Entrepreneurial and innovative Operations Executive in the controlled environment agriculture (CEA) industry with documented excellence designing, building, and managing day-to-day operations for cannabis and agriculture centric companies. Advanced knowledge of all aspects of profitable operations in the cannabis and non-cannabis controlled environment agriculture market. Exceptional track record of creating and executing strategic plans to drive business growth and success. Proven ability to identify opportunities for efficiency improvements, cost containment, and productivity increases. Successful history of leading startup companies to achieve success and market relevance.
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Hey everyone. Welcome to another episode of the poly greens podcast. I'm Joe Swartz, am hydro, along with Nick greens of the Nick greens grow team. And I've got a really great guest again for you today. Uh, mark Doherty, he's been in the controlled environment, ag industry quite a long time. Uh, well over a decade in commercial production and, uh, one of my favorite kind of people.
He is. Uh, and an independent consultant to the controlled environment. Ag industries started out as a borrower, um, has his, you know, his, his feet in, in the business in producing. So he understands the technologies that production, the crop techniques, everything you want to, uh, you don't want to see all wrapped into one.
He founded Aqua veto farms back in 2010, which was a 14,000 square foot aquaponic facility. Um, he has been growing and developing ever since. Um, he's been very heavily immersed in the controlled environment industry in long with him doing all of this. He's also was in the trucking industry as well, side by side with this.
Hello? I wasn't aware of that. Neither was I, Nick, what do you mean there, buddy? Am I reading? Am I reading the wrong? The bio of you dead? Maybe? Yeah. You might be reading the wrong bio. Am I got somebody else? Oh no, no, no. Mark is mark now has dual careers and he didn't even know it. I didn't know it, but it's good here, here.
I'm looking to see, I totally wasn't on your LinkedIn thinking. It's you? Cause there was no picture. So. Yeah. Well, all right. So little, did he know he was a grower? Yes. We'll take this off the podcast. Have to discuss some trucking issues for you later on mark. Uh, no, actually mark lives with his family in Boulder, Colorado.
He's been involved in particularly the cannabis industry. Um, on a very high level, he has been, uh, responsible for a lot of design and innovation in the indoor space, which we're going to talk to him. Well, he also has extensive experience in food production, lettuce, Bazell tomatoes and strawberries. So a Mark's kind of done a lot, seen a lot.
So mark, welcome to the podcast. We'd love to hear more about yourself, where you, how you got here, uh, and what, what you're working on. Thanks guys. Yeah. It's good to, good to be here with both of you. Yeah. You know, it's funny what, what Nick was saying about the trucking, because when I started aggravate to farms, one of the assumptions that I made, or one of the.
One of the things I thought was going to be really key to success in localized cultivation and indoor localized cultivation was to take the freight piece out of it because so many. And you see it even today, you see a lot of these, uh, local CA type, uh, growers and startup companies. They're shipping their own goods.
So they have trucks and they have diesel fuel and they have drivers and they have the insurance and they have all that stuff to be a freight company when they're really. Uh, growing plants company. And to me, that seemed like a foolish foray. So, you know, when I set up vaquita back in 2010, which, like you said, it was a 14,000 square foot indoor aquaponic farm.
I had the distributors do all the. So in a little bit of ways, I was kind of in the trucking world or trucking industry a little bit as Nick seemed to allude to at the beginning there. Um, but you know, as we would go on and, and we would learn a lot more and I would learn a lot more about indoor CA, right.
That sort of, you know, bringing the, creating the indoor ecosystem and building these indoor ecosystems. I always say when I did Algovita and you were saying before we started to record, Hey, why is the list of what not to do longer than the list of what to do? And the reality is like Nick said, that's how we learn.
Right. And I learned a lot of great lessons in, in building and operating that facility. Uh, it was a lot of fun. We had about 7,000 square feet of canopy is all deep water culture. Uh, we built our own deep water culture racks, which was one of the biggest mistakes we made was doing it that way. Um, not deep water culture.
I love deep water culture, but building our own racks. The way we did was foolish. Um, aquaponics, you know, learned a lot about fish. I'll tell you when I, my business partner and I bet. We took an aquaponics class. It was being presented by a guy named Ted universal. Ted was in charge of the, uh, fisheries association of New York state, which is where we were at the time.
And at the end of the class, my, my then business partner, Scott Fante says, Hey, let's help him pack up his goods, his truck, and his, all his materials. Cause he'll talk to us some more and we'll be able to pick his brain somewhere. I was like, that's a great idea. So we're helping Ted pack up the truck. Ted turns to.
Just as he's about to get in the truck and ride off into the sunset. And he says, boys, remember this fish punish us by. And he gets in the truck and drives away and, and, and, you know, the thing is, is that not only to fish, I always think about Nelly, do fish, punish us by dying plants, punish us by getting sick, you know, and that's something that, that has really resonated and, you know, learned a lot about when I set up my own farm.
But like you said, you know, it, it gave me that that hands-on experience. It's, it's definitely a different experience when you're working with clients or customers or whomever now who are trying to get into this regardless of crop type. And you've actually. Done it you've actually seated and you've actually harvested.
And you've actually dealt with the variables being out of whack on a day-to-day basis in your environment, you know, in these types of things. Right. So did you come from a farming background or how did you get involved in food production? No. So I always say that's, uh, that's about the time I had a break with reality.
Uh, so I had been in the restaurant business my whole life. It was all I ever knew. I mean, literally like 12, 13 years old, I was, I was washing dishes and. And I love good service and I love good food and I love the environment and I love the sort of atmosphere of being in that area. And I went to college for it right out of high school.
Went to little tiny private school in upstate New York called Paul Smith college. Uh, went for hotel restaurant management, get out of there. Worked at restaurants. So anyway, um, what I was watching in that restaurant world, especially because I gravitated more towards the culinary side, was this shift in consumer preference from, Hey, you know, this lettuce on the plate is fine.
Let me, let me eat this. No problem to, Hey, where did this come from? Is it organic? You know, how are the farmers traded? I mean, really this broad expanse of questioning of, of food source and, and for whatever reason it was starting in the salad course, it was not starting in the meat course. And so when I then got exposed to aquaponics, I was actually, I'd gone back to school.
