This past month, we ventured out to the sun and sin of Las Vegas, Nevada for the 10th Annual MJBiz Conference. We had the exciting opportunity to meet growers from around the country, as well as some of our favorite customers and partners.
Among those who dropped by the booth is Kyle Thorne, the cultivation manager out at Redbarn Cannabis in Oregon. He’s one of our favorites to chop it up with, so we couldn’t resist the chance to sit him down for this month’s interview live from the Expo Floor of the Las Vegas Convention Center.
After reading this excerpt from our chat, you can check out Redbarn Cannabis on the web.
[This interview has been edited for length and clarity.]
AROYA: So how did you guys hear about Aroya?
KYLE THORNE, CULTIVATION MANAGER, REDBARN CANNABIS: I think I first heard about Aroya in the comment section on a YouTube video and then I just searched on YouTube for Aroya and saw a few of the videos of... I can't remember the gentleman's name.
AROYA: Probably Ramsey.
KYLE: Yeah. It was Ramsey. It was just a really broad overview of what the platform does. And then from there, I think I reached out and got a hold of Francis. And then he did a demo with us, then we pretty much signed up right away.
AROYA: You don't have to tell me actual down to the detail in size, but relatively square footage wise, what are you guys working with at Redbarn?
KYLE: Right now we have one, 5,000 square foot production facility. And we have a lot of additional space on the property that this smaller building was kind of our proof of concept to our investors that we could do what we do on that scale. We're getting ready to expand into other spaces.
AROYA: Cool. And you're in Oregon?
KYLE: Southern Oregon. Yeah.
AROYA: And are you looking into expanding into other states?
KYLE: Not yet. We have a cultivation facility, wholesale, a processing lab and five dispensaries, which have been the focus for our growth as a company so far.
AROYA: That's awesome. When you signed on for Aroya, how was the installation process? What were some challenges you ran into? Or maybe it was seamless?
KYLE: It was really easy. Basically just followed the directions that come with the sensors and got everything set up within the platform. It was super easy.
AROYA: Probably best that it's cloud-based and you didn’t have to work with excessive cables?
KYLE: Yeah. That stuff's a little bit more difficult. But since everything is cloud-based, it was really simple.
AROYA: Good to hear. How long into you tracking and running the system did you start to notice some improvements? And what were probably some of your early notices?
KYLE: The one that caught me by surprise was stem diameter. Because we take crop registration measurements twice a week for every single room have been for quite some time, even before implementing Aroya, I can look back and see what those looked like a year ago. But yeah, the first one that I saw was stem diameter. It blew up, it absolutely exploded. Obviously you're going to see something like stem diameter before you see flower diameter or yield.
And then after that, another thing that I noticed, that I've heard people talk about a lot, was the node spacing. I'm seeing node spacing tighter than I've ever seen on anything, Like we're talking about on stretchy, lanky plants too. We grow a Vanilla OG, that's kind of notorious for stretching out, getting super tall and hard to handle, but just being able to steer that crop super generative the first couple weeks, man, they're not tall, they're just totally squatted. And they're just exploding with nodes all the way up the branches. It's great.
KYLE: And then obviously, Flower size, overall yield, potency, bag appeal etc. Top to bottom improvements.
AROYA: Good. Yeah. I don't know how many people on your team are actually in the dashboard running the platform. Would you say that that's pretty much reserved for leadership roles? Or do you have your team that's pretty comfortable with it?
KYLE: Yeah, I’ve gotten everybody familiar with Aroya. What I did was when we first got onboarded, I was learning and getting comfortable with the program before I did training with everybody. Then I took the target ranges that George helped us develop, along with terminology and the basics of how crop steering works and developed a handbook for my team. Then had a couple training days with my crew to thoroughly go over everything in the handbook to bring them up to speed and make sure we were totally set up for success. Now I'll have maintenance training sessions with them one-on-one every few weeks or so just to keep them up to speed on the platform and the practice.
AROYA: I don't know how the training process was for you to just get fully up to speed before you rolled out to your team, but what would you say was the biggest challenge as you were getting off the ground here? What has been your biggest challenge overall?
KYLE: Well, I don't believe in being the only guy at the facility that knows what's happening and how to speak the language and that type of thing. The biggest challenge is getting my crew, which they're all very new to the idea and practice of crop-steering, to start speaking the lingo, the crop steering, and precision irrigation lingo and using the terminology so that we're all on the same page. But they picked it up pretty quickly.
AROYA: Good. What strains are you growing? And then what are some of your long-term goals over the next 12 months?
KYLE: We're doing a lot of R&D right now on some new genetics. We're just getting our breeding program off the ground, so we're doing some pheno-hunting there with some crosses that we do. Then we're doing a Vanilla OG that has been a solid producer for us and a couple hype strains in the Oregon market. Outside that, we're doing, like I said, lots of R&D on just a bunch of strains and our crosses.
For the next 12 months, we're going to continue developing the property that we have by expanding into our additional space, potentially building some greenhouses and really dialing in our breeding program so we can keep bringing new strains to the Oregon market.
AROYA: Nice. Have you guys looked at any opportunities when it comes to outdoor stuff?
KYLE: We can't grow outdoors in the county that we're in!
AROYA: Yea, they're all a little different.
KYLE: Yeah. For Douglas County, or it might be a city thing I can't remember, but we have to have coverage.
AROYA: Understood. You've had success and you guys have obviously gone online and you've shared the love. You've kind of recommended it. If there's any grower that is in the midsize and they're looking to expand and get Aroya over the next year or so, what features would you say are the biggest game-changers? And why would you recommend Aroya in general?
KYLE: Well, obviously, I think the catching point for most people is the dashboard. You can see your water content, you get to see your EC and your VPD and all that stuff. And that was the biggest thing for us at first. But a very close second to that, is the crop registration function within the platform. Right. The reason that it's so valuable is because we're always trying to do better than the last harvest, and we do that by making small incremental changes to how we grow a specific strain. The way you tell if those small incremental changes are working, is by comparing those crop registration measurements against other successful runs, and Aroya makes it really easy to see those comparisons.
AROYA: Nice. You work a lot with George, and you get some knowledge from Ramsey. Are there any other parts of our operation that you think that we could improve? Or are there any other things that we are doing that are right?
KYLE: Well, to be honest, I actually only had one conversation with George-... and it was a pretty short conversation. We've tried to meet up a couple of times since then, but it seems like something always comes up on my end. Just the one meeting I had with him was extremely helpful. The customer service has been good. Obviously, the platform is awesome. There's other companies that are trying to do the same thing. But we've looked at those other companies as well. And it was a toss-up between Aroya and a couple of the other names, but it was the reliability of the sensors that had us sold.
AROYA: That's good to hear. There are other people in the sensor market that are looking to break into it. I think one of the best advantages for us is that we're owned by Meter Group-
AROYA: ... with like 30 years in the sensor game.
KYLE: Exactly. Kind of tried and tested.
AROYA: Yeah. Tried and tested. Yeah.
KYLE: Lastly, I was actually curious. I know you guys were starting to move into the greenhouse space a bit, so I'll keep an ear out.
AROYA: Well, we'll be there when you're ready. So anyways, thank you for the conversation. Enjoy the convention!