two--it's really catching on right now.

AROYA: It looks beautiful when you're growing it. It looks like it stacks hard, just a good color to it. How long does that strain usually flower for? How many days does that take?

Dylan: I'm thinking like 65 days. I have a few friends down in Oklahoma that are running it; they think it's like 70 plus. It's a little bit more of color, a little bit more of pink but it's based on our scheduling and everything. We run most things at 65 days to be able to crank out our rooms and be able to keep everything on a schedule.

AROYA: Nice. Now, are you using the recipes in AROYA to help manage all the scheduling of everything?

Dylan: Yeah. We put each recipe in AROYA. The biggest thing is when each BPD change happens or irrigation stage happens, as far as either increasing or decreasing the EC, that scheduling is one of the biggest things we use the AROYA platform for.

AROYA: Very nice. You do extracts as well, correct?

Dylan: Yeah. So right now we do a lot of our solving less in-house. One of our guys is Hetty Teddy. He's currently our washer. He's not in our facility right now because we don't have our manufacturing license. We're waiting for our licensing and rec to go through. And then as soon as that happens, we'll be solving in the facility again. Currently, this refinery does all of our hydrocarbons, our diamonds, and batters, and things like that. They do a really good job with that for us.

AROYA: Are you finding that with different crops during techniques and things it's changing what your extracts are coming out looking like? Running a plant longer will change the color of your extracts, because obviously having a clear track on heads–milky versus amber–but are you finding any other things that you're noticing in terms of finishing sub straight ADT or hearing strategy of being more true at the end versus vegetative? Do you find any of these things are affecting the overall extract production?

Dylan: Yeah, there's different aspects. Like you said, like with our water hash, we like to take it at least a week before harvest just to help get those clearer heads and have a little bit better color extract. I've seen even the potency be a little bit higher before, so we take them before they get a little bit too Amber.

Then I've noticed if we get the flush right, get the EC down where we like it, we can get it in generative mode. It's also pushing out Trichomes then. So I like to get it in this generative feeding cycle before the end, and basically also kind of let it die the last week or get significant drybacks. That stress is going to help produce Trichomes onto your plant.

AROYA: That makes sense. We’re starting to see a lot of people that are in the extract, the bubble hash side of things, correlating a lot of the growing techniques over from the cultivation over into what those extracts look like. And the nice part will be as we have more and more data in the industry and really isolate what drives better quality extract. So they know that's a big part of it for growing one for flower, but two for extract. Now do you take your trim and turn it into one type of extract, and then your smalls into another, or do you like to isolate which one's going towards which direction?

Dylan: So my trimmers basically know a certain size to not trim below. There's a certain size that all goes into trim with the rest of the sugar leaf. All that goes to our hydrocarbon and that always goes through the refinery. Like it's refined over there, turned into batter, diamonds, cartridges, or whatever else. Then we take fresh frozen for our rosins and our full month, et cetera like that. Then after that's done with our dry sif, kief from our trim bends, we take those and put them in our Static Tech. I'm trying to think of what it's called. Sorry.

AROYA: Yeah. It's funny. I saw you mentioned Static Tech. I heard Static Tech and I went through a rabbit hole, reading about Static Tech. Is it pretty much just taking something that's been charged and moving it over top and that's pulling the better quality type on heads?

Dylan: Yeah. So you know when you're basically putting it around, you can do it a few ways. I've seen people putting it around on the DVD case or a paint roller. Basically, you're going to run it backwards over the sif compared to piling it. It's just going to make a snow pile and go up over whatever you're trying to get the static heads to go up onto your parchment paper. So you can brush that off, and separate it from each other. So basically getting more plant matter out of your dry sif that's in there … basically cleaning it up a little bit more. Just to get that out before you press it.

AROYA: Yeah. Besides the root zone and climate data, are there any things that you use that you do for crop registration? Are you measuring plant heights? Are you going through and doing this kind of data, or are you kind of just more focused on the substrate climate data and then using the press to keep it on track?

Dylan: Yeah. We know about how many days it takes per strain to get to certain heights and certain requirements. But I mean, right now, we're trying to get to 15 to 18 inches before flip, which usually we're doing in 12 to 14 days on the indoor setup. It's more like, yeah, it's give or take that in the greenhouse depending on the season. But 14 days has been pretty much what we've kept in our schedule, to keep everything on track and getting to the heights we've wanted, to flip it. But we're measuring notable space, diameter of flower … basically tracking every part of the flower and plant as each day goes by, just so we can compare it to the next, and pass around to see what the data is.

AROYA: Dope. Do you have any piece of advice that you would like to leave our viewers with today? Is there anything that you were, say, for anybody new to the game or are currently in the game? Is there any piece of advice that you would like to transfer over to everybody?

Dylan: I mean, there's a lot of advice, but I mean the biggest one is just invest in yourself. Just always keep studying, try to take bits and pieces from everybody, take everything with a grain of sand. Always try a little bit of R&D on everything. Some things work better for other people, but a lot of this data that's being collected by Rams and the guys over the past year … it's really the truth and people should definitely tap into the AROYA system to check it out.

AROYA: Thank you very much. Yeah. We do want to echo what Dylan said: with each facility and everything that you learn, you're going to have to always accommodate what you have going on in there. You're going to hear a lot of things from a lot of different growers, and it might work within their scenario but you always have to ask yourself, does this work for your situation?

Dylan: Yeah. Everybody's situation is a little bit different.

AROYA: Exactly.

Dylan: The other biggest thing I'd like to leave people with is to just keep it simple. Don't overcomplicate it. It's really easier than it looks. Especially once you start collecting data for your nutrients or your lights, your everything … Just keep it simple.

AROYA: Yeah. The KISS method for life is always a winning method.

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