Growing the Industry: Kerrin Wuchter of Vivid Cannabis
Missouri’s medical marijuana market has generated more than a half billion dollars in retail revenue in its first two years of sales. With the passage of Amendment 3, adult use marijuana becomes legal for adults over the age of 21 next week, effective December 8. While retail sales of recreational marijuana won’t begin until early next year, the industry is preparing for substantial growth.
With Growing the Industry, Greenway aims to highlight and introduce the individuals behind the plants that Missouri’s marijuana market is built on.
The most impressive gardens depicted on the internet have a few things in common. The environment is established with great foresight; understanding the climate the facility is located in and what is necessary to optimize it, a system in place that gives the plants everything they need during their life cycle, and an astute team with great leadership that can navigate the intricacies of cannabis cultivation and come out on the other end with an optimum product.
In this edition of Growing the Industry, Greenway speaks to Kerrin Wuchter, Cultivation Director at Vivid Cannabis.
Vivid, one of Missouri’s largest cannabis brands, has recently acquired a turnkey grow facility, outfitted with top-notch engineering, crop steering and data collection analytics, and a top-of-their-field grow staff with experienced and qualified leaders. Kerrin Wuchter, who serves as Cultivation Director, is one of the sharp minds responsible for the cultivation facility’s immaculate disposition.
Wuchter was born and raised on the Jersey shore, and spent most of her life in the Washington DC area, on the outskirts of the Appalachian Mountains. Wuchter had been working in the book publishing industry for nearly 5 years before cannabis was legalized in Maryland, where she resided at the time. When the publishing company where she was employed abruptly shut down, with no backup plan, Wuchter looked outside of the publishing industry and into the cannabis industry as a potential direction for her career.
Wuchter took a job working for a group of clinics in Maryland that were certifying patients for medical cannabis. Having discovered her passion for this new industry, she quickly rose within the ranks of the company, eventually training doctors and nurse practitioners on how to recommend cannabis to patients, and began traveling to new legal markets in other states to establish new cannabis clinics.
Although she had found her entry in the clinical side of the cannabis industry, Wuchter longed to spend her time working with the cannabis plant itself.
In 2019 she took a gamble, deciding to look into the cultivation side of the industry. Wuchter would spend nearly three months trimming bud for a large local medical cannabis facility before making her way onto their cultivation team. With her foot in the door in Veg & Propagation, Wuchter spent the next year absorbing absolutely everything she could. When the time came for promotion, she was one of two employees chosen to move to Richmond, VA to start from scratch, building a brand-new cultivation facility & team. From there, Wuchter joined a cannabis cultivation facility just outside of DC, the same company that would bring her to Kansas City to once again lead a start-up team from scratch.
What came first for you, a passion for plants or cannabis?
My passion for plants definitely came first. I had a lot of practice growing and propagating tropical houseplants as well as “backyard” gardening, so translating that to cannabis came pretty naturally.
What does medical marijuana mean to you?
I consider medical marijuana to be a part of an overall holistic, healthy lifestyle. While it may not be for everyone, the fact that it’s providing therapeutic relief for countless individuals around the globe is undeniable.
How big is the Vivid grow?
We are currently operating under 15,000 ft2 of canopy space, with four grow rooms averaging ~1200 plants per room.
What information can you give me about your grow method?
We use a technique called crop steering, which essentially relies on strategically drought-stressing the crop along with environmental adjustments at specific points in its life cycle to achieve specific morphological results (I.e. a more compact plant, denser buds, etc). Additionally, we are a data-driven grow facility, meaning that none of our decisions are arbitrary – everything, from the way we feed to the timing of our plant maintenance is based on the data that the team is regularly collecting – and we collect a lot of it!
Why did you choose this method for growing?
This technique has been used with great success in major agricultural applications such as tomato greenhouses, but it’s a relatively new concept in the cannabis world. I was fortunate enough to be taught the ins-and-outs of crop steering prior to moving out here, and it was less of a choice and more of “well, this is clearly the only way to grow.” Combining crop steering with data collection just seemed intuitive and has proven invaluable in producing a successful crop that continues to improve with each successive run.
Tell me about your genetics and what went into your selection process.
Our genetics come from some of the most reputable breeders in the industry, like Capulator, Seed Junky, and Jungle Boys to name a few. It’s true that you get what you pay for, so you can’t be afraid to invest some money initially in genetics that you know have a better chance of producing a true keeper. That being said, the selection process is almost equally as important. You have to take into account all kinds of factors from every stage of the plant’s life – not just the final test results.
What makes good flower?
It’s all about the passion. When we built this team, we had to select employees from a variety of diverse backgrounds, but the passion for cannabis is something that unites us all. You can train anyone to perform any task, but you absolutely cannot train people to be passionate.
What is the biggest obstacle you face with a grow like this?
Keeping it clean! There are all kinds of pests and diseases out there that can totally decimate a crop if you’re not on top of your game. We take biosecurity very seriously here, so making sure that the whole team is doing their part, staying aware and cleaning up after themselves is probably one of our biggest ongoing challenges – but they’ve been absolutely crushing it so far. I think the cleanliness of our facility speaks for itself.
What are some pet peeves you have related to cannabis; growing, knowledge, or otherwise?
I’d have to say that “Bro Science” is my biggest pet peeve in cannabis cultivation – you know, the little things that cannabis growers do that just don’t really exist in any other commercial crops because it’s not founded in actual science. Hard defoliation (removing all fan leaves) right on day 21 is one of those funny examples – you’d think there’d be a bit more strategy behind something clearly stressful to the crop.
What’s your favorite cannabis cultivar and why?
That’s akin to asking a mother who her favorite child is! I know it sounds cheesy, but every single one of the 100+ cultivars I’ve had the pleasure to get to know over the years holds a special and unique place in my heart – even the most quirky and difficult of the bunch. That being said, I love a challenge – so I end up spending the most time getting to know the most difficult of my “children.” I noticed the potential in our Cap’s Frozen Lemons from day one and was determined to master her, even though the rooting success rate was terrible by comparison. Finally getting her to root well and continuing that growth momentum through Veg and Flower has been one of my biggest victories.
What are the most important things when growing cannabis?
Consistency is key – it’s important that the whole team understands the big picture, not just how to perform a certain task up to our standards but also understanding why they’re doing what they’re doing. Educating and thus empowering your employees with this information is what leads to a consistently successful crop time and time again.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
A long time ago, my boss/mentor taught me the 7 P’s: Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance. Always have a backup plan, and have backup plans on top of those. Things will always go wrong at some point or another, especially when you’re working with living things, but as long as you’re prepared you can make it through any obstacle.