I decided to go back to school. I was going nights and weekends got an undergrad, uh, and then went into graduate. Well, I was in graduate school is when I was exposed to this idea of aquaponics. I had always had a love for these types of like, you know, an interest in, in cultivation and growing and sort of a green thumb, uh, as a hobbyist, let's say, and then, um, was exposed to this aquaponic idea and I thought, well, I know there's this shit.
On the product side. So I know I can sell this product and, and I saw it more as a retail wholesale play, taking the freight out of the equation to reduce the cost of, of, of getting it to the, to the end user. Um, and then I reconnected with a buddy who was actually from Paul Smith, years and years prior.
He was an engineer. And he was running a side hustle business where he was a breeding freshwater, ornamental fish for sale to the pet industry. And so he was an engineer who understood wastewater by trade and also understood fishery. And so we came together and formed DaVita. And the funny thing is, is that I, my senior year, my senior year, I guess just my last year of grad school, I guess they don't call you.
My last year of grad school, I had a capstone course that I had to do where you had to do a financial plan for a business and a business plan, all these things, and then defend it. And so I wrote it based on this fictional farm called Aquafina. This fictional indoor aquaponic farm. And I bring it into the classroom on the first day of school.
And I said to the teacher who I knew, well, I said, uh, Dr. Castiel I've, I've done the project. Do I need to come to your class? And she says, well, first of all, of course you needed to come to my class. Secondly, you didn't read the syllabus cause it's a group project. And so, uh, long story short, she and the Dean got together.
They decided to let me pursue it as an independent project. And in grad school with the caveat that I shop in front of three banks. Now, I, there was to get the experience. Now, the thing is, is that I had actually shot. For funds in front of banks and investors in the past. Cause I had owned two other businesses in the restaurant space.
So I was already familiar with that process. Right. Which is largely a process of being told no, uh, sometimes in a somewhat brutal and rude way and getting back up, dusting yourself off and going back for more nos. And so I was like, no problem. I got this. Well, by the time I get through the class, You know, I'm meeting with people who are growing in greenhouses, people who are growing fish.
So you'd be surprised at the amount of indoor fish farming that's going on in upstate New York. Um, maybe you guys wouldn't, but I think a lot of people would. And so I'm meeting with anybody that talked to me, SUNY Coldwell scale, you know, Cornell, uh, you know, all these great ag schools that exist in upstate New York where I wasn't anybody.
Who would share 5, 10, 15 minutes with me. And a lot of people shared way more than that, by the way, they're very generous with their time. And so by the time I was, you know, now at the end of this course, and I'm shopping this, uh, business. I was all in on it, right. I'd already invested a lot of my own money into the project and was continuing to invest cash into the project in anticipation of getting a funding from a bank, which eventually happened.
And then we were off to the races and, uh, we were in the old, uh, old Oneida silverware factory in upstate New York and Cheryl New York. Yeah. So what has been one of the hardest challenges, uh, for, for the. Well, I mean, so, you know, Algovita, we operated opera Vieta for, for three years. Um, and I say we, because it was myself and my business partner, Scott, and then about 18 months in, and we took on outside investment, what I would consider like an angel investor.
And so, you know, we're running an aquaponic system. The first thing was that aquaponics. Makes an already difficult thing, way more difficult than it was worth. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, you are trying to keep two very disparate things alive, simultaneously systems that are coupled together. Correct. They are, they are, and they are.
I mean, so the thing is, is that it's doable, but it's, it's wildly expensive to do it. Right. You know? So like when we first took over the building, initially I was supposed to take 14,000. Um, and, and then there was a building strapped to it. There was another 6,000 square feet. There was elevated by a four or five foot grade.
I was supposed to take both as I got into it, as so often happens on these projects. I realized, oh, I don't have enough money. So I'm just going to move the fish tanks. Instead of having them in the separate side of the building, that's completely controlled differently. I'm going to move them into where the plants are, right.
That rate. Is enough to be a catastrophic error. But the funny thing is, is that, you know, since then, so pardon me, we operated the business until 2013. Shut that down. I then did some consulting with various groups that were primarily in the cannabis side of things. Although we did do some non-cannabis consulting, uh, and then for the last five and a half years, I've worked with urban grow.
Yeah, I've done hundreds of, of CA projects primarily in the cannabis side, right? Where they're spending 3 54, 350 to $450 a square foot to build these indoor grows out. The funny thing is I still make them, I still see people making the same mistakes that I made over a decade ago with aggravated farms.
That example of, okay, I don't have enough money. Let me value engineer. This, this operation really early in the design build phase. That still goes on. Right, but to the tune of much greater costs and losses. Uh, so, you know, one of the things that I've tried to do is take, Hey, I had this hands on experience.
We did make a lot of mistakes, um, but learned a lot of great lessons. And then, you know, now having worked with hundreds of companies in the space building really high-tech indoor farms, uh, you know, and I always kind of encouraged people, you know, Take the product out of it, right? Because when we're talking about light nutrients, water, CO2, uh, you know, uh, controlled environments, things like that, plants are plants, right.
They all more or less want the same thing just in different, different dosages. Yeah, but that's an interesting thing that we should go back to just for a second. So, so whether your practical experience, you know, hands-on, and this is where, um, we've seen a lot, Nick and I both, you know, in our work and I know you and your work, I've seen this a lot, that there's a, a certain theater.
Uh, component to it where people, you know, say, well, you know, we, all you have to do is set up the equipment to do X, Y, and Z, but they, they, they neglect. Or they, they take out the economic that inter interesting intersection of technology and economics and, and, you know, we always, you know, be, be, try to beat into people's heads that this is farming.
And so you're using the best technologies that you can. To produce certain results. And part of those results are not only obviously quality, consistency, et cetera, but also economic return. So, so, you know, the, the, the throwing more money at it. And I know you see this in the cannabis space all the time is throwing a lot of money at something it's not necessarily going to be giving you the best results.
So, so can you tell us a little bit about some of the times when you were really looking at that, um, uh, you know, the desire on an owner or operator. To use a certain technology that because maybe they're emotionally attached to it, or they think that the higher level or more expensive technology works, but they're not looking at the economics.
