Vincent Louis, Jr is a New Mexico Medical Marijuana cultivator. As he puts it, about 50% of the people he meets think that's cool. Vince thinks it's very cool.
Among other highlights in his concentrated career, Vince's team at UltraHealth runs the highest producing MMJ operation in the state. Working from their 21k sq ft greenhouse, Vince and five other cultivators manage 450 plants with a harvest of 70-80 lbs (dry weight) every two weeks.
Vince's explanation for the impressive numbers is simple: great leadership and highly knowledgeable people. "We do things the right way," he says. "With such good management we follow a military-grade standard for everything we do. Doing things right the first time and keeping up with daily maintenance avoids problems and builds everybody's confidence."
With a college background in organic chemistry and microbiology, Vince's aim was to end up in an R&D lab environment. When he received an invitation to join the operation, however, he recognized the opportunity, and with the buzz that UltraHealth has created and their highly successful dispensaries, he has no regrets. "Steady selection and friendly in-and-out service make our dispensaries attractive to a wide audience."
Partnering with top West Coast breeders doesn't hurt: "While most growers stick with heavy producers, we also serve connoisseurs who are up-to-date on high-end strains." With 13-15 strains per harvest, the greenhouse raises around 35 strains total.
Growing in a greenhouse, the team relies heavily on the sun but depends on a combination of LED and 1000W DE halogen grow lights for cloudy times and shorter winter days. "We've been replacing halogens with LEDs. Right now, every-other fixture is LED." As Vince reports, one advantage of the hybrid setup is that halogens do help with the temperature in the winter. At the same time, the operation sees more production under the LEDs.
The team has also recognized the power savings of LEDs, which Vince believes will be critical moving forward. "With the increased supply and market saturation that we're already seeing in places like Oregon and Colorado, managing production costs is going to become increasingly important." With LED's guaranteed energy savings, he believes the decision to move away from halogens will become a competitive necessity.
"The race now is efficiency. What does it cost to run this fixture and how many years am I going to get out of it?" Further, Vince confirms that their Lifted LED fixtures require no maintenance compared to regular maintenance for the halogens.
The UltraHealth greenhouse runs several of Lifted's fixtures including the City, Underpass, Main Street and the exciting new Freeway.
"The City is perfect. It's powerful and the controls are great." Vince even uses the City fixture in his personal grow space. "In my own space I use the spectrum controls a lot, both the presets and the custom spectra. Customization definitely makes a difference."
Back in the greenhouse, "We use Main Street for cloning and see a 4-5 day gain compared to using a T-5 fixture. We also use it for seed propagation in the humidity dome."
The team has been experimenting with a pair of Underpass fixtures, which hang directly in the canopy in the flowering bay. "I like the Underpass a lot. We especially notice the gains in not having to lolly as much," which translates to both canopy and bud increases.
And of the new Freeway, Vince raves, "The initial numbers are awesome. The intensity is beyond compare. One light can service a whole 4x8 table! When you pair that with the Underpass, the potential is huge."
Looking ahead in the development of himself as a grower, Vince is clear: "I want to stay to the connoisseur side." He believes his home state of New Mexico is close to going recreational and with his professional experience complementing his personal cultivating practice, he looks forward to meeting the coming demand by managing his own greenhouse in near future.
He's also positive but firm in his encouragement of young growers. "Before you go big, you have to master different strains. Focus on one before you move on to another because they all have unique characteristics." He adds, "Take your time. Master the small scale before you try to move to mass production."