Polygreens Podcast

044: Kelley Nicholson - Autogrow

September 24, 2021 Joe Swartz & Nick Greens Season 1 Episode 44
Polygreens Podcast
044: Kelley Nicholson - Autogrow
Show Notes Transcript

 Automation & Control systems for greenhouses, WAREHOUSES, and grow rooms. 

 Autogrow is your trusted provider of automation and control solutions to grow any crop and manage it from anywhere.

More about Kelley Nicholson:
Website: https://autogrow.com/

More about Joe Swartz:
Website: https://amhydro.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/HydroConsultant

More about Nick Greens:
Website: https://www.nickgreens.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/InfoGreens

Support the show

Hey everyone. Welcome to another episode of the poly greens podcast. I'm Joe Swartz from am hydro along with Nick greens and the Nick greens grow team. And today we have one of my favorite people in controlled environment. Agriculture. I've known Kelly Nicholson for a very long time. Uh, she was one of the first people that I met when I came out to the west coast to work in Humboldt county with M hydro.

And she is just an amazing wealth of knowledge and information. Uh, Kelly's the sales director technician at auto grow, but. That, that title doesn't really kind of cover everything. She really runs the gamut. She knows, everyone knows everything has done everything. If you check out some of the, uh, videos on M Hydro's, uh, YouTube page and on their website, um, there is a number of videos, Kelly running you through diagnostics on an auto grow, how to set it up, how to test your nutrient solution.

Kelly's been a guest at our. Uh, growers summits, um, in Humboldt county, many times she's taught, gosh knows how many people. So, uh, Kelly, thanks so much for spending some time with us. Oh, I'm glad to be here guys. Yeah. Thank you. That was a really nice introduction. Well, so Kelly, I mean, almost anyone in the industry who's anyone knows you, but could you tell us a little bit about your background, how you got involved in controlled environment ag and how you got to where you're at?

Yeah. So I, I came up to Humboldt county to go to college, um, to go to Humboldt state. And I fell in love with Humboldt county and I did not want to be back down to the bay area. That was where I was from. And I did not miss the hustle in the vessel and the traffic let's put it that way. I love being up and humble.

So when I graduated, I started looking for jobs and anybody who's been in Humboldt county knows that there's not a ton of jobs up here. Um, you know, in industry or whatnot, it's a pretty small town and I answered. Java, you know, a job listing for an office manager at a local management. In 2000 and I walked into American hydroponics and I got the job and I didn't know what hydroponics really was.

I had heard it mentioned in circles didn't really have any concept of it. And, um, within about, oh, I would say three or four months, I was on the phone with all the customers, taking all the orders and I just loved it. I loved the team. And about a year later, I went to the previous owner, Michael Christian, and, uh, with all the goal of the 24 year old and said, I need my.

I need to hire somebody else to be the office manager. And I want to be your wholesale sales person. And he said, okay, which was awesome. And, um, I started traveling in 2001 visiting hydro shops all over the country. Um, at the time there were three women who did that in the whole, in the whole United States.

Uh, It was very fun to be able to go and see all these places I had never been. And to go into all these hydro shops and talk to all these guys who run the, who ran the stores. And, um, for lots of them, what was really funny, I was the only girl that they'd seen in months come into the store. You know, I was ready to say, it's very male dominated industry.

Right. And especially in oh 1 0 2 0 3 back then. Yeah. And so I remember going into one store and I asked him if I could use the restroom and they kind of looked at me and they said, we use the women's restroom for store. 'cause no, they didn't need it for women, which was so funny. So I taught myself to stop at McDonald's or burger king before I would get to a store, use the restroom.

I never had the count on it. Um, but it was such a fun industry and I loved it. And I got super involved in the trade shows that we have a high park, the hydroponic merchants association back in the day. Um, I actually served on the board of directors with. When I was really young and it was really fun.

And we had such a small, tight knit group of us that were in the hydro industry, um, a few years into working for American hydroponics. I really got into the auto grow line of products. American hydroponics was the sole distributor of auto grow in north America and the gadgets, you know, the technology just all like automating the whole grill.

That was really what I thought was super cool. Um, So I worked for American hydroponics for 14 years and for probably oh four, till 2014, I was they'd called me IntelliJ Kelly. Cause we have the intellidose and the Intella climate. And I think may, I can't remember if it was Eric or Don, did he ever Michael or who started the IntelliJ Kelly thing, but yeah, I'm in 2014, you know, I done 14 years at American hydroponics.

I loved it, but I was kind of ready for something new and. Talk to auto grow and kind of the rest is history. I started auto grow America, and now I've been working for Autogrow for seven years. But the cool thing is I stayed in the industry. I'm still working with all the same growers. I work with American hydroponics growers all the time.

Um, so that was so cool. And, um, yeah, I've got to be here from this little tiny industry to what we are now, which is significantly bigger, 35,000 people at MJ biz. I mean, if we could get 500 people at a hydroponic show back in like, oh 3 0 4, but we were floored, you know, so huge growth, but yeah, that's my background.

That's how it all. So auto bro being an Australian company, New Zealand, I'm sorry. Whoops. Sorry about that. Um, you know, really Kelly is north America for hydro, uh, for, for auto grow. I mean, I had never even heard of auto grow or early on in my career in Intel. Kelly really was bringing that out. So you really opened up a lot of new territory, both in terms of, you know, physical, um, territory for, for sales, but also for bringing growers on board.

With using that technology. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it's, you know, the company being based out of Auckland, New Zealand, which, you know, is just a beautiful place and everybody's amazing. It's hard to get a reach. You know, it's really hard to get a reach out of that. Um, you know, they can't just send people all over the world trying to sell things.

So working with American hydroponic. They started in 1996. And that was a huge, um, strategic move that Jeff and Michael progress was it, the flower industry that Autogrow was really focused on in the beginning was there, was it always Canada? Uh, leafy greens, leafy greens. Um, the start of auto grow, uh, is Jeff broad was a technology teacher at the university of Oakland and he taught tech and he had a little, little mini NFT garden in his backyard and he was constantly addressing the.

