By Gregory Daurer | Sep 10, 2019
Plumb, 43, is recognized on the national cannabis scene as a fount of horticultural and technological wisdom. He's involved with efforts to make cannabis growing more environmentally sound, working with the Resource Innovation Institute; to judge and curate cannabis on a more scientific level, compared with other cannabis competitions, at the Cultivation Classic, which he co-founded.
He's also worked to breed unique varieties like Blueberry Sorbet, which packs three times more terpenes than most craft cannabis, according to Cultivation Classic testing data, as well as the mixed-ratio Astral Works, bursting with terpinolene, a terpene which can lead some users to experience "interesting, reflective, altered states of consciousness," Plumb says.
At the northern fringe of Portland, Plumb works within a 60,000-square-foot warehouse, 7,000 square feet of which is dedicated to its Tier II (under Oregon's cultivation regulations) flowering plant canopy. That makes Prūf a smaller producer when compared with many operations in Washington or Colorado, as well as within the Oregon market itself. Regardless, Plumb cites data from BDS Analytics showing the company has been punching above its weight: "There have been numerous months where, by sales volume, we were the biggest producer in Oregon -- which is a pretty remarkable feat."
The facility has multiple chambers, including eight blooming rooms, which allow Prūf to grow and flower its core lineup of 24 different plants, using diverse, ideal conditions for each variety. "We have these high-tech, controlled environments that allow us to harvest nearly on a weekly basis, all year round," Plumb says. As opposed to a "one-size-fits-all approach," the Prūf team aims to "tailor the needs of all these different varietals in a really deep way" -- a deep way for around 14,000 plants on a regular basis, that is. The regimen includes adding different nutrients for different plants.
Plumb joined Prūf Cultivar in November 2017. Before that, he'd co-founded one of Portland's most renowned dispensaries, Farma, which was purchased in September 2018 by Groundworks Industries. In addition to also owning Prūf and the Oregon dispensary chains Electric Lettuce and Serra, Groundworks has a division which manufactures edibles and concentrates, and another which distributes cannabis. Plumb says that, due to its capital and its vertically integrated reach, Groundworks has been able to ride out an unenviable situation, which Plumb describes as operating within "arguably the most oversupplied commodity market in history: Oregon cannabis."
Since he started at Prūf, Plumb says, "Our cost of production has gone down tremendously; our product yield -- and useful part of the product yield, which is flower versus trim -- has gone up tremendously; our quality has gone up . . . in every measurable regard; and our labor has actually gone down."
Soon after arriving, Plumb changed the medium in which the plants are grown. "We use low volumes of liquid organic fertilizer to supplement our hand-mixed organic media," he says. And the company utilizes biological pest control: "The harshest chemistry you'll find in the whole facility is a mix of hydrogen peroxide and vinegar."
In addition to beginning to switch over from high-intensity discharge lamps to LED lights, the company has reduced its carbon footprint via a top-of-the-line filtration system: "We probably have some of the most high-tech HVAC anywhere in cannabis space," says Plumb, describing operating conditions within the facility as a "clean-room environment." Adhering to guidelines established by the Clean Green certification program, Plumb says, "We get absolutely glowing review from our Clean Green inspectors, who tour hundreds of facilities, and have discreetly told us that we were the most remarkable effort that they'd ever seen."
There are additional high-tech touches like a robot truck, which moves 4'x8' trays of plants, thus making them easier to access from the three tiers they rest upon. And there's a system called PrūfOS, designed by Plumb, which "is a customized environmental control system that uses high-density sensors in a network to monitor . . . all variables in the growing environment that we can measure, and then has a back-end, machine-learning, quantitative analysis component that can evaluate all of the environmental variables connected to the phytochemistry [of the plants]."
Plumb partially attributes Prūf's success to "a combination of our passion, our science, our technology -- and then these exclusive varieties [of cannabis, like acclaimed strains Steel Bridge and Astral Works] -- as well as [how] we're always on this ramp going forward with new, innovative solutions."
Plumb knows a lot about cannabis. But that doesn't mean he has everything figured out. On the contrary, he says he's humbled by what the industry still needs to learn, discover, and integrate. With excitement in his voice, Plumb says, "We're not at the apex of our evolution."
Challenges: "To do what we've been doing better than before; to have better crop consistency and crop quality; to continue to replace existing plants with superior plants; to continue to make superior products," says Plumb.
Opportunities: Meeting the needs of new consumers. "I believe we're going to be in a position to serve this future market that is populated with people [especially those over 50] that did not identify as cannabis users in the past, because of product quality and purity, ethics and values, consistency in execution," notes Plumb. "They may be able to revisit that relationship and see if it can do more for them now."
Needs: "We have to continue to find strategic partnerships in the technology space, in horticulture and botany and the plant science space to continue to bring insight," says Plumb. "I see us at the very beginning of a nearly infinite adventure of adaptation and evolution."
And there's the ongoing need to satisfy present-day customers: "To simply continue to be supported by the consumers and patients that we serve. There's a lot of competition out there. It really means the world to us that people will actually select our products for the reasons that they do."