Growing the Industry: Alex Paulakovich of Nuthera
Missouri marijuana has become a billion-dollar-per-year industry, and the driving force behind that success is the cultivation of cannabis in licensed facilities across the state.
With Growing the Industry, Greenway aims to highlight and introduce the individuals behind the plants that Missouri’s marijuana market is built on.
In this edition, we spoke with Alex Paulakovich, Vice President at Nuthera, about the successes and obstacles of creating a cultivation operation with an already-established brand.
Paulakovich was 21 when started her cannabis career in Colorado, choosing to pack up and move to follow her passion when things first went legal in 2014. She started off on the trim table in a cultivation facility and worked her way up from there. She has been in the field for more than a decade now and has the skills to prove it.
When Missouri legalized medical marijuana, Paulakovich, a Kansas City native, came back home. At Nuthera, she has helped to create and grow a thriving cannabis brand built on culture and fueled by quality. In 2023, Nuthera launched its first flower line from its recently developed cultivation facility.
Paulakovich is passionate about what she does and it shows in the quality of Nuthera.
What came first for you, a passion for plants or cannabis?
It was definitely the weed first. I had been smoking weed for a long time. It always helped me a lot with anxiety, sleep and insomnia. I always just enjoyed it, you know? I thought if people can go out and drink alcohol then I don’t see why we can’t smoke weed.
Then I kind of realized that I had an opportunity to make a career out of this. I was always drawn to cultivating the plant. I don’t really know why, honestly. I can’t tell you why. I just thought that that was super cool, and I liked it. I’d always kind of liked the physical aspect of it and getting to know all the plants. They each grow differently and act differently. Some are good for yielding and some are good for hash production. It’s such a unique plant and I just find it to be beautiful and cool.
Did you have any challenges when you first started that you had to overcome?
I don’t even know that I would describe this as a challenge necessarily, but the industry of growing cannabis is a lot of hard work. Cultivation is indoor farming at the end of the day. Then once you get in there, it’s a lot of dirt, water, physical labor and cleaning that you don’t think about whenever you’re getting into it. But once you are there every single day, it’s like, oh, at the end of the day, this is all indoor.
How big is the Nuthera grow?
Right now, our cultivation facility is 16,000 square feet, but we’re currently in the process of construction on an additional 32,000 square feet. At the end of the day, we’ll be just under that 30,000 square feet of flowering canopy space that we’re allowed on the license.
What information can you give me about your grow method?
We do a lot of crop steering and are super data-driven. Our plants grow under LEDs and have a pretty standard coco drip line. I had grown under high-pressure sodiums for a long time. And so growing under LEDs is an interesting thing. It’s different, but the LEDs have really come a long way in the last couple years. Overall, we have lots of crop steering, and the other big thing is getting to know the genetics you are working with.
Tell me about your genetics and what went into your selection process.
It kinda just depends. I want to make sure that we’re hitting all the bases. I’m kind of forever and always will be a heavy OG smoker or super indica heavy, but that’s not necessarily what the market wants all the time. But there will always be that customer base looking for gassy strains, the rubbery strains, and heavy-hitting OGs. Then the market’s going for a fruity kind of thing right now. And so we are just trying to cover all the bases and looking at specific breeders, making sure that we’re choosing good and well-known breeders, with stable genetics. Then we’ll be rolling out some rosin, at some point as well. We are always looking for strains that are gonna be able to wash well and yield well in rosin production.
What is the biggest obstacle you face with a grow like this?
I think any time that you start something up from scratch. This is a startup.
You get your building first. Then you can design it and do all those things and make all the preparations that you can, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. You have to get plants in there and water then see how the room reacts. Getting to know the building takes a little bit of time. I would say, it’s the start up of it all.
How does it all work together? How do the processes work together? We harvest perpetually. So every single week we’re taking down a new harvest. Figuring out the logistics of how all that works and getting people trained up in such a brand new market. We hire a lot of people locally and training those people up; it takes time.
It takes time and a lot of effort to get everybody on the same page and understanding the process of how it all works, especially when you are harvesting every week.
You don’t really get an off week. There’s very specific goals and needs that have to be made every single week; because whether you like it or not, there’s more plants coming down 7 days later.
What are the most important things when growing cannabis?
I would say your genetic libraries, strain choices, environmental conditions, lighting, and watering. Those are crucial points right there.
What advice would you give other people starting out in the industry?
Be ready for the ever-changing environment that we live in. This industry is still so brand new. In Missouri, we’re in our first year of recreational in which we’ve seen a huge increase in sales. The legal cannabis industry is going on a decade as it’s still very young.
I think it’s such a privilege that we are able to go to work with weed every single day. I would say have fun, work hard, and remember that this is a really cool thing that we all get to be a part of the ground floor of.