Like every morning before work and every morning after work. And so he was like this, there has to be a better way to do this and came up with the first little pH mini doser. Right. And then he was like, well, we can do this for nutrients too. So he came up with an EEC when he dose, or some of his friends started hearing about it, telling some of the farmers in that area about it.

We would love to have one of those little machines and that's the birth of auto grill then started adding in greenhouse controls. Didn't controls, things like that. Um, but Michael Christian who owned American hydroponics, went down to New Zealand to learn about hydroponic. Um, there's some background there because where, you know, American hydroponics started in the eighties, kind of the market that they were working in.

Um, they wanted to expand into more food production. And so Michael went down and learned from the best, I mean, the Greenville stockers that, you know, and, and, you know, Lynne Morgan and all these, you know, people were down there and he was learning about it and he met Jeff broad. And so him and Jeff, you know, Michael brought auto grow to the.

And, um, what's really cool is that one of the first systems that we sold in 96 in Southern California is still running with an old neutral dose, old nature does it's still up and running. Um, yeah. And so, you know, that kind of brought auto grow to north America and utilizing American hydroponics distribution chains.

And then, you know, putting me in. Car and having me drive all over the country and talking about these things, you know, really kind of got the word out about it. Um, and then because of the very specific market that kind of, I was focused on in the wholesale, which of course now is refrigerated refrigerators, cannabis know, whatever we did back then.

Um, we actually designed a couple of our products working with farmers that were for indoor farms, which was, we were one of the first ones to have like a specific indoor controller. By cannabis farmers, like with cannabis farmers, and it wasn't just like a general, oh, we can open up Vince and like here's a greenhouse controller and oh, it kind of works on your grow room too.

Like we made a controller for where rooms in oh six, which was not a common thing to do. Yeah. Yeah. It was really, it wasn't really what people did. Um, But, yeah, I mean, that's kind of how we got Autogrow out there. Then starting to focus on, you know, that market, you know, was really, um, was really key to was working with the farmers that other people were.

Well, we see a lot of, uh, innovation, some really effective and great and some not so good because of course, right now, as technology is developing at an accelerated rate, um, certainly the, the idea of looking at technologies that were born from. Problem something that's a real pain in a blood pH adjustment or easy adjustment, certainly.

And, uh, and problem solving. And then taking that one step further and going into say the grow rooms and actually literally building something around the needs of the grower, rather than producing something and saying here, fit this into. You're growing up ration. I mean, that must've been a real experience to kind of from the ground up, put something together, solving as many problems as you possibly can and then troubleshooting it as you go.

Yeah. You know, it's, it's funny that you'd bring that up. We've just started a new Instagram campaign and it's like five things to think about when you're going to automate and just really simple kind of top level. But the first one I put was work with someone willing to work with you. And the reason I say that is because so many companies that when I talk to growers, they're like, man, I called this guy, but he doesn't want to do it the way I want to do it.

He wants me to do it his way. And that's anywhere from system design to greenhouse design, to control options, to nutrients, to media. And the guy's like, I've been doing this for 15 years. I need it to be controlled like this. And I'm like, Hmm. And this is my thing. I love to get creative. Now my programmers and my CFO do not like this because I think what do we do?

And if we did it this way and I, you know, I'm constantly like, well, if we get it this way, we could make that work. But I love creative growers. I love people who come at it with, um, experience and want to do it a way that works for them. So many times I'm told I'm so glad I talked to you because everybody else said that it would just wouldn't work or I had to do it their way.

And so that's something that I think I, I learned from Jeff and auto grow. I learned from Kevin and auto grow. I learned from all the guys who trained me up was like, be willing to Bob and weave and like, what does the grower want to do and make it work? And it can't always make everything work, of course.

But yeah, I mean work with someone who wants to work with. You know, I have a cold for that. Um, uh, actually a Bruce LICO PB water. Yeah. Yes, yes. Offline hard like water, but that adaptability is so important because I mean, you know, to, to your point, Kelly, The, the controller company or the technology company saying, well, you need to do it that way.

That's easier, but is it better? Not necessarily at all know, these are, these are technological tools and they can have had, and I've had this conversation on this podcast and personally many times talking about technologies and we get hung up on the technologies because they're really cool. And they're really interesting, but it's like their tools and what are we really looking to do?

And I think that that was, that was your approach. Even when I first met you, it would also. Working with auto grow. And I quick story. I, um, I was a grower for many years, so I already knew everything there was to know, and I had my way of doing it. And, uh, and one of the things that I was a stickler about was.

Hands-on growing management. So, you know, a lot of, a lot of work in the greenhouse, which I still believe in, you know, uh, crop scouting, spending time in your crops, spending time in all aspects of your business. Um, but that for me, included nutrient management. So while, uh, I was actually using a pH doser.

Um, I was checking and adjusting my EDC myself because it was better because I knew what was going on because I didn't want to trust it to some machine to do that. And Michael was actually, he told me about you and he talked about auto grill and he for a couple years pastored me about it. And I was very resistant.

Um, and. Was one of the best decisions as a grower I ever made was to take that technology and incorporate it saved me time, saved me money, gave me better quality, more consistent growth. Um, and I still check everything myself all the time, but having that tool to do a lot of the basic work for you. So that's one of the things in terms of technology, and I'm sure you see this a lot.

Maybe you can kind of touch on it where some growers are looking specifically to have a technology to kind of. Take care of things and, you know, out of sight, out of mind, versus the grower who will take the technology and use that kind of like a craftsmen with specialized tools, um, they're still very heavily involved.

Growers is still very heavily involved, but they're using tools more effectively, you know, the types of tools that you're using. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, you know, what I've always said is that we do not create automation to replace the grower. We create automation to enhance the grower, right? We want to make the grower, uh, growers life easier.

We want the plants to be healthier. Really. You know, you want the grower to be able to focus on the plants. That's what they're there for. Like Joe, you didn't become a farmer so that you. Stir water in a tank all day. I mean, that's not why you are a farmer, you know? I mean, that's just the thing. And so we want to actually free up the grower to where they're comfortable.

Like, Hey, I know my greenhouse is going to run. I know the fans are going to turn on my wet wall. It's going to turn on. Vince are going to open, you know, I know that that's all going to be okay. So I just need to focus on my plants. You know, I need to focus on my supply chain. I need to focus on that kind of stuff, but I don't need to worry about it.

