Retail sales for legal marijuana are growing so big and so fast that the industry has to supersize their operations. Growing and producing marijuana products is now happening on an industrial scale.
Retail sales in the U.S. from 20 jurisdictions were $6.5 billion, but according to Greenwave Advisors, that number is projected to grow to $30 billion by 2021. In order to meet the demand for customers, the growers and makers of infused products have to scale up their operations. More automation, more square footage and the ability to manage this fast growth are separating the mom and pop shops from corporate cannabis.
Berto Torres, Chief Operations Officer at GFarmaLabs in California, has been with the company since it started with four grow lights and a 3,000-square-foot canopy. It now has 700,000 square feet. Torres said the company’s growth boomed after they made the jump to branded products and specifically after they won a Cannabis Cup award for chocolate truffles in 2014. “It created so much demand, we had to scale up,” he said. “We needed to organize ourselves and run and function like a normal corporate company.”
For example, it used to take two to three employees a day to make 800-1000 pre-rolled joints. Now Torres has a Futurola machine that automates the process and those same employees can now produce 8,000 pre-rolled joints a day. The company now has 100 different SKUs of products it produces from cannabis-infused beverages like its popular lemonade to its bestselling pre-rolled cannabis flower called G Stiks.
Of course, success in the cannabis industry immediately comes with accusations of “going corporate.” “We were accused of selling out by having a consistent product,” said Torres. “I think we’re one of the few companies that have been able to create a successful blending of both worlds.”
One company that is helping the cannabis industry increase in volume is Convectium. While some industrial equipment companies refuse to work with the cannabis industry, Convectium has jumped at the opportunity. “If this was a stagnant industry, slow growth would be okay. Cannabis is growing so fast, you get passed by if you don’t automate,” said Danny Davis, a Managing Partner at Convectium. He added that a laid back chill attitude in this business won’t work. “Aggressive is a solid attitude to have in cannabis.”
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