Master of Your Domain: How To Choose Your Head of Cultivation

Photo: Aleksandar Malivuk / Shutterstock

For a cannabis cultivator to be successful, it takes a lot more than deep pockets, state-of-the-art equipment, and good intentions. At the heart of any operation, it is essential to have a dedicated and knowledgeable staff, especially when it comes to the team members who are in direct contact with the plants.

Growing cannabis on a commercial scale is an intricate and challenging task, so it’s safe to assume that the person in charge needs a healthy amount of expertise, a strong dose of intuition, and a never-ending commitment to quality.


With that in mind, how does one ensure that when hiring the head of the cultivation team they find the “cream of the crop,” so to speak?

Jesce Horton LOWD Photo Credit Sam Gehrke 0017
Jesce Horton of LOWD. Photo: Sam Gehrke

“When someone is starting a venture, if anyone calls themselves a master grower, be extremely leery,” said Jesce Horton, CEO and Co-Founder of LOWD in an interview with MG Magazine. “The reason why so many people like myself are skeptical of that title is because the best growers are learning each and every day. They are the most humble, hard-working people you will ever meet,” he said.

Horton added that the person in charge of cultivation is a critical part of any cannabis venture. In fact, he believes that whenever possible, the master grower should assist with the design of the facility itself.

“Anyone who is responsible for the cultivation and the standard operating procedures should be [involved] with the design of that facility if they can be at that point,” he said. “There are many people that have general contractors design just because they feel it’s like any other manufacturing facility, or they have HVAC “experts,” and it usually doesn’t work out well.” 

Horton pointed out that if you don’t have someone well-versed in cultivation to help design the facility, people will inevitably need to go back and either do some retrofitting or change the growing process in order to fit what has been built.

Does Cultivation Facility Size Matter?

Although Horton has very specific qualities he recommends looking for in finding a master grower, when scaling up an operation to a very large cultivation facility, he feels that further steps should be taken. “The larger the facility, the more important it is for them to have more experience,” he said.

Horton added that with a big operation there are factors such as managing more people and multiple growth cycles, and in that case, the grower should have some years of experience behind them. Having said that, he says even a more seasoned cultivator should maintain an openness to suggestions and criticism, as well as the ability to learn from others.

Photo: MJardin

Tips From the Grower’s Mouth

Frank Han has been a Master Grower for a number of successful cannabis ventures over the years. Most recently, he just ended a two-year run at MJardin, a publicly-traded large-scale cannabis cultivator with operations in the U.S. and Canada.

Like Jesce Horton, Han feels that the person in charge of cultivation should be on staff as early as possible.

“If it were up to me I would probably have the master grower hired during the planning phase,” he said in an interview with mg. “You need to know what kind of growing strategy that [the company] wants to implement. Having the master grower involved during the buildout phase helps to make it a little more customized.”

Han added that one of the reasons to hire the head of cultivation early is not just to help design the facility for optimal plant growth, but also for the workflow of the staff, which he feels is often neglected.

“In a lot of facilities, [items] like lunchrooms, changerooms, cleaning, and storage are all overlooked, just because they want to increase grams per square foot. They want to make the cultivation area as large as possible so it looks as enticing as possible to investors and shareholders.”

Han pointed out that one of the facilities he worked for in the past had to stagger out their break times, lunches, and shifts because of the lack of adequate space for employees.

Be Adept to Adapt

Another item that Han said can be overlooked when hiring a master grower is their knowledge of how to cultivate by adapting to the environment of the grow rooms. He pointed out that it’s not as simple as planting, setting the controls, and waiting for cannabis to sprout. A cultivator worth their salt needs to be able to adapt to the inevitable and sometimes unexplainable differences from room to room.

“Not every room or unit is going to operate according to set points,” he said. “They have to be able to manipulate the system in order to ultimately get what they want. Even though the identical units are in identical rooms, with experience, you’ll realize they all need to be tweaked a little bit.”

Final Thoughts

No matter the type of cultivation technique, strain type, or even how big or small the operation is, whether your facility is the size of a football field or in a shipping container, someone who knows how to speak the language of cannabis is essential to your success as a company. 

When choosing this special person, it’s clear that it should be done with careful consideration as early as possible, and not just to fulfill the need for a warm body to watch over the most important part of your venture.