And how do you kind of reel people back to reality to say, well, you know, low technology, it may be not necessarily providing the right economic returns, but maybe high technology is not as well. So how do you kind of bring that realism back to this. Yeah, it's a, it's a great question. I think one of the areas where you see it a lot is on lighting, especially, especially, you know, a couple of years ago, there's been a massive shift in the last, I'd say less than 12 months, maybe, maybe not six to nine months, even where people now just about every project you see now is.
All right. And the only time I think there's a real argument for HPS is integrating house where you don't have to have that much additional supplemental lighting, right. Or it's kind of minimal, and maybe it's even more of a photo period trick than, than anything else. Um, but you know, there was a point in time when clients would come in and say, I want this light because it grows the best crop, which is patently false.
Right. It is not true. I, you know, the thing is, is that it might be more efficient, right? The, the reflector. So like PLA PLA builds the best, in my opinion, best hands down, HBS in the market. Right. And it's. If the reflecting technology, right. And they defend that really heavily, which they should. So if you're comparing a PL to a knockoff in overseas knockoff, yes, the PL is going to be more efficient, but if you put the same ball in it, it's, it's more or less the same amount of light.
And therefore the plant is going to grow the same. The spectrum is the same, these types of things. So you had this. Dislike experiential. You know, I grew under this. I went from using product a to product B and when I went to product B things got better. Therefore B is the best. And there's this, this whole educational piece that has to take place of saying, well, you were using a, which was an inefficient, single ended.
You went to be, which was a very efficient, double ended, like compared to a, and that is why things got better. It wasn't magic. Right? It's it's there's science and engineering behind what happened here. And then if we go to see let's call that led, now we have that same educational. Right. And it's, and it's really only now that I'm seeing where most people are like yeah.
Led is what makes the most sense for us, but, you know, uh, I mean, we see it in nutrients too. And I think that, you know, it's interesting because like I said, when I was investigating and vetting and training, Okay. What would become Aqua farms? I, I met with people that were growing tomatoes and growing cucumbers and growing flowers and growing, uh, lettuces and growing all kinds of things.
And you know, anything from, you know, like a hoop house to more sophisticated greenhouse operations. And they were super stingy with their neutral. Super stingy, like recycling them, right? Re cutting, um, you know, doing all kinds of things to not waste that salt. And, you know, then in the cannabis side, we see where a lot of growers want to start from a blank slate.
Every, every irrigation run, they want just our water, every irrigation run. And so. As things scale. Right? It's one thing I remember the first time I walked into a large-scale greenhouse was in Pennsylvania. It was a company that had like 20 acres under glass. And, uh, they were growing tomatoes, organic tomatoes and soil.
And maybe it wasn't even 20 acres. Maybe it was 10 to me it's it could have been a billion acres. It seemed massive. Like it just went on forever. Now I've since seen much larger houses, uh, in Holland actually. But the thing is, is. Um, you know, as you scales, like on the cannabis side, I remember when 10,000 square feet of canopy was mad.
Yeah, right. And, and even today we've got customers that are like 250,000 square feet of canopy. Uh, and that's pretty damn big, especially when you're talking about an indoor facility, like it's pretty big. Um, but eventually you're going to see more on the scale of 10, 20, 30 acre houses that are, that are growing this, this product as things change, you have to be able to scale, uh, and understand that.
So, you know, it's the, the business side of it has to catch up with the cultivation side. I think it's a big part of it. Yeah. So what is your preference? Is it, is it HPS or led if you're doing a boutique, a farm led and wants high-end malleability? Yeah. So the thing is, is that if you get it, you know, Mo there's a lot of LEDs now that will compete on the efficiency.
Where I look at them is how long has the company been in business and who are they backed by? So you've got certain companies that have been in business for greater than five years. They're backed by large multi-billion dollar corporations. I like that because it means that their warranty has some.
Right. If you've got a company that offers you a five-year warranty and they've been in business for nine months, what good is the warranty that's longer than their track record? So, you know, I look at things like that, but that's not to say, I mean, there's great companies that are up and coming that are very, very young, but they're there, they're looking promising.
Right? They're looking very promising. The thing about the led argument though, is, is that for any crop, uh, and I'm sure you guys can, can echo this right. There is a genetic threshold. For that crop, right? Like, like Bazell for instance, right. It looks like Nick has as a Bazell behind him in that, in that, uh, and if run and you know, that Bazell is going to have a genetic limitation.
So when we were farming Bazell we used to let it go for, you know, until, uh, you know, somewhat young maturity and then we'd come. Uh, at the Lord knows, and then we'd harvest that. We'd package that and sell it as, you know, young Bazell and pound packages to restaurants. And then seven days later it would have re it would have come back and we were able to cut it again.
And then seven days after that, we were actually able to cut it again. Anything more than three or four cuts and it would, it would flower, it would try to seed it, you know, it would, it would not bull that's more of a lettuce term. Right. But you know, it w it would react in a, in a unfavorable way to what we're doing with the stress would try to regenerate because it's like, oh, somebody is trying to kill me.
And so. And so, you know, w uh, you know, when we're, when we're looking at that, um, you know, and this, this sort of efficiency, right? I think the efficiency of the, of the LEDs needs to be looked at from a point of view of the HVAC loading as well. When we're talking about. Right. The, the, the HVAC loading is, is such a massive thing.
And where I see people oftentimes on these jobs is they sacrifice cap CapEx, or excuse me, they preserve CapEx to sacrifice op ex and they don't even realize that that's what they're doing. Right. They go into the project and they say, well, we're going to use led because we saw photos. Let's say photos, right.
Folks doing a great job with their advertising right now. It looks like a very good product, but we're going to use photos like. And then halfway through the project, they go, ah, you know what? We can't afford those things. Therefore X the cost of an HPS, just give me those HPS lights. What they've done is they've shifted the cap CapEx over to the op ex of HVAC and running the facility on a day-to-day basis.
And so then that cost per unit of production goes up and, and that's where you see a lot of people sort of miss the boat now back to the genetic limitations. Right? So. With cannabis, we just keep giving the plant more light, more CO2, more nutrients, more water, uh, and, and tweaking the temporality of humidity, VPD situation.
