Michigan's LightSky Farms Blends Winemaking Techniques with Cannabis Cultivation

December 10th, 2023 Cultivation & Harvest
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LightSky Farms, a prominent cannabis cultivation company in Michigan, has established a unique approach to cannabis production that mirrors the meticulous methods of winemaking. Founded in 2013 by Shannon Walters, a seasoned vintner, LightSky Farms (LSF) has become a well-known name in the state for its high-quality cannabis products.

LSF's cultivation practices are deeply rooted in a 'flavor-first' philosophy, as explained by Brooke Widener, the company's IPM coordinator. This approach prioritizes creating a memorable and enjoyable experience for consumers, focusing on the quality and sensory aspects of cannabis rather than sheer production volume.

Originally part of Michigan's caregiver program, LSF transitioned to the regulated Metrc market in 2018, following a partnership with the Landaal family, operators of Landaal Packaging Systems in Flint. The company has earned over 40 awards in the cannabis industry, including several High Times' Cannabis Cups and three first-place trophies at the recent Michigan Zalympix, underscoring its commitment to superior product experiences.

At the heart of LSF's strategy is a unique cultivation method that enhances the natural production of aromatic compounds like terpenes and flavonoids. This method involves environmental manipulation techniques, such as controlled dry back farming, similar to those used in viticulture. Widener, with her background in dry farming at a cannabis farm, explains that stressing the plants through these techniques can boost cannabinoid and terpene levels, sometimes leading to the expression of profiles that wouldn't normally occur under standard conditions.

LSF also places a high emphasis on data collection and analysis in its cultivation process. This includes daily data collection on watering rates, fertigation runoff, and light intensity, enabling the team to make precise adjustments to their nutrient recipes and lighting conditions. For example, LSF's flower lead, Chris Koslowski, regularly checks the photosynthetic photon flux density (PPFD) to ensure even canopy lighting and adjust light intensity based on plant needs. This meticulous attention to detail allows LSF to fine-tune the growth conditions for different strains, maximizing their genetic potential.

The cultivation facility, an impressive 85,000-square-foot space, has been designed with efficiency and quality in mind. LSF has adopted Fluence's LED lighting systems, preferring them over the older high-intensity discharge lamps for their energy efficiency and lower thermal output. This choice reflects LSF's commitment to environmentally conscious production and cost-effectiveness, which is crucial in maintaining competitive pricing for their products.

Brittany Hertzberg, LSF's sales and marketing manager, emphasizes the importance of producing safe, high-quality products while navigating the challenges of the adult-use market and the COVID-19 pandemic. The use of high-efficiency LEDs and other resource-saving practices has allowed LSF to offer its products at more accessible prices, fulfilling their mission of providing high-quality cannabis to a broader customer base.

Looking ahead, LSF is positioned for further expansion. With four additional LED-equipped grow rooms ready for activation, the company anticipates increasing demand. This is evidenced by a 15% increase in market penetration on the wholesale side over the past nine months, marking a significant growth phase for LightSky Farms.

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