Josh Malman: Keep Your Eyes on the Crop
This week, Josh Malman, vice president of cultivation at Jushi Holdings, discusses how he fell into cannabis.As a student, Malman studied international horticulture, and even spent a semester abroad building systems to provide cheap water to local farms in Africa. His focus on greenhouse production horticulture eventually led him to a position with The Clinic in Colorado as it was starting up in 2009. When he first started with The Clinic, his first harvest was around 50 pounds. Over the course of 10 years, he helped grow the business into three cultivation facilities and six retail stores in Colorado. In 2019, Jushi Holdings bought the consulting arm of The Clinic, and Malman’s expertise was an important part of the purchase. Two years ago, Jushi didn't have much of a cultivation footprint, but through acquisition, it now operates facilities in Nevada, Virginia and Pennsylvania — and each is undergoing expansion projects in 2021. Malman stresses that while cannabis is a weed and grows very easily, it's not a very hearty plant and is susceptible to many problems. He says, “you need eyes on the crop and eyes on the facility at all times,” which can prove difficult when overseeing cultivation operations in three different states. The expansion projects also present a challenging puzzle as Malman works with construction firms to add space without disrupting current operations. It’s also difficult to try and recreate a facility, state-to-state, without the ability to move any product across state lines. His role keeps him on the road frequently despite the pandemic. The past two years included many planes, site visits and manager hires, along wit implementing cloud-based data collection systems and cameras at each facility. The only downside is that a camera doesn’t really allow him to monitor the plant's true health. He can see if the lights are on, but it’s tough to tell if drippers are down or if there are any signs of wilt or pest infestations. Currently, Malman's cultivation operations are exclusively indoors. He recently made the decision to make a wholesale change to go vertical, with double- and triple-tiered cultivation. Despite his efforts, he insists that the future of sustainable cultivation is greenhouses and outdoor farms. The move to go vertical wasn’t without its challenge; it was difficult to get the correct environmental conditions, particularly air movement across the canopy at each level. Now, Jushi is harvesting weekly in Pennsylvania and Virginia, and monthly in Nevada. With an average of 60-65 grams per square foot, harvests have ranged from 200 pounds at the smaller facilities to up to 1,000 pounds.The company has grown significantly in the last two years, with much more in store for 2021. According to Malman, the cultivation staff is around 50 right now, but could grow to 200 by the end of the year.The Cannabis Equipment News Podcast is an interview series with growers, processors, manufacturers, distributors and other professionals who work within the legal cannabis industry.