Right. And so we're constantly pushing that threshold. So whereas people, you know, 45. 55 grams of square foot on a continuous basis was, was considered doing pretty well. Now people are pushing that, that number higher because they're applying more photons, right. A more intense light. And so at some point, and this is what I'm really curious about.
There is a threshold that will be met, where you can keep giving more light, more CO2, more outward or whatever, and you're not going to get more plan. Or you're not going to get a higher quality of plant. Right. And so that's the thing that I think is really interesting right now, especially on the led, because it's, it's with the led technology that we're able to really start to push a thousand, 1500 PPFD.
And of course, you've got companies out there that are claiming some pretty ludicrous. I mean, I thought we, we all like to play around on LinkedIn and get into things on LinkedIn. Right. But I saw one post a year ago where they were like, we're getting 5,000 PPF thousand. Paki you are like, no, no, no.
Because cause fluence actually, when they do a design typically, and I've sold a lot of fluids when they do a design, it's usually like a thousand to 1200 PPFD that's usually their target. And I think kind led is, is higher than that. Yeah. I mean, I think they're, they're claiming I think anybody can be right.
I mean, it's, it's like you, can, you just put more lights in a space, right? Like, like right now, you know, I'm down in my basement, I'm working from the basement here. Right. And I've got two little light bulbs, uh, up above me if. Two more light bulbs. I'd have more light, right? If I added four more light bulbs, guess what?
I'd have more light. Right? I mean, so the more light bulbs and bars and stuff, you pack into a space, the more light you get. I mean, also too, where a lot of these companies are not completing. I think the conversation is they're saying yeah, more light and you know, more light equals more yield, more plant matter.
What have you? Yeah. All true. But it's more water. You need more Watts to create more light. That's just the way it works. And so if you have more wattage, you have more heat. And if you have more, uh, intense PPFD in plants, you have more transpiration. Right? And so now if I'm using more wattage, more. I increased transportation and now I may need increased dehumidification.
Right? So my sensible and latent load has, has increased through this increased metric called more light. Right. Which means now I have a higher HVAC loading calculation than I did with the alternative. And so that's where I'm saying, where's the break even on that, right. Is, is where does it stop? Making sense to keep applying more, uh, inputs to a certain, uh, genetic or.
Yeah. And that's, and that's an interesting point to what mark was saying is, is that, um, you know, people tended to, and we've, we've seen these, uh, on social media, especially the arguments that, you know, adding an input is going to produce a certain result in your crop. And, you know, that's that, and it's like, no, There's a very complex set of interrelations with everything going on, so, okay.
You want to add more light? Okay. Well, first of all, there's a cost to that. Um, but then that's an economic cost, but then all of a sudden, now you're adjusting all of your other environmental, uh, everything from irrigation, nutritional content, your BPD, your temperature. Everything else. And, and, and to also mark point of, especially in the indoor space now, you're, you're talking about a cooling and a dehumidification load that completely the metrics can change pretty dramatically.
So, so to everyone out there, when you're, when you're online, when you're in social media platforms and you're having these discussions, or you're reading these discussions, especially when you're trying to educate yourself, I see this all the time and people always ask me, you know, how do, how, how do you.
Kind of weed through all the information. And a lot of these discussions are really helpful, but you know, listening to someone like Barack, who who's, who's been doing. There's a lot of moving parts and everything is connected in an aquaponic system. Of course, obviously your, your, your CRE you know, connecting two very different ecosystems.
Well, even in an indoor grow or a greenhouse grow, um, all of your environmental and nutritional and plant genetics are. Interconnected and when you start changing variables, um, so that's an excellent point. You know, I always go back to listen to what he had said and when he talks about, you know, increasing the light, okay, we can increase the light, but there are consequences, good and bad and about and adjustments that you need to make.
And it's interesting to see how, you know, pushing that and correctly. Um, responding to the changes in the plant to our environment and to our nutrition and irrigation. Now, how, how is that, you know, pushing our growth and our economics and we, yeah. Where is that tipping point? That threshold, that law of diminishing returns.
We, I was just working with a grower on their CO2 supplementation, and we were looking very, very closely at, you know, once we got above 900. PPM. And a lot of people, especially in the indoor grows, like to really crank it up. But we started to really do a deep analysis of the costs, um, to doing that. And we found that once we can, you know, go nine 50.
That's about it. And then we're, we're getting diminishing returns and the economics suddenly change. So, so those are really important parts. And obviously, mark, um, as you made that transition to the cannabis and started looking really at the indoor grows where you are controlling a lot more of the variables, that, that must've been quite a, a learning experience for you.
Yeah. I mean, I, one of the things I really have been lucky to be part of and, and, you know, when I was setting up vaquita and we were doing lettuce Bazell and things like that, it became obvious pretty quickly to me, that one, I was way under capitalized for what I was trying to bite off. Right. Um, you know, and just to give people an idea of, and I'm an open book on this.
It doesn't matter to me if people know this, I've said it before in public, I put in two 50 and an investor put in two 50 and, and, you know, part of that was money. I had leveraged from a traditional lending institution. And so, you know, for 500 K we could not turn the corner on profitability once we got up and running and, you know, we were so the, the, the S the stool that we had built had three legs.
And so, you know, when one got knocked out from under us, Fell on our faces. And what ended up happening was we ended up getting PJ fits. And, and so the crazy thing was is we actually, we were asked to take part in the New York state fair, which if you're from New York, especially upstate, that's a big deal.
Right? The being, being at the New York state fair, especially like we were asked to be there as like a free, we didn't have to pay or anything. There was like, come, come out. We want you to be here. It was awesome. So we, we built this really elaborate booth. Fish tanks. And we had a flood and drain aquaponics systems like that.
We built, and it was just gorgeous. Well, myself and my partner, we were out of the, out of the farm for seven, eight days straight. Maybe know the fare is two weeks. So we were gone for two full weeks. We were just not there. And our head grower came to me. Uh, I think it was on a Friday and she said, I found some PJ for.
Uh, shit. I don't know if she knew there were PJ fits at the time. It took some investigation, but she said, I found some aphids, uh, in rack a section one, and I said, well, destroy the plants in that section. And when we came back in Monday morning, they were in the entire facility. Yeah. You know, because they're asexual reproducers.