Then, so opening and closing if it gets too warm or too humid. And so having things like the remote access and text and email alerts, where it's just built in comfort, like, you know, in your pocket, it'll tell you if something goes wrong. The funny thing about the nutrients is I get that a lot. And I mean, it's, it's funny for me because people are like, well, I don't know if you can actually balance nutrients, right.

Do them that way. And depending on who it is, you know, how you have different kinds of responses, depending on who you're talking to. I'm always like, yeah. I mean, we've only been doing it for like 27 years. I mean, if you want to like test it, to see if it works, you know, that's know it's like, it works. We promise.

Um, you just have to like, let go a little bit and give it a little bit of faith. And then once you get into it, I tell people though, I say, once you get into like automated dosing, no one ever goes, oh man, I really miss doing it by hand. I'm just going to put this controller aside. Yeah. Yeah. That doesn't happen.

People don't go, man. Automation is too easy. I want to do it all by hand again. Yeah. It just doesn't happen. There's actually a number of technologies that I've actually retired and didn't, didn't find to be useful or, or what, uh, automated pH and nutrient dosing are not among those for sure. My, among my favorites, technological tools, for sure.

I'm sure that over the years though, because, and again, um, for people that aren't familiar with Kelly's background, I mean, Kelly obviously has been so steeped in the business end and the technology and, but also in the growing it, Kelly knows her way around production. Very, very well. So as a grower, you, you see.

Again, the, the, the, the value of these tools, but, but you've seen a lot of challenges and there are more challenges to come that you're looking to overcome with correct application of technology. What, what, over the past number of years, you know, where some of the big surprises that you didn't expect or, or, um, you know, didn't see coming, this is going to sound so silly, but it's the first one that comes to mind.

So I'm just going to go there. Noise and her parents. And I, this is so silly and I don't know that most people would understand why this is so important, but when you're in a controls company and something isn't reading, right? Whether it's a sensor, like an environment sensor, or an AC probe and electrical noise, electrical noise in greenhouses is legitimately a serious issue.

And. Troubleshooting. It is like my biggest nightmare because it's never consistent and trying to figure out where the noise is coming from is just insane. So, uh, when we put the first multi-grade at the American hydroponics greenhouse, we couldn't get the easy to stabilize for like six months. Couldn't figure out what it was.

It ended up being, I think it was like a UV plate or something that they had put into the reservoir. Yes, exactly what it was. But whenever it would turn off. It would create this noise and e-stim start bouncing all over the place. Couldn't figure it out. I mean, these kinds of things have been insane, but luckily what happens then we go back to the drawing board and we put different shield shields on, you know, different pieces of equipment and we use different wiring and things like that.

So I don't know if that's exactly the answer to that one as the one that popped into my mind. Cause it's a constant kind of issue that we deal with and it's like a ghost and the grower's never been. Right. They're like, no, it's your stuff. And we're like, we were on the line in the machine, you know? Yeah.

You know? Um, yeah, but I, and I also think, like you said, technology, that you've retired, we tried a lot of different things that American hydroponics, I mean, you know, American hydroponics is one of the oldest hydro companies in the us. Um, it w if you had a new product come out and you could get somebody to American hydroponics to say this works, that was big for your new product.

Right. You wanted that. So, you know, Michael would get all these emails all the time, or you get a call, oh, try this thing, try that thing. And, oh my God, this stuff that we tried was hilarious. I'll never forget. The first time we got an led light. This had to be like, oh, 4 0 5. And it was three led lights on this little.

And we haven't have a baby boomer, one of our little grow systems. So you had to let us in it. And I was all excited to try out LEDs since I got the whole thing up and I plugged it in. I went home for the night and came back in and the next day, no joke. All the lettuce was black. So, not only did it not grow, it just killed it.

I don't even know what was it that led sadly that did put a bad taste in my mouth LEDs for a little longer than I probably should have led it really, you know, I should have like, uh, gotten over that a little sooner than I did. Um, and I can't remember. Well, I don't need to say the names of any companies, but there was some sort of bug control that spun in circles.

Like a wind chime. You don't have to noise. There's a lot. And that's one of the fun parts of technology. But boy, when I first came to M hydro in 2015, Um, I remember behind the warehouse, there was a stack of, uh, equipment, parts tools, you name it, um, all, all kinds of stuff. I mean, so many things that we tried over the years, I can remember, you know, like shedding there with like Eric and being like, but does it like, what is this?

You know, like which end is up. Yeah, we have a question though. So if I'm a grower and I have like a 300 square foot, And I'm and I'm growing maybe, uh, you know, and I'm in Colorado and I'm going cannabis or something. Is, is there a system for me for the 300 square foot room? Do you use have something for that small or.

Yeah, we do. I mean, so, so when we kick them up and I'll just, so the mini dozer was where we kind of started for the, what we call the hobby, small farmers. It was a pH mini and an ECE mini, um, in oh five, we released the intelligent dose and the intellidose was the ISI and the pH in one box. Um, and it had the ability to be connected to a computer.

Back in oh five was like, whoa. I mean, it was huge now of course there wasn't cloud and stuff like that, but, you know, um, it got connected and the intellidose went crazy in the cannabis market, especially because everybody was like, whoa. And we started with three partners, seen, immediately took it to eight part dosing.

Cause everybody was like, we have to do our additives. And within probably, I mean, I'm not joking. Nine, 10 months of the intellidose coming out. Everybody was like, we need a climate controlled. And it goes with this. So we came up with the Intel climate and the Intello climate is, I always say like a sister product to the intellidose.

They work side by side, but they are not required to work together, but they do work off the same software package. So now all of a sudden you had your climate control and your dosing control all on your computer, which was like huge in the day. Um, so yeah, the Intello climate is a great fit for that. If you're just looking for environmental control and then, you know, if you have the restaurant.

You just throw in an intellidose too. Now of course, we're all fancy with apps and cloud access and you know, we've upgraded at all, but yeah, so we do that. And then of course we have the bigger ones for the larger greenhouses and warehouses. They buy the smaller version only. They still have access to the same software.

