At CANNA we're excited to share passionate grower stories from across Canada that resonate with our community and inspire us to grow, in the widest sense of the word.
William, please tell us a little about who you are.
Will: I am currently a part of the CANNA Canada team within product development and commercial grower technical support.
I'm a cannabis consultant, vertical farming expert, ambassador for Montel, and the founder of Mauve et Herbes, a fully licensed producer in Quebec.
I also am very interested in ancestral varieties of plants like tomatoes, growing giant veggies and the art of bonsaï.
But, what little spare time I've had in the last few years have been dedicated to breeding and developing genetics and securing rights for a large pool of genetics for my endeavours.
During my time at Biofloral I started my own consulting company where I helped LPs get their licenses, and began using my technical drawing skills again, but this time for layout design of grow rooms. I was finally able to put my horticulture design ideas on paper, and it changed everything.
Tell us the story of how you became a passionate grower.
Will: My story began back in the day when I got bad weed from a friend.
Not only was it not what I asked for, it wasn't weed at all. I was seriously upset... so I rummaged around and found a book in my dad's things [laughs] about growing cannabis. It's from that moment that I became interested in the cannabis plant, and the horticultural world opened up to me. After high school, I pursued my studies in plant production technologies.
I began working in hydroponics stores (Hydromax) when I was 18, I'm 36 now. It's through these stores that I originally connected with CANNA. In 2007 I got my medical growing license; in 2011, I enrolled in Landscape Architecture at the University of Montreal; then I pursued my career as a landscape architect until 2015. The day Justin Trudeau was elected and promised legalization, I reverted back to my roots and began working with Biofloral Canada (one of the largest distributors of growing equipment and liquid fertilisers) to help them develop the emerging Cannabis Licensed Producer (LP) market.
During my time at Biofloral I started my own consulting company where I helped LPs get their licenses, and began using my technical drawing skills again, but this time for layout design of grow rooms. Being able to put my horticulture design ideas on paper changed everything.
Since legalization I've worked alongside a few amazing pioneers and brands, including a large scale producer in Quebec where I worked as Consultant, Master Grower, Head of Security, and helped them to elaborate phase 1 and 2 of their construction +/- 75 000 square foot facility as well as develop and secure the rights to a genetics library.
What motivated you to launch your own licensed production?
With a personal vision and ambition in mind I kept exploring options to start living my own dream instead of working on others'.
In 2019 I began construction of Mauve et Herbes. I built the facility on my own personal land that began as a horse farm which I then turned into an indoor growing facility. Thankfully my years of experience and a decent plan allowed me to obtain a standard cultivation license in august 2020, only 10 weeks after submission to Health Canada (probably one or the fastest licensing times ever).
Completion of "phase 1" was just the beginning as I had envisioned an outdoor growing area as well as a greenhouse at the same location. I saw the license as an acknowledgement that I was doing things the right way, so I kept working on the following stages of the project. Now, it's early 2022 and we are fully operational, which means when the snow melts, we'll be growing outdoors again.
- We are a family business on agricultural land
- 7.000 sq ft. of buildings
- 4.000 sq ft. of indoor canopy in multiple flexible and very versatile smart grow rooms
- Indoor and hybrid greenhouse using multiple different LED brands
- Vertical growing system in the hybrid greenhouse
- Outdoor field of 50.000+ sq ft.
- Upcoming processing license
- Dedicated staff members
This project also includes 50.000+ seeds that I introduced, and thousands of hand picked genetics from around the globe.
Tell us about the CANNA Canada Research & Knowledge Center Partnership
As a member of the CANNA Canada team I love sharing my knowledge and experience. CANNA and I have the same vision, and it did not take long before we drafted a partnership to utilize my facility as an educational center and hub to perform product trials and development.
At Mauve et Herbes we are able to conduct research, do on field product testing, analyse for product development and further look into specific plant needs. Next to that the facility serves as a wealthy source of information sharing between both companies. CANNA brings over 25 years of knowledge and experience, but through this partnership we've also created a space for the exchange of information between the different global CANNA Research facilities. At the Canadian Research & Knowledge Center we have a platform to create and diffuse content within the regulated industry, invite guests for seminars or inspirational meetings and generate potential collaborations with universities and other LPs. Mauve et Herbes also focuses on pheno-hunting, breeding and genetic development projects. So it's a Win, Win, WIN in all our books!
How has your passion for growing evolved over the past 2 years?
Will: It's more real than ever for me right now. I've been working towards building my new commercial licensed facility since 2019 and I am so excited, so stoked to bring great strains and nice dried flowers to the market. To summarize, I would say that its evolved from gardening and experimenting to operating and managing my own commercial facility that will hopefully one day soon become beneficial to the growing community as a whole..
Pheno-hunting is what I love most. Planting a thousand seeds and finding that one special one.
What would you consider your favorite part about the entire growing process?
Will: Pheno-hunting and breeding is what I love most. Planting a thousand seeds and finding that one special one, this is what I thrive for. Prior to working in the commercial market, I did a lot of breeding with one goal in mind: pheno-hunting. Quite different from producing standardized seeds for sale.