And so, you know, with that, you know, we're just, we just didn't know how to handle these things, you know? And so we, you know, one of the thing with working with cannabis industry is that there's a higher risk tolerance for anybody who's in the cannabis industry. There is a higher risk tolerance for anybody who's in the farming industry, as far as I'm concerned.
Right. Uh, and, and, and you've gotta be really into hard work. But the thing is, is that there's a real high risk tolerance. If you're in the cannabis industry, Federal illegality. And so that adds another layer to things. And so those folks who are in there, one, there's a lot of cash and there's always been a lot of cash and a lot of money flowing in from an investment standpoint.
So that means you can afford the new toys and the kind of hip and slick stuff that's out there, the cutting edge. But with that high-risk tolerance, I've always thought. People in this industry have a they're they're sort of front a lot in front of the line for the new thing, you know, they're the, they're the person camping out when the iPhone 16 hits the market right there.
They're the ones that's gotta be first because they have that high risk tolerance. And so, you know, when it came to like adoption of led light, early adoption of led light, when it comes to, uh, other technologies that are out there, like some of the water reclamation stuff that we get to play with has been pretty cool.
Um, you know, because. I think that when you look at like a greenhouse where there's a, where there's a big pond outside, and there's a certain amount of what they're dumping to the big pond, right? I mean, isn't that typically how a lot of the bigger houses do it once they're done cycling that out, they go to the pond.
It's evaporating. I imagine at some point, if it gets old enough, you've got to dredge the damn thing or do something. Right. Um, but you know, with, uh, with an indoor grow 20,000 square feet of canopy, Downtown Detroit, there is no pond, right? You're not going, there's no place. So it's either you're dumping it down the drain or you're recycling and recapturing.
And one of the things that we've done a lot with is, is, uh, the DEU, right? The water coming off, the condensate coming off of the dehus and getting to play with that. And really, you know, I remember when I was working for urban girl, And we're working with a company that was supplying some filtration that was supposed to deal with this, uh, condensate.
We started using that equipment and found out pretty quickly once it was implemented, that it wasn't sufficient that, you know, the amount of condensate being generated was, was pretty great. And so you needed more robust systems that could handle a higher flow rate. Uh, and then. You know, just the, there wasn't enough UV to kill everything.
Uh, plus UV is fairly ineffective in certain cases, especially with like bacteria and stuff and anything that's like packing in on the cell or packing it on the molecule that you're trying to kill. Uh, and so just getting to play with that stuff, right? Because one, the, the, the product, the, the value of the product commanded a high enough price that, you know, people had the money to enter.
And on the sort of these sort of new toys. Whereas when I reflect back on my experience with Aqua Vita, um, we didn't have them. We're so damn bootstrapped. We didn't have the money to invest in high tech stuff or toys or, or even help and solutions. And it didn't really exist back in 20 10, 20 11, the way it does today.
Right. We've all learned these things. But again, if the, if the service had been there, we have paid for it. Uh, and so it was a very different shift coming over to a product that is of such a high value. Yeah. So you've got to really work, especially with the work with urban grow and, and more recently, um, a lot of interesting technologies.
I understand you're working on some very interesting and innovative ventilation technologies, air movement. Yeah. Yeah. It's, it's pretty cool. So, uh, back in October of last year, I get a call from a gentleman who his name is Vern Davis, and he's a, he's a good friend and he is a, is a recruiter. Uh, for Protus global, which they focus on a lot of different, a lot of different sectors, but very, very accomplished guy, good friend.
And so he calls me up and he says, Hey, I've got a friend who introduced me to some guys that came up with this technology it's for growing plants. I know, that's your thing. I think it'd be great. Could you talk to them, blah, blah, blah. So he sets up the call. These gentlemen essentially explained to me.
They have come up with a way to deal with microclimates and drainage issues and vertical racking systems now microclimates and drainage issues and vertical racking systems. Besides ergonomics, the number one and two issues. Right? My, in my opinion, it's ergonomics first, right? The ergonomics of them suck.
Uh, so are going to omics issue. Take that out. I can't solve that problem for you yet. Uh, the, the microclimate and the drainage. Now, why is the microclimate drainage really an issue? Well, because you spend all this money to go. Right. And there's a significant increased cost per square foot of canopy to go vertical or horizontal.
And the thing is you spend all this extra cost per square foot to go vertical only to have your yield quality, consistency and healthier crop diminished because of microclimates drainage is gag. Right? You can't, you can't manage it. Right. So, so what they did was these guys, uh, IHS, the integrated hydro solutions, they come up with the dual drafts.
So the dual draft is where they take and they book. Uh, Trey and abs you'd be treated tray that fits any standard rack, um, and, and obviously remove the existing trace. And so that goes in and inside sandwich inside of that is a dock system. That duct system is capable of. Up through the canopy and down onto the canvas.
Okay. So it's going up and down. So it's doing under canopy flow and over canopy flow simultaneously. And so we bring in the air much, like you see those ducks systems that already exist that are already on the market. Hold it into the tray, like a plastic molded. Correct. Yeah, everything's, everything's, it's all what it all snaps together in the field, but it's, it's one unit.
And so what it's doing, and you can go to duel, draft.ag.aig, uh, there, that that's gonna take you to, uh, to, uh, information on it. But what happens is you're bringing in that air. And so it's vertical. These rack systems, you're bringing that. And we use oversized shrouds on the equipment in order to, uh, not restrict the 1350 CFM fan from that fan, it goes into a box and, uh, anybody who's worked in these vertical systems has probably seen these out there before, but the difference is, and what these guys came up with their engineers, as they said, well, the 90 degree angle on most of these fan boxes that actually creates so much turbulence because the fan is so strong that the first four to six feet are sucking air.
And instead of blowing air out on it, Right. And so what they said was, if you just put a curve to this, to this box then, and guide that air, now you don't have that turbulence. And now you're blowing air where you're supposed to blow air. You're not sucking up. That's the first thing. Second thing is once it hits that doctor on, in that 30, 40, 50, 60, a hundred foot long bench run or rack run.