Yeah. Yeah. So there's a yearly fee for the software, of course. Cause that's the whole, you know, it's 20, 21. So everything is SAS, you know, everything has to have a fee to it. Um, but the, yeah, you would have remote access, you get texted, email alerts, you know, I can log in and help, which I'll tell you. After years of troubleshooting all this technology over the phone, Being able to log in and see customer settings and be like, oh, you didn't check that box or, oh, this is why this is working that way.

I mean, it's, it's huge. I think though, to be honest, I, my troubleshooting is better because I spent so long doing it over the phone without having. You know, um, it makes training new people a lot easier. I'm like, I've heard everything. Like I've seen everything, like be very hard to stump me with like an intellidose question at this point.

Yeah. But yeah, no, we haven't. We have all different kinds and yes, and everything that we still have that ability to have the remote access scale. And what's the biggest scale that someone can go on. You know, I mean, we have our multi-grade controller that does up to eight zones. Um, but I've got facilities now that have like four of those, I have facilities with two or three of those.

Um, so the way that we look at it is it's not so much about like square footage, as much as there's how many different zones are we controlling? Because whether the zone is. 2000 square feet, 10,000 or 20,000. We're just going to adjust the amount of sensors that we put in that sound. And then we're going to run the equipment in it, based off the information that sensors are giving us.

So there's really no limit. Um, we do like to spread out the bigger farms over multiple controllers though, just because you know, it mitigates that risk a little bit. If something was to go down, you don't lose the entire facility, um, because it's technology and it needs. And so things happen, you know?

Yeah. Yes. Yeah. What's new on the technological front as far as auto row goes well, you know, um, what we've really been doing, so, uh, auto grow in the last few years has kind of split into two different companies. So auto grow has been around forever, but we also were working. We were working on these new wireless sensors called Folium, which you may have heard about these really cool, like wireless place than anywhere in the greenhouse sensors.

Um, and then. Uh, I think it was February of this year, we kind of broke into two companies. So now there's way beyond, which is a totally different company than auto grow. Um, and then auto grow. Now we're kind of back to the core of who auto grow is, which is our programmers. And, you know, like myself, people have been in auto grow forever.

I'll be really honest with you because we were kind of focused on so many different things. There wasn't a lot of development there for a couple of years with auto grow, there was some triage of things which happens. So this last seven, eight months it's been bug fixes and feature requests. And just like we just been getting this, uh, our, our multi-grade has been our biggest.

And man the features we have added and the things that we have fixed, and we have a new, big, huge release coming out here in the next week or two. Um, you're going to see a whole new look. The UI looks different. We've done a whole bunch of new things to it. Added a ton of features that customers have requested.

That's one of the things I liked so much about working for auto grow is if you call me, this was a good one. I had a guy in Oklahoma and he said, I want to trigger irrigation off the media temporary. None of the moisture in the media. And it wasn't something that had come up before. And I was like, that's interesting.

And I said, well, let me see what I can do. Call the programmer. And he goes, well, we have a temperature reading. No problem. Two days later, go ahead. You can start triggering off of media temperature, those kinds of things. And being able to kind of like you said, be water, you know, do what you gotta do.

That's what we've been doing this year. So we've been adding tons of new features. We've been adding lots of new. Kind of control options for all different kinds of equipment. And we are very excited to announce that we will have backnet control here within the next few weeks, actually. And back that is going to be huge.

It's going to open us up to a whole different level of projects because many of the really kind of. Complex, you know, HVAC systems right now. And a lot of the like led lighting and things they want back net control. And we haven't been able to work on those projects before. And so, uh, as we speak right now, one of the programmers is actually writing all of the code and my head engineer is going to be doing a week long training next week and we'll come back and we're going to do our first project, I think, in Oklahoma, in the next few weeks, getting it up and running.

So I'm pretty excited about. Wow. We got the exclusive ear here it is. Yeah, it is actually, I haven't. I mean, other than a few people, I'm an adult. I haven't actually said it out loud, but yeah, we're pretty excited about it actually. That's very, very cool. And your role in the industry, will you be doing basically, um, all of the support, the, the events, all the things that you do?

Cause I mean, that's one thing. Everyone sees Kelly somewhere. You know, I was here and I saw Kelly. I saw Kelly at that event. So, um, so is that, is that how you're going to continue your role or. Yeah, I think so. I mean, I love it. I love being customer facing. I love being in with the growers, you know, that's really my favorite thing.

Um, I, I, I, everybody at the facility of course is important. Um, owners are important and managers and things are important, but the only person who truly understands what I do and the value in it is the grower who's been doing it by hand. That's who really gets what I do. Right. So getting in front of the owner of a big facility is nice, shake their hand.

And they're like, yeah, but I don't, you know, I mean, I have growers, you can do everything that you do. And then you look at the growers and they're like, oh God, please like, please, like I need this because I don't have time, you know, help. And, um, so I like to get in front of growers. I like to talk to growers.

I love going on site visits. Um, I just did the cannabis cultivation conference, uh, in Vegas a couple of weeks ago. That was the first time. Kind of at a conference since everything kind of shut down. Um, I'll be at MJ biz con here in a couple of weeks. I'm going to walk that one. Um, and then I'm going to be at the end, GMA, the yearly meeting for the national greenhouse manufacturers association.

That's coming up is that November, beginning of November. And then, yeah. And then I'll likely be at the NCIA in San Francisco in December, and then we'll kind of go from there. So. Yeah. At the end or ag can, or I'm not going to do indoor ag con, I just couldn't get it. With the other trips, because I have to go, I have a huge project in Virginia.

Um, so after MJ biz, I'm going straight to Virginia. Um, and then after in JMA, I'm going straight out to another big project and Tulsa. So I'm kind of, you know, now I gotta be home for a week or two every once in a while. Yeah. You know, for sure. And I, and anyone who's ever flown in and out of humble county, they know it's not simply like hopping a flight to Houston.

It's a little bit. It's a whole thing. It's a whole thing traveling out of humble. Yeah. Um, yeah, it's not for the weak of heart. Yeah, it's definitely. Um, and now with all the fights being crazy, but we got a whole bunch more airplanes airlines now, so that's cool. You know, we're, we're trying, there's still really odd dimes that they fly, but yeah.

