Canada is now open: GrowLife’s Joe Barnes takes hydroponics up north
By Jacqueline Havelka
Feb 06, 2019
Behind every good cannabis cultivator is a great cultivation service provider. It’s arguably the case with GrowLife Inc. (OTCMKTS:PHOT), a company that has become nationally recognized in the industry for providing world-class cultivation services like lighting, nutrients and hydroponics equipment.
And of course, behind every great hydroponics company is the tireless executive who makes it all happen.
PotNetwork sat down with Joe Barnes, President of GrowLife Hydroponics, to discuss the company’s Canadian expansion, their EZ Clone acquisition, and to see what’s in store for the rest of 2019.
Joe, an industry expert, has designed and built more than 100 commercial growing operations.
Canada and GrowLife are open for business
A visit to the GrowLife website shows a “Canada Is Open” banner. That’s because GrowLife recently expanded into the Canadian market Asked what growing pains the company had experienced with that move, Barnes shared his thoughts on the experience.
“We identified Canada as an exploding market a few years back, and therefore decided to put our flagship operation in Calgary – right in the middle of the country,” Barnes explained.
At the start, Barnes said that doing business across borders is always hard, but their e-commerce team and commercial sales force have had a much easier time of it now that cannabis has been legalized nationwide in Canada.
“Canadian LPs are putting people to work, in both cultivation and in the ancillary businesses that surround cultivation – and that is a very good thing,” Barnes said. He also thinks Canada made a wise decision by allowing people to grow four plants at home because “it makes cannabis advantageous for people who need it but can’t afford to buy it.”
GrowLife is reaping the benefits of that decision and is experiencing bustling sales of its Cube product, an indoor all-in-one gardening unit complete with the best in nutrients and lighting technology, as well as educational material.
“Canada is a really progressive country and their relationship with the plant is so much more open – very different than in the U.S.,” Barnes explained.
The company also has operations in the U.S., and Barnes was quick to point out the advantages of being in states like California and Maine.
“Well, we’ve been in California for a number of years now. The sheer size of the market there is a good business opportunity. After all, cannabis has been the number one cash crop in the state, even when it was illegal,” Barnes said.
Regarding Maine, Barnes explained that the state has very supportive laws and as a result, GrowLife has had a brick and mortar store there since 2011. The two locations provide the company with both east and west hubs for conducting their operations.
The GrowLife year in review
Expansion initiatives and the EZ Clone acquisition
GrowLife has recently launched several expansion initiatives for their hydroponics business, the most significant one being the acquisition of a majority share in EZ Clone, the world’s best-selling aeroponic plant cloning system. The commercial system is specifically designed for the commercial cloning and propagation stage of plant cultivation. It offers full-time, year-round production of cuttings, and features the latest innovations in precision aeroponic propagation techniques.
Propagation is a common practice in commercial plant cultivation that enables growers to clone plants and fast-track their growth before moving the plants to larger growing areas.
“EZ Clone is a legacy business, and a well respected one. They’ve been in business over 20 years. They’re well known by both U.S. and Canadian growers, and their technology solves the problems those growers have. Propagation is where the plant starts, so if the plant stays healthy from that point on, it saves our clients time and money,” Barnes explained.
The EZClone spectral imaging technology looks inside the plant to detect any issues or disease states as they are forming. Barnes explained that the imaging works 24/7, but growers don’t, so the technology is game-changing. The technology protects the crop and in doing so, greatly reduces the cost. GrowLife helps growers reduce their overhead costs by as much as 50 to 90 percent.
Barnes said that the day when the “dollar joint” hits the market is fast-approaching, and growers are all about lowering their production costs.
The founder of EZClone is now the President of GrowLife’s Innovations group, and he works with Barnes to evolve all of the company technology. For example, the existing commercial unit which can propagate 459 plants has evolved into an industrial unit that can handle more than 2,500 plants. It only takes $1 per day to operate.
GrowLife looking forward
Barnes mentioned in a previously that GrowLife had some challenges, as all companies do. He delved into some detail about how those challenges made them both stronger and wiser, explaining that GrowLife’s current leadership has hundreds of years of experience.
“By now, we know what mistakes not to make,” he noted. “We are very forward-looking to an exciting new industry.”
Both GrowLife and EZClone have been in the food production business for years. It is an industry that has been standardized for a long time now. Barnes stated that cannabis is in its infancy as an industry and that it offers exciting new prospects for both companies.
“We’ve just scratched the surface in this industry; it is all about ROI, and we can save our customers hundreds of thousands of dollars,” he told PotNetwork
The company is now turning its attention to the U.S. hemp market. Barnes outlined the critical importance of the farm bill in the United States. The newly signed legislation legalized hemp, thus removing it from the federal list of controlled substances.
It also allowed states to regulate hemp, makes interstate commerce legal, and lifts restrictions on hemp research. According to Barnes, it’s an unprecedented market opportunity for GrowLife and its products and services to assist hemp cultivators who are now quickly scaling their operations.
“Our tech allows farmers to grow their plants more efficiently and at a greater volume, which hemp producers across the country will be looking to do right about now,” Barnes said.
He talked about one customer who is already prepping 300,000 plants. Some of GrowLife’s customers need more than 500,000 plant clones per month to meet customer demand. Hemp has a much shorter growing cycle and is easier to grow.
Barnes told PotNetwork that 27,000 textiles are made from hemp.
“It is a much larger scale than cannabis,” he said. “I look for the hemp market to surpass cannabis in just a few years.”