Now you've got that under canopy and over canopy airflow. Now there's a lot of alternatives out there that will offer the over canopy. But if you look at a lot of these vertical systems, so many people have tried to basically take like those four inch duck socks and strap them into like a, like a stove pipe, and then put a canned fan on the stove, pipe and blow air, right under the canopy.
Well, this at two meters, a second is, is really moving some air. And in fact, you know, if you go to my, my LinkedIn, you know, you'll see a lot of, I've put a video and I put up pictures and stuff recently, I've been posting all about it. Cause I'm so excited about this product that under canopy air flow is the game changer for vertical.
It, it really is a big game changer. And you know what w where I saw it first, the under canopy. It was when I was in, uh, Holland for green tech, couple of years ago, I S I saw the Kubo alter Klima. And you guys know the Kubo, right? I mean, we're talking, you're not even talking about a Cadillac of greenhouses.
I mean, you're talking about like a NASA spaceship of greatest model altogether. Yeah. It's a whole different beast, right. But everything's under bench. Yep. All the air is delivered under bench and you're moving. Vertically. Uh, I'm I, you know, I got, I remember back way back and dating myself when John bar talk really started bringing horizontal airflow into the industry, you know, back in the eighties and people thought he was crazy.
And, you know, I mean, it became the, really the industry standard. There was so much, but especially as we moved into higher densities and then we moved indoors. Understanding air movement, air flow, as it relates to horticulture is, uh, quite different. And I noticed so many people and I know you have, I'm sure seen a lot of that.
Yourself is a lot of people designing these indoor groves had no idea and understanding of real air movement, especially as it relates to horticulture and, and, and eliminating, or, or dealing with microclimate, driving transpiration by getting the air movement. That really is, it sounds a lot like a, um, you know, one of the, one of the game-changing technologies for, for indoor growing, for sure.
Yeah. I think, and you know, back again, going back to the earlier part of the conversation. When I started out graffiti farms, we built a racked system, we built it, you know, we stick built it, which was a huge mistake, but we'd seen somebody else do that. We thought it was a good idea. Learned a lot of lessons, but the point being that when I was up on the scaffold, uh, trying to harvest or trying to put out, you know, my IPM and I'm putting good bugs out, trying to combat some issues in there, it was noticeably hotter on the second level than it was on the first level.
Right. You walk into grows now that are $450 a square foot. Right. $20 million cultivation facility go up on the second level. It's hotter on the second level than it is in the first level. That is infuriating to me. It really is. Right. Like, um, you know, because, you know, especially now with this tech tech, there's a solution, right.
We're able to fully homogenize that environment. We're able to eliminate those microclimates and then the drainage issue. Right? I mean, I just about any vertical grow, you go. When they're using the typical trays on the racks. And, and again, you know, so much of what we've done is to take equipment and tack that was built for some other purpose.
And use it for our own purposes. Right? So these great companies and they're all great Montel and PIP and, and, and IgE, right. Uh, Chris Mayer would IgE. They're all building great equipment. It wasn't necessarily purposeful. Right. So, you know, when we take a rack that was built to hold the. Books at the library, or it was built to store other things on and create this space.
When we take that and we put a metal mesh on it and then a standard, a horticultural tray, we get sagging in it. And so you've got a plant that, you know, 1.2 feet away from it. There's another plant and, and one will be sitting in water and have wet feet all day long. And the other one does the proper dry back after an irrigation site.
And, and it's just because of the sagging and shifting that goes on. And it's also because of the level nature of the, you can't, you can't slope them the way you kind of singled Tierra, right. A single tear rolling bench. So, you know, this solves for that as well as that drainage issue. So I just saw, you know, I got hooked up with these guys again, thanks to Vernon Davis.
Uh, a protist global he's he's the man. He saw something and he hooked us up. I started working with them. We brought in a prototype, uh, did the R and D brought it, brought it to market with them. And, uh, you know, I continued to work with them. Our first public appearance was Nikkei and the other week it'll be at MJ biz con, we have a booth set up at MJ biz con, um, actually right next to the urban girl booth.
And, uh, yeah, it's just really exciting. I mean, The minute I saw it. I was like, that is a better mouse trap. That is something that is something that will change. And when we run the numbers on it for cannabis, if you increase your yield by 2%, it pays back in nine months, which is again, The economics of it makes sense too, which is pretty exciting.
Yeah. And you're, and you're managing your quality or consistency so much better. Hey. Yeah. And usually in the cannabis industry, the lower buds, I mean, sometimes you're throwing away half them because you know, they didn't get that, that right air move. Yeah. I mean, it improves overall the consistency pretty dramatically.
I mean, we're already seeing it. We've got a facility in California where we did 5,000 square foot install with them. And then they've got about another 5,000 square feet that has an alternative solution in the building. And, uh, the, the improved consistency is, is pretty immediately noticed. Yeah. Wow.
That's the duel draft. Yeah. Cool. So, um, so tell us a little bit about what you're doing now and what do you, what do you see pull out your crystal ball a little bit. Let's talk about, uh, what's coming down the road. Yeah. So I mean, w well, right now, I mean, I'm just working with, uh, various, uh, groups in the space, you know, more is, uh, I don't necessarily like the word consultant.
You know, the funny thing is, is that. I screwed up so badly when I built Aqua Bita farms. That that's what gave me the ability to become a consultant afterwards for three years. Right. I mean, you know, that's, that's just me being honest. Right. I, the only thing I had to offer was lessons learned at the time now, I think, you know, I'm a little bit more knowledgeable about things, but, you know, so I'm working with various groups on business development efforts and, uh, you know, working with a group that's looking to fund.
Um, uh, fund groups and that's early stages, you know, so I was with urban girl for five and a half years, uh, just recently, uh, you know, parted ways with them and, you know, very amicably. I love that company. I, I, you know, help build it. I have a lot of pride in what's built and they're phenomenal company. And, um, we'll continue to work very closely with.
Uh, going forward, you know, but now, you know, I'm just really, I'm itching to help cultivators. It's just something that's been dying at me. I've, I've worked with so many growers and, you know, here's a great example. I was at kneecap the other, the other day, the north Northeast cannabis conference and a general.