Um, it's been fun to get back out in front of people. I really missed it. Uh, I, I played it very safe. Um, I stayed home, you know, And what I was supposed to do to keep me and my community safe. Um, but I got myself vaccinated. I started traveling again and all the first time I walked into the facility in Phoenix, I was like, oh, I'm home.

Yes. These are my guys. You know, that I was out in Denver and it was like, yeah. Okay. I really, really, really miss this. And that's someone who's in the grow room or who's immigrant house. It's your thing or it's not. And if it's your thing. Yeah. It's, it's people always ask me, they they're looking to get into the business and they're like, I don't even know how I'm going to like this.

I was like, you will know very quickly if you have no experience, get in there. You're going to, and it has, I've seen it where it's just not for somebody, but, but for most people it is. And it's instantaneous. You're, you're hooked. You're done. Exactly. Oh, I was just going to say, yeah, I mean, when I go into a facility and you know, let's be honest, there's always a lot of questions.

Like, well, how does it do this? But when like somebody like, oh my God, it can do that. No way. Oh my God. That's so cool. Oh, you know, it's like, that is, that's like my adrenaline. Yeah. I'm like, yes. You know, here we go. Okay. I got this. I am just going to make your life so much easier right now. And you are going to be so stoked.

Like that's what I, that's, what I live for is doing that. So, you know, they'll get, let's troubleshoot all the little blips. You know, and now let's talk about all the cool stuff we can do. We've got to do that in person. It's too much fun. That's what we're working with. Someone like Kelly is so awesome because a lot of technological companies or technology companies, um, they, they have a product, they develop a product, they develop it.

In-house through their own. Uh, thought process and they bring it to market. And Kelly's one of the few people in the industry who is so actively involved in problem-solving understanding what the growers need, what some of the hiccups are. Uh, what's not as important. What, what do you really not need to control with, with, uh, automate.

And, and making adjustments and making tweaks. And that's something that, as long as I've been involved with auto grill, I have seen constantly, which is really, really great. And, uh, and actually not all that common, uh, I've seen more companies come forward with their products. You know, we, we pre prepared this product here.

It is buy it or not that, you know, your, your approach has been a little bit different, but. Speaks to the longevity and success of your product. Also, auto girl also has a really, really good training too as well. I mean, that's how I met Kelly. Uh, when I was at docking, she came over and started doing training.

Uh, you know, that's, that's immediately, like I was like, oh, this company is really interesting. You know, like if you weren't sure what gender the plug to put in, it was just the newer, the newer stuff that was coming out. She was training. Yeah, I get them up to speed on what the multi-grade could do and just understanding, because it's such a beast of a product.

I mean, it can do everything, you know, I mean, it's irrigation, it's nutrient management, it's, uh, environmental controls for indoor and, you know, uh, greenhouses and fields. And I mean, there's so much to it that it's very overwhelming to most people. And I find that, especially with like, I'm a reseller. You know, or like a distributor, you know, they're kinda like, I don't know.

I mean, I like the concept of it, but I don't know what projects to apply this to. Like when I'm talking to a grower, are they the kind of grower? Who would you want this? And so there's, there's not a lot that we don't do as a team. I mean, every year, So the teamwork in this, we just have to, because you got to get the grower in front of me, I've got to ask some questions, you know, and then we've got to kind of go back and forth and, and work on it together.

And that's why I don't have a lot of distributors in the U S I don't have just, you know, tons and we don't go through like big distribution channels. We, it, it, it's a, it's an education based sale. You can't buy one of our products. If you don't know what you're, what you're purchasing. It's not like buying a pH pen.

Everybody knows what a pH pen does. There's no education behind that. Right? Well, maybe it's we know how complicated it is, which buttons do you have to hit to calibrate? That can be kind of confusing, right? I mean, that's, for me, the thing that's always killed me. Like every time I'm like, I don't know what buttons did, which order do you have them in again?

Um, but yeah, this is an education-based product. We can't sell them on. We never have been, as long as we've tried to sell an intellidose online, I mean, a couple a month, you just, people need to understand what it does. They want to talk to you about their system. Specifically. They always have questions.

There's an education process before the sale, and there's a long education process after it, in all honesty for demos too, as well. Like, can you do a demo with the software? If I'm a company I wanted to see the software. Oh, yeah, I do those all day long. I have a calendar people book meetings with me all the time we get on zoom.

I share my screen. I can kind of talk you through all the different software. We talk about the Inteleos versus the multi-group. You can show both so you can kind of see the differences. Um, but I it's funny, I think. Like we, we do a lot of business in Asia. Now we have just recently in the last couple of years, put a business development manager and an engineer in Malaysia, which is really cool for auto grow because we didn't really have a presence out there.

And now we have a pretty good presence. And so we're in the middle east, you know, we're dealing with all of this, you know, Southeast Asia, um, They have a different type of competition than we have here in the states. They also have a different kind of demand for different control, right. Different environment, different markets.

So we talk a lot about like what kind of control systems they need and what we need and whatnot. And we just had this conversation yesterday because a new competitor came up the third of the price of us, right. The single guy. Just kind of through a few pieces of hardware together and whatnot. And I have, you know, more power to all of that.

But I said, the problem is, is that that price only lasts until he has to text support the first two or three growers, because what happens and nobody canceled. This is the sale is not the end of it. That's just the beginning. If you purchase a controller for me, we've just shook hands. Now we're going to start the relationship because now you and I are going to be best friends.

And we are going to talk every day for a while. And we're going to get this thing dialed in. It's especially on the big multi gross. I mean, I have growers who've been using it for two or three years, and I still talked to them a couple of times a week as we tweak and we dial stuff in and it's not because it's hard and you can't learn.

It's just because you know that it's always can be a little bit more. It can always be just a little bit more dialed in than what you go in. And so that process is a long education process. And so that's why we don't go through like classic distribution channels because they're not designed for a product like this.

Um, and that's why we fly out to the distributors that we do work with and spend time with them and do trainings and all of that. We got to get everybody on board with the education at, at all. Yeah. I'm so glad to hear you say that. Cause that that's, that's our, our business model too, is that when, uh, when you make a system sale, that's the beginning.

