Solving the consistency conundrum

Agrify and Front Range Biosciences partnership aims to find perfect nature-to-nurture balance

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Growing consistent cannabis is challenging, even for experienced growers working with high-end equipment. The temperatures, humidity and spectrums of light that the plants are exposed to all affect the specific balance of terpenes and cannabinoids expressed by a strain. Even two genetically identical clones grown in slightly different conditions can produce notably different cannabis, leading to distinctly different effects for users.

That inconsistency is one of the biggest challenges facing the maturing cannabis industry, according to David Kessler, the Chief Science Officer at Agrify. No other recreational or medicinal industry accepts such dramatic product variance, he points out. That presents a problem for both recreational consumers and for medicinal patients seeking relief.
Getting cannabis to grow the same way every time “is really a discussion of nature-to-nurture,” Kessler says. Finding that perfect equilibrium and harnessing it would represent a massive step for the cannabis industry.

Which was why Kessler approached Dr. Jonathan Vaught with Front Range Biosciences (FRB), a Boulder-based cannabis and hemp genetics testing company. Its recently announced R&D partnership will merge Agrify’s futuristic vertical cultivation technology with FRB’s bioengineered cannabis and hemp technology — to not only master the art of growing cannabis and hemp consistently, but also to increase product yield and potency.

The R&D partnership will be based at FRB’s indoor breeding facilities, using Agrify’s vertical farming units (VFUs). FRB scientists will test different cannabis genetics inside the VFUs to hone in on strains producing the best terpene and cannabinoid levels; producing the most abundant flowers; and which generally thrive in the highly controlled environments provided by Agrify’s VFUs.

Agrify’s website calls its VFUs a “fully realized plant factory.” Each one is a completely independent hardware unit with web connectivity and Agrify’s integrated software. They’re remote controllable, automatable and offer insights and real-time updates for cultivators.

“We can control the temperature down to half a degree Celsius, we can control the relative humidity, CO2, fertigation, irrigation down to the milliliter and second — we can control light intensity, light spectrum, photoperiod,” Kessler says. “All of this through a systems engineered hardware-software solution.”

And because they’re easily stackable, these VFUs can double or even triple available grow space. It’s a cost-effective way for cultivators to scale their operations, Kessler explains. “You’re literally building second- and third-floors, with a foundation and structure of vertical farm units,” he says.

But Agrify’s solutions can only do so much to nurture high-quality, consistent cannabis and hemp plants. Perfecting the nature-to-nurture balance requires optimized cannabis and hemp genetics as well.

That’s where Vaught, CEO and co-founder of FRB, comes in. Kessler hosted Vaught on his podcast, The Future of Growth, in April 2021 and approached him about joining forces shortly thereafter. Now, FRB scientists are preparing to start testing different cannabis and hemp genes in Agrify’s VFUs at its indoor breeding facilities — first here in Colorado and soon afterwards in California.

“If we can help [Agrify] develop new genetics and methods for producing what [growers] want to produce for their consumers, that’s a home run,” Vaught says.

FRB’s next-generation breeding, chemistry and tissue culture technologies have pushed the boundaries of cannabis science since starting in 2015. Just recently FRB announced that its patented Clean Stock program successfully demonstrated how to drastically mitigate the risk of Hop Latent Viroid (HLVd) infections — one of the greatest bio-threats to any commercial grow operation.

FRB’s new partnership with Agrify aims to solve another one of the cannabis industry’s greatest challenges: the consistency conundrum. Both of these companies are bringing highly scientific, highly technical knowledge and tools to the table — and both Kessler and Vaught are excited to see what comes of their partnership.

“I think this type of partnership and this collaboration in particular is going to really help continue to widen the scope of the different product categories and effects that can be achieved from cannabis,” Vaught says.