Comes over to the booth and we get speaking and he's telling me that he's going to set up a canvas cultivation facility in Massachusetts. And I start, uh, giving him, you know, some, some thoughts on things that he wants to consider. You know, he had the, the cart before the horse and how he was going to set the place up.
And so I was trying to explain to him, we have to do a before B before C and here's why, and, and if you don't, here's some of the things that can happen to you and he looks at me and he says, That's not going to happen to me. And he walks away. Right. And I thought to myself, I don't know you, sir, but 350 projects deep.
The law of averages tell, tells me it's absolutely going to happen to you. And the law of averages tells me you're not even going to get. Like that's the reality. So like, if I want to be a jerk about it, that's the reality. Right. And so I get to this point where it's just like, after watching cultivators, like I said earlier, right.
I walk into grows that are $20 million grows that they made the same mistake when I. Uh, an aquaponic farm in an old silverware factory. Yeah. A decade ago, a decade, like, come on, we don't need to make these mistakes. So, so I want to work with cultivators who, you know, want to win and they want to win at the, the indoor controlled environment at game indoor is really my passion.
Right. And I know you guys have tons of experience with greenhouses. I have. You know, compared to you guys, I've got nothing. I've, I've done a few greenhouses, very, very minimal I've I've seen more greenhouses than I've worked on, to be honest with you. Um, but indoor is really my niche. And so, you know, that's, but I personally think knowing indoor.
Is actually a lot harder than then greenhouse growing because you, you got the sun, you got other aspects of, of nature that you can bring into the greenhouse. You can't do that indoors. Yeah. I agree with Nick. I mean, but I do, and I don't go mainly because I don't know it. Like, I look at it. Dude, what, what would you do if your shade cloth broke?
Like, what would you do? Like, how would you deal with that? Like on a big house? Like, how would you deal with, with like, there's so many moving parts in a greenhouse that scare the hell out of me, like shade, cloth and, and blackout curtains and, and, you know, the events like the whole, like pat and fandom event, louver system.
And like, when I hear, I remember one of the first cannabis greenhouses I walked into was down in Southern Colorado. And there was a whole section on one of the houses that was, the plants were just desperate. On the top only. And I was like, what happened? And they said, oh, uh, our events got stuck open and it got, it froze last night.
And it froze the top of the plants. Like, I'm just like, oh my God, what you even deal with that? It's good, you know, but, but I love it. And the thing is that I'm just really called right now to work with, with cultivators and to work with groups that want to improve the controlled environment X space. So that's what I'm doing.
And I'm working with the guys at duel draft, um, you know, making sure that the product launches well and, and that sells in well and gets installed well. And just all things are good. Yeah. Uh, with them, uh, you know, like I said, we're working with a couple of people in the investment space and, you know, just talking to talking to their growers and anybody who, you know, wants some help or could use some help on either setting up a project or, or anything like that.
And I'm totally available. Uh, and there's, you know, some, some interesting irons in the fire. That I can't say too much about yet, but you know, people that follow me online know that I'm, I'm pretty, I'm pretty vocal when, when I get, uh, something fun to talk about. But, uh, you know, as far as the silver ball, I think that, you know, the big race right now is in controlled environment.
Ag and indoor is how the hell do you get lettuce and basil and things like that to be profitable. I think that's the, that's the big race, right? Um, I think that when you look at. Greenhouses and you guys didn't know this, a leper and I, um, I don't think it's necessarily wildly profitable, right? Like I don't, you know what I mean?
I don't think it's, uh, it's not cannabis. Right. And that's obvious when you talk about a practice three or four or five bucks. Yeah. You know, to a product that's three, four, $5,000 a pound. I mean, it's not even apples to, to rutabagas, you know, and the thing is, is that, you know, I think that these companies have to look at, you know, biodiversity in the case of you've got your lettuce production.
And then how about, you know, your strawberry production and you've got your, whatever production I made this video that I thought was funny. It didn't get a lot of traction. Where I suggested why aren't people growing point study is vertical farm systems, right? Like the process of growing up point, Sadie, I mean, most, most greenhouse guys that I talked to, Hey, growing up and, you know, they they're like, so wouldn't it be easier if you just put it into an automated building and came back, uh, you know, on November 1st and unloaded your point studies into a truck.
So, you know, and maybe that's crazy, but I think. These companies that are going to be successful, uh, are asking those questions. What is the next product? And, you know, there's so much R and D I, I think that the more you can accelerate the R and D relationship with, um, with universities, the better.
Everybody is that's, that's kind of the way the world works, right. Or at least the world we live in here in the U S which is, you know, we're blessed to have this, but you know, we've got these great universities like Cornell and I'm impartial, not impartial, whatever. I I'm biased because I'm from upstate New York.
Uh, so Cornell was a big deal, right? Yeah. People went to Cornell. Didn't matter what they were taking there. They were considered like, you know, whoa, you're a genius. You, you go to Cornell. And so I always have that reverence for it, but the ag school is phenomenal. And so, so, you know, when you've got groups like that working w you know, with these others, and I think that, you know, at some point too, with the CA world in general, and this is cannabis to tomatoes, you know, I don't care what you're growing.
Raising money is not a business. And so, you know, there comes a time when, you know, the raising of the money will stop and the making of the money we'll either start or, or we'll see a lot of companies go to the wayside. So, you know, really looking at it at that efficiency I think is, is key. Right? And, and how is our product being mixed?
And then the other piece of it, and I predicted this, I wrote a blog, uh, back when I had my consulting business and I got ripped to shreds over this. Uh, but I hold it. I was, I was not only correct. Then, then I've been proven correct now. Non-cannabis CA the lettuce and the basil and the tomatoes and the strawberries and the, you know, the bonsai trees or whatever we're going to grow.
That, that, that industry will be pushed forward by cannabis. And we'll have cannabis to thank for, for the indoor park portion of it. Think about it. LEDs, like we talked about today would not be where they. Uh, from, uh, from any, any metric, they would not be where they are, if it weren't for cannabis companies adopting them.
So, so fast and so early. So, you know, I think that if I'm a lettuce producer, I'm going to produce lettuce and produce non-campus crops. I'm really taking a hard look at companies, you know, in the. Cannabis CA space, right? The urban groves, you know, my, my former, former love, uh, urban grow, right? Like from a design build, you know, all in architectural MEP design build standpoint, you know, you want to deal with people that have built indoor farms and the 20, 30, 40 plus may not.