That's not, you know, I, and I know so many companies are so many consultants that kind of, you know, clean their hands off and say, thank you. See you later. You know, as long as the check clears we're gone. No. And, and the real top-notch companies always. Um, you know, facilitate that long-term relationship.

And I think that's what not only is, uh, makes a company successful in the, in the business, but raises the level of the industry by a lot. Oh yeah. I think in that comes a lot from my background at American hydroponics. I mean, I, you know, I mean, I worked there for so many years and, you know, whenever we would sell a system, I, you know, I did shipping, I did a lot of shipping there.

I loved the shipping. It had nothing to do with my job. I was just really loved that. Kind of the black and whiteness of it. I don't know what, when you're in sales, you live in a gray area, right? Everything is like Bobby, no, even like, Ooh. Okay. Let's and every once in a while you just need to like sit down with a spreadsheet and just do like, you know, like addition, cause it's just black and white, you know, and get myself out of that kind of like gray area and shipping was really fun for me.

And I got to like learn about all kinds of places all over the world. Cause am hydro has systems in what like 60 countries now or something 104 countries. Well, that's in the last six years, they've added a whole bunch more countries, but it was so cool to like, learn all about, you know, does all of that.

And, um, yeah, and then, but those customers, of course, I would hear about them for the next three or four years as we were getting them dialed in and they were learning and they were getting, you know, and so for me, it was just what we did. There was no question about it. So when I went to auto group, I kept doing the same thing.

Um, now the biggest thing I have to struggle with though is not, I'm not a grower consultant, but I have enough information and education that I can on some stuff, but I'm not, that's not my lane anymore. And so I have. I have to make clear lines with some that it's like, I'm not the grower consultant. Like I can give you a little bit of advice, but I can't spend an hour on the phone with you, you know, troubleshooting why your lettuce isn't propagating.

That must be still very tempting though. Oh, I know. All the reasons I notice is wilting and you're like, oh my God, I know I do help, but I have to make sure that I keep those lines pretty clear so that. Because it's too easy for me to slide into that role. And of course, as a customer, it's too easy to why not call the person who always picks up the phone and ask the question and then all of a sudden I'm just like doing grower.

So, yeah, so it's kind of funny because my background's there, but the nice part about all the experience and how long I've been doing this, I always know who to send them to. Yeah, very true. I can always send them to the right person who can actually answer those questions. And that is their job. I have, um, you know, I live in a farming community and I've got a neighbor, Walt, and I always refer to Walden.

If someone needs something, I always go, Walt knows either, where are you going to get it? Or he knows who to ask, you know, everyone and in our industry, That's Kelly Nicholson. Kelly knows a lot. And if she doesn't know something, she knows where to get it or who to go to. So, um, that's a, and that's a very valuable person right there.

Um, so, you know, because, and I always tell people sometimes either hit the rewind button. Cause you know, some guests said something important or stop and turn up the volume. So the here here's that time to do that. So, Kelly, I mean, because you've been so immersed in the industry from all the different angles from the, the engineering and design, the production that you've been involved in the crops, in the sales distribution, all of that based on what you've seen, what's going on right now, kind of pull out your crystal ball and tell us a little bit about where you think the industry is going in the next couple of years.

What do you think are some of the big opportunities, but also maybe what are some of the big. Oh, well, on my end, when I'm super excited about in a few projects that I've been working on right now, are these hybrid greenhouses where you're basically in a warehouse. But one of the greenhouse ceilings, right.

And these are some of the most advanced facilities I've, I've worked on. I mean, they are intense. Um, but the product coming out of these facilities, it's as close to indoors, you're going to get, but we're utilizing the sun, which is like so awesome. Cause that's the one downfall, well, not the one downfall, but you know, a big downfall of indoor growing is that, you know, we're not getting to utilize this free light that we have.

Right. Um, so hybrid greenhouses for me are pretty exciting and because. I'm working on them in lots of different types of climates. That's been exciting for me because I love different climates because that means I've got to learn a little bit more about best control options. Um, one of the facilities in Colorado and Denver has probably been one of my biggest learning curves because Denver's climate is so volatile at times.

You know, one, I will never forget last labor day. I want to say it was a hundred degrees during the day. And it got down to 20 that night, I guess, an 80 degree change in less than like 12 hours. So like, that's exciting as a controls person, the grower was a little more freaked out than I was, you know, because we're not, we don't have that kind of ramping.

Like we weren't prepared for that. So in max, you should only have like a 15 degree. Welcome to Denver. Denver's crazy. I went out there one time too. I landed. It was like 75 on Sunday night, woke up Monday morning. There was snow on my car. You know what I mean? So, so like I liked the fact that the hybrid greenhouse gives us the ability to be in lots of different types of climates and different levels of control.

And so hybrid greenhouses for me are probably my stoked. I have to give it up to LA. I I was, you know, and I've been in humble for a long time. So I've been an H P S person for years, especially in the cannabis industry, you know, old school, they do what they're supposed to do, man. These LEDs, the last few years are really starting to turn out some quality crops.

And I know it's been longer than a few years, but you know, it's really, that's kind of, I think where, you know, some of the cool new technology is going, um, I think, you know, we're getting some issues, especially because I deal a lot in cannabis. You know, we're struggling with, with, with pricing, you know, with w with what people can sell their product for right now, we've got a flooded market, especially in California.

Um, You know, some places are going crazy. Like Oklahoma, the last few years is just insane, but Oklahoma makes it very, very easy to get into the industry. And so you don't need to have a ton of money like California, where you need hundreds of thousands of dollars to do it. Right. You need like $2,000 in a driver's face as or something, then it'll go home.

So it's a whole different ball game, but like, whereas Oklahoma a few years ago was intellidose is, and until a climate St. Growers. Oh, no, these are like massive facilities I'm working on right now. Um, so they're going crazy. Michigan's starting to go nuts right now. Um, and so, you know, some of the markets are really picking up.

Others are kind of stagnating a little bit, but that's the market, you know, get it out of them, but Illinois being stagnant a little. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, um, you know, new England is always kind of like on the cusp of. Following up and I'm sure, like, you know, people in new England are like, we are blowing up and I'm like, yeah.