I'm always looking for strains that have a punchy terpene profile but still with beautiful colors and viable agro-economics characteristics... I was lucky enough to continue my passion within the regulated market with a licensed producer I worked for and also in my first outdoor crop at Mauve et Herbes last summer. The results were quite phenomenal and I can't wait for the next step of this project.
What would you consider to be your least favorite part of the entire growing process?
Will: Harvesting, drying and trimming is definitely the most challenging aspect of the production cycle. You feel like a machine, it never ends and it's hard work. You need to have very knowledgeable team members to make sure the end product will become outstanding.
Every step in the production cycle is crucial and you can have issues in all of them, but if you encounter problems in the drying phase, you can lose your edge very quickly. That being said, it is incredibly rewarding when the final processes are done correctly, it's only at that point that you feel some of the pressure release and you can allow yourself to be proud of your product.
What do you look for most when it comes to growing nutrients and why?
Will: Standardization - it has to be the same product all the time.
The quality (clarity, level of contaminants or heavy metals) of the product and ease of access to their quality assurance paper trail and documentation. Also it needs to be 'clean' in a sense that it doesn't leave waste into the systems. The cleaner the fertilizer, the less cleaning in between cycles. This reduces the cost of usage too.
Made to match specific mediums of growth that you're using so I can sleep tight and know that my fertilizer matches up perfectly with my growing system. When it's proven with data, I can focus on other aspects of the growth.
My personal favourite growing system is most definitely the CANNA Coco medium of growth with the CANNA Coco A & B fertilizers. It works like a charm without compromising the quality of the flowers. Operating this kind of growing system comes with a certain peace of mind. It's a great balance between growth efficiency and security because it can forgive and it gives you some buffer to work with compared to a more traditional hydroponic growing system (like rockwool or DWC).
From speed of growth, structure of the plant, resistance to diseases and pathogens, to the taste of the flowers. If you don't have consistency and purity with the inputs you are using you can have a lot of problems in your crops.
What differences do you see when growing with clean high quality inputs vs the alternative?
Will: Everything, from speed of growth, structure of the plant, resistance to diseases and pathogens, to the taste of the flowers. If you don't have consistency and purity with the inputs you are using you can have a lot of problems in your crops.
What have been some of the biggest challenges you've faced when you were a Head Grower?
Will: I think the biggest challenge is to find time to spend in the gardens while being overwhelmed and multitasking with everything you have to deal with in that role. Following, maintaining and improving Standardized Operations Procedures to the letter is also very difficult when you run a small business with a small crew. It eats all your time, including personal time.
If you had a direct line to your consumer, what's one thing you would want them to know about the entire growing process?
Will: First thing is that it took 15-20 years of experience and hard work to develop and find these very special strains that I will eventually be growing and bringing to market.
Second is we never spray anything on our flowering plants even if some products are allowed to be used until the end of the cycle. We put a lot of effort into putting the cleanest flowers on the shelves. So the message to the consumer would be: you can trust this!
In years to come, what would you like to be recognized for within the growing community?
Will: My wildest dream would be to be recognized as someone who's created / found a legendary strain that people will remember for decades. It's certainly not going to be easy to achieve.
Something a little more realistic speaking would be to be known as someone who really contributed in a good way to the industry in general. I love helping people/growers with their challenges and to me, sharing knowledge and helping the community evolve is really what I strive for. This is also why I chose to work for CANNA, they have the same vision in that regard.
Who is someone you look up to in the Cannabis industry and why?
Will: There are so many talented people in the industry that it's hard to choose just one.
I have to go with Vincent Gagné who is the National Sales Rep for LPs at Biofloral. He is so pro-active, well organized and meticulous. His background is quite different from the growers in the industry but he is very knowledgeable and he can think outside of the box. He's able to find / resolve issues in ways you probably wouldn't have thought of until you've dug much deeper. When you need growing supplies in a rush, he has your back, all the time. He is a great friend and I'm honored to know him.
My wildest dream would be to be recognized as someone who's created / found a legendary strain that people will remember for decades.
What's the one tip you would give a home grower just starting out?
Will: Read as much as possible on different growing systems, techniques, horticultural tips, and try to learn as much as possible all the time. When you fail at something, see it as your experience improving. The accumulation of all of your failures is often underestimated as a huge source of knowledge.
As a passionate producer, how important is it to you that consumers get educated on the safety of growing practices that ensure healthy and safe products?
Will: My advice would be to try to get to know more about your preferred producer's growing practices. Enquire about everything from how they manage pests and diseases to their growing system. It's not because everything is tested that it's safe and good quality.
- Don't be afraid to get out of your comfort zone
- Try different growing systems and crops, it will open you up to new possibilities
- Don't be afraid to fail
- Read as much as you can
- Share your knowledge with your community
Please contact me at email@example.com if you have any question or requests, I'm there to help and I love to have discussions about your projects and challenges.