We built when I was with him, we did a farm up in Canada that was over $600 a square foot. Fully fully automated palletizer benching from logics. I mean all the bells and whistles, right. Um, massive batch tank system, right? Because those, those logics are flood drain palletize, Metro flooding, massive batch tanks system.
Um, crazy, just crazy. Uh, and, and. W if that, if that's what you want to be, when you grew up as the non-cannabis producer in CA, then you've got to align with people who have that experience. So I think that, you know, I've seen a lot of non-cannabis CA farms where, when I talk to the ownership group, I'm just like, so why did we make that decision?
Like w what, you know, and do we still think that was good kind of thing, because boy, we learned years ago, you don't do it that way. So what, you know, what was going on, you know, and I, um, so I think availing ourselves and being more open, you know, to is one of the things I hope for when I was kind of growing up and learning CA.
You know, when I went to meet a farmer, they weren't hiding things from me. They weren't like, oh, you can't look in that room. They, they were just an open book of sharing knowledge and wanting success for, for their, their fellows. And, and I think that, you know, in, especially. Greenhouse people I think are still like that.
But for whatever reason, the indoor people are like, oh, I invented growing plants. Don't, don't ask me how you know. And it's like, eh, you're not doing anything I haven't seen before. And maybe you would benefit from having a few more friends in the industry and not being. Well, yeah, the, the, the idea that its secret sauce yeah.
Is one, um, yeah, a real challenge. Um, and, and yeah, and, and the sharing of information, one of the things, and we've talked about this, and I know you, we you've seen this on social media as well. There, there are a lot of calls to share more information, um, by people who have. Share information or who don't have information to share.
Um, my experience with being a farmer is that, you know, farmers all work together and all share information. And so to Mark's point when you know anybody in the industry, I mean, yes, there are there proprietary technologies that you don't necessarily want people trying to, to duplicate or replicate, right.
Absolutely. But, but that openness and that sharing there, there is nothing really secretive in this industry. It's all good science and economics and engineering all rolled together. And the more we do that together is what will move the industry forward. So, um, that's, that's super valuable. Um, Margaret, obviously you have a great social media presence.
How is the best way for people to reach out? They want to contact you, ask you questions, get you to, to consult on a project or work with them once. Absolutely. So, uh, my email is pretty simple. It's just mark. Uh, mark, M a R K at Doherty, D O H E R T Y dot edgy. So it was just market dirty dot egg. And that dirty dot egg is, is, uh, my website.
Uh, it can be found on Instagram, LinkedIn, all those things. Then LinkedIn, Instagram is kind of where I'm most active, I guess. Uh, and, and enjoy, you know, especially on LinkedIn, a lot of great, uh, conversations with folks such as, as you, both of you guys, you know, uh, where we can get into different things.
And, and I love that because I love having those conversations in the public. I hate when people throw some, some nonsense in the DMZ, as they say, and the direct message and stuff, it's like, Hey, you want to have this conversation? Let's have it out in public because then it's for everybody's benefit.
Right. And that's, I think of it as you know, we're in the town square and we're debating the value of controlled environment, agricultural growth and strawberry. Let's do it in that public town square so that anybody and everybody that wants to learn or wants to jump in and challenge the thought can do so.
Right. It's a very, I think democratic way of going about things. And that's what I really liked about it. So, you know, feel free. Like I said, market dordy.ag is my email. Feel free to reach out to me there and I'm happy to connect with anybody on social platforms. That's very cool. And yeah. And that's a great place to leave it.
Is that, um, any concept, if, whether you feel that this is a good technology or this is a good technique. Yeah. We need to be able to, to air it out and discuss it. And if you can't defend what you're saying, or you can't validate what you're saying, then maybe you shouldn't be saying it with such. Vigor and aggression, and I get a lot of those dams of myself.
Um, so yeah, open debate. That's why we, that's why we put together this, uh, podcast is to talk about the industry, bring on people who are in the industry and, uh, and hash it out. And, and so we, we encouraged and, and definitely please, everybody check out mark on social media and go to his website, doherty.ag.
Um, that's, that's really bad. Thanks so much, guys. I appreciate you. I appreciate you guys having me on. I just want to say thanks so much. I appreciate it. Uh, you know, I, I'm a big fan of both of you guys and, and the one thing I just want to leave folks with, especially, you know, folks that might be entering controlled environment ag, uh, sort of as new people or investors, or they don't have that experience.
Don't undervalue the grower, the farmer, uh, all too often, I see companies and people want to enter this space and they're going to be a consumer packaged goods play or a data play. That's my favorite one. I love the data play and a lettuce wrapper as I call it. Um, you know, But at the end of the day, it's farming.
Right. It's fancy it fancy farming. Great. Yeah. We're all fancy. We're all fancy farmers. Sure. But it's farming. It's, it's sweaty, it's hot. It's uncomfortable. It's dirty. You know, you're going to probably hurt yourself on more than one occasion, like that's farming. And so, um, you know, undervaluing or not getting.
The importance of a really rockstar, solid cultivator, uh, somebody who has that experience don't make that mistake. That's what I'd like to just leave. Uh, amen. Thank you so much for work. That is the best place to leave it on. I always tell people to hit the rewind button while it hit it right here at the end.
Cause go back and listen to what mark said again. That is the truth. Um, the growing, the farming that, you know, we're growing plants and growing them to be competitive and to be able to sell profitably. And that's it. And whether it's food, cannabis, pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, you name it. There are certain principles that will never change technologies will change.
Principles will not. And I, I, I thank you for that mark, um, for that awesome point. And also for your time today and your experience, um, we're, we're thrilled to have you, you know, people like mark are the people in the industry that are making things happen and we need more of them like that. So, so thank you again and, and, uh, thank you all for spending time with us, listening to us and listening to mark and.
We look forward to more suggestions, more, uh, show topics. And, uh, we look forward to seeing you at the indoor ag con coming up pretty in less than a month now. So, uh, lots of good stuff happening in the industry. Please go check out mark and, uh, thanks very much for spending some time with us and have a great day, everyone.