But like in a whole like country sense, I feel like they're just always kind of right there, but I hadn't really seen like that huge push at least for like what I do, because I'm kind of at a level where. You know, you're not going to spend 50 or $60,000 on a control system. If, you know, you've just got like, you know, your garage, you know, I mean, that's not going to happen, you know?

And so it's a little different of the market that I'm working in. But, um, yeah, Oklahoma, Michigan right now, pretty crazy because they're kind of the new hot ones for us. Very cool. Very cool. Uh, any pitfalls or challenges that you see coming because of that? Well right now everybody's dealing with a supply chain issues.

That's probably one of our biggest pitfalls is just the fact that nobody needs to put a control system into a greenhouse that doesn't hasn't. You know, I mean, and I know I'm hydro, you guys are struggling with the same situation. I think everybody is in the industry right now, steel wood, plastic, just trying to get our hands on Iraq.

It's crazy. And if you can even get it, you know, and so like all these projects that were supposed to be built over the summer, they're just sitting on a concrete slab, waiting for material to show. We're not even putting price tags on metal and Woodridge. Crazy. Right. I know. And I'm getting like every project people come back to me.

What's your pricing still? What's your pricing still? And we've been very, very lucky to keep our prices. The same and our, uh, lead times have been really, really good right now we realize that that could change, um, that we're lucky right now. So we're, you know, we're, we're stepping gingerly into that and be like, we're doing good, but it could change.

Yeah. But that's probably the biggest one I'm seeing right now. I mean, um, I don't, I've seen so many companies come and go, you know what I mean? And you see so many crazy ideas and I don't mean to be cynical, but like, as you're walking these trade shows, you know, and there's just all these things and they're sending people, I'm kind of like, you probably won't be here next year, and there's not really a reason other than you just kind of.

But it hasn't really been fully thought out. You know, you probably threw a couple thousand bucks at it, had a Kinko's print, you know, print a banner for you. And you're just kind of throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks at this show. And there's a lot of that in the industry. There's a lot of money in the industry, right.

When you hear about, um, so-and-so is building the largest vertical farm in the world. You just, okay. We won't see you by next year. Let's see, got claim. Usually it's kind of a death sentence to, right. It's an app harvests going through some things. There's some financial things, right? Like something that was crooked or something went wrong, lawyers are in there, they're looking at a potential class action suit.

And obviously with something of that size, you could expect to see something, something like that. Um, and we'll see how it shakes out. I don't know Kelly, if you have any other insight, but you sit down with Matt on that now. Certainly projections claims are not being realized, um, which again can be part of the growing pains of controlled environment agriculture.

Again, I thought w when we saw a lot of investment, you know, 5, 6, 7 years ago in indoor farming, and then when performance was. Happening all of a sudden, there's the big shift to, to investment in greenhouses. I gave him and all that. Um, you know, it made me feel better because I'm thinking a lot of these investments I would consider based on what I've seen more stable, but again, we're still dealing with a lot of the same things, which are.

You know, uh, a great pitch deck that has, you know, yield claims or revenue generated, um, you know, projections that don't materialize to what they, you know, I've seen, I've talked with so many investors, I mean, on a daily basis, I get calls about certain, certain technologies or certain companies. And it's always like, well, they say.

X Y and Z it's like, well, okay. And I'm not saying they're lying, but that those numbers may not be accurate. Yeah, that's it, that's pretty, you know, I guess I hate to say that, but because I lived through that with you the 20 14, 20 15, 20, uh, 2015 to like what, 2017. That was. I mean the indoor vertical container farms was just like exploding.

Like almost every other call. I felt like with somebody who wanted to do this and I, I got it, the concept, I mean, I got where they wanted to go with it. Um, The big thing. I think everybody did was they oversimplified it. They thought if you put a couple of trays in a container with a light and you'd turn the pump on and you just shut the door, you could just come back in three or four weeks and you'd have a bunch of lettuce you could sell.

I never talked to a grower who wanted to do. Yeah, never talked to a grower who said, I can get into this and it'll be really successful. I talked to oh three Tyrese where my worst, I felt so bad. I was like, please do not take  your savings. Please do not do that. And invest $125,000 into a shipping container to put into your backyard, thinking that you are going to be able to support yourself off of.

I'd like, and the only way I can see a business model like that working Kelly is if they bought the container and they put up some community program for kids or are adults to teach them about this stuff, right? Like, so the whole program is to teach people and not to sell produce. If you're not trying to be profitable, the thing is actually not too bad.

You can correct. If it's breaking even is what you're going after. Then this might be for you. Yeah. I mean, but if like you're trying to pay your bills off of it, I think you're going to struggle. And I think that that's where we, you know, I, especially like, as we would start to attend these events and people would be talking and it was a few years later and I'm like, you've been talking a lot about profitability.

You show showing profitability though. You know, it's a lot of concepts and it's a very, pretty cool little package that you can talk about, but in all actuality, It doesn't, it didn't work, you know? And, uh, yeah, that was, we struggled with that because it got to the point where you just didn't want to help.

Like you wanted to tell me, like, just don't do it. No, really? Yeah. Well, good for a number of investors who are looking at, you know, different companies like that, who, and it's always the same. It's always okay. If they can get an investment. 18 million or 20 million, then it will be profitable. And I'm saying, I'm looking at their existing model and I'm like, well, they're not changing substantially with this new investment.

How are they going to go from cashflow negative status to suddenly being immensely profitable? Just because they got an infusion of cash. And, you know, I actually got uninvited to speak at a couple events because I talk so much about. This is farming. And rather whether you're in the cannabis industry, the food, what have you, you're producing crops.

That one you have got to be competitive in the marketplace in terms of quality. You gotta be able to produce crops that are actually, you know, out currently there, and you need to do it in a, in a manner that's price competitive as well. I mean, people in the vertical farming, particularly I think the, in that part of the industry was always played with that notion.

Well, if you build a farm near a city, The world, the market is going to beat a path to your door because we're, you know, w we don't have enough food, we're going to starve. And so people are going to pay you exorbitant amounts of money for your vertically farmed lettuce. And I've talked to so many of these people and said, you know, have you actually gone into the marketplace to see what's currently available?

What you're competing with? Can you compete on that price point? Can you grow quality like that? And, um, you know, I'll I'll and to your point from earlier, Growers loved that growers, you know, that, that resonated with growers, not so much with, um, industry event coordinators or other technology companies, um, or, or publications that talk about, uh, you know, uh, controlled environment agriculture.

It's not what they want to hear. Yeah. It isn't. I can't help it think of it as some, some projects that we've worked on where, you know, they did get a bit big influx of cash, um, big influxes, and they got more marketing people and social media people, and that's what they did with it. And so, you know, the, the logo was beautiful.

Packaging was really nice, you know, man, they had a really cool Instagram, you know, following.

Yeah. You know what I mean? So, because at the end it's all like an illusion, right? I mean, it's like, it really is. It's just this illusion that we're doing this really cool thing. And I think that boutiqueness works a little bit like in food, but I don't think it works as much as. A huge investment, trying to become profitable works.

It works in a community sense. If the community owns the company, like the employees on the company that live in the community. That works. That model works. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I think like when like our local guys and humble, you know, they come to the farmer's market and they grow their like boutique type of crops and their specialty tomatoes and whatnot.

I'm willing to pay three times what I'm willing to pay at Safeway. For those of course I am, I'm supporting my community. They taste fantastic. I love local farmers. But it makes me feel good. It's this like community thing, I'm got a farmer's market. Right. But if I'm like driving down south and I stop at Safeway and I look at those tomatoes, I may not be at the same amount for them.

You know what I mean? I may be like, I don't really need that right now. And I don't have that sense of community at Safeway and so same thing. Right. You know, I'm pretty much at farmer's market. You can get me to pay a lot for a ton of different things. Cause I get all caught up in the moment of it. Right.

You know, I just love the walking around with a shopping bag and buying all the organic produce and going crazy. You know exactly what I'm talking about. So, um, but yeah, that, I don't know that the boutique plays off the same in food, in grocery stores and massive, you know, distribution. Yeah. I don't think that it plays off the same.

Yeah, yeah. At the end of the day, we're farming and that's, I think we need both sides. I think we need the commercial GCs. We need the boutiques because the boutique people can't grow enough food for everyone, you know? Like it just, it's not possible, you know, consistently to, you know. Yep. Yeah. I love it all.

I think that it's all great. I mean, you know, we're. In the last couple of years, we've really started moving into like larger cannabis facilities. So we're working with these big, huge facilities. But when I kind of started working for Autogrow after the M hydro, I had to start a little bit smaller and I really only was dealing with boutique cannabis farmers, you know, top shelf, flower farmers.

That was who I was dealing with. Um, because that was kind of the, that was the size of the market. I could take a bite out of, at that point. You know, we were still kind of getting our foot in as auto grow America. Um, of course now over the years, Got it. People you're going to learn the most from two, that's it?

And they're the, they're the most passionate growers I work with. And, and they're the, you know, the, these guys are so amazing and I've learned so much from them. And now what's really cool is now I'm working with these farmers on these huge. Who are still boutique farmers. There's still, I mean, they're able to do this.

I mean, the quality of some of the crops I'm seeing, I'm just like, I, that hybrid greenhouse in Denver, I was out there in June and I walked in and I was like, whoa, I mean, Wait a minute, I'm under the sun, right? Like I'm not in a grow room right now. I mean, it was really, really, really good stuff. And I'm thinking like, that's why I'm so excited about that going into the future.

I really think that there's something there, you know, let's utilize that sun, but still get that into our quietly crazy. And, and a lot of Michigan growers are, are doing that because, you know, Michigan growers, there, there are organic to the root. I mean, they're still growing in soil. Most of them, even the bigger farmers too, even the bigger growers they're still, they won't leave that soil.

People love the dirt yet. They do. And that's cool. Cause we have that, you know, for a long time, because of the American hydroponics, I didn't deal with a lot of soil growers and I didn't grow up gardening. That wasn't something that we really did. I mean, my mom had a few like potted plants on the back deck and stuff, but we didn't really have like a garden in the family.

Um, so I learned all about how to grow plants in water. So I'm not very good, always at growing plants and dirt, which is actually funny because like all of my experience in growing plants, I learned in per light and, you know, a hydrogen and Rockwell cubes. And that's what, all the experience I had. So it's kind of funny.

Um, I came at it definitely in a backwards way. I mean, the first thing that I was told from the first thing that I was told from some professional soil growers was all you're doing is feeding the soil, relaxed, the soil we'll feed the plants and I'm like, oh, oh, okay. Yeah. Very cool. So, Kelly, thank you so much for spending your time with us.

And, and I mean, for anyone listening, go back, listen to it again, Kelly just threw so much valuable information at. You know, two, three times you're going to pick up more and more stuff. Um, Kelly, so obviously, and as you can all say, Kelly's Kelly is the person to talk to. Obviously she knows, um, pretty much a lot about everything.

And, uh, how can, how can people reach out to you to get in touch with you? I mean, it simply just hit me up@kellyatautogrow.com. You want to send me over an email? Um, you know, if you go to auto grow.com, you'll find all my contact info on there too. Um, the U S phone number is my phone number. So if you see Autogrow USA, that's me, you'll get ahold of me.

Um, yeah. And, you know, reach out and book a meeting. Give me a call. I, I love to talk to everybody. I love to hear about your projects and your crazy ideas and what you want to accomplish. And, you know, that's the fun at it all. That's how you can keep doing this for 20. You know, you got to keep it exciting.

Keeps keeps switching it up a little bit. Never, never become stale. Like moving water. Nah. Yeah. Keep going. Keep going. Keep going. Yeah. Awesome. Well here's to another 20 years. Thank you guys. This was tons of fun. I really enjoyed it. And if you want to bring me back, let me know. Oh, for, for sure. Yeah, definitely.

We'll we'll want you back. Um, so Kelly, thanks so much. Not only for your time, but all that tremendous information and insight. Um, and thank you all for listening to us and spending some time with us. We hope you got some good information. Hope everything was good for you. And we look forward to speaking with you again.

Thanks very much.