Oregon’s Enterprise Farm relies on a knowledgeable team to maintain quality in a completely off-grid indoor operation, as its next facility shifts gears toward higher-tech production efficiencies.
Enterprise Farm is an off-grid cannabis cultivation operation focusing on sustainable practices in Oregon’s competitive marketplace. Founder and Director Kyle Pope says that the key to his farm’s success in sustainability is his team.
The Canby-based indoor operation produces flower for both sale and extracts (and has brought unique cultivars to market, such as Jägerschnitzel, a high-terpene, high-THC strain that has been mapped in the Phylos Galaxy). And Enterprise does all of this using solar power to run everything from custom-designed LED lighting to air conditioning.
Although it supplements its energy use with propane when it is not able to get enough sunlight in northern Oregon, Enterprise Farm has no connection to the power grid. It also minimizes trim waste by selling all but the plants’ roots to extractors.
Although Oregon does not currently have any energy-specific regulations in place, the Energy Trust of Oregon (ETO) offers licensed cannabis growers free technical services and cash incentives if they install energy-efficient equipment. The organization helped Enterprise Farm choose energy-efficient heating and cooling solutions for its facility, Pope says.
“We really use the ETO to look at … sustainability and the technology out there to help us be more sustainable, … have less of a harvest footprint and use less energy,” Pope says. “It’s good business, but it’s also just good.”
Founded in 2017, the company recently built out a 5,400-square-foot facility with 2,000 square feet of canopy across two rooms, which just produced the farm’s fourth harvest.
“If you can do it from scratch and tailor-make your building to what you’ve already determined it should be, it’s so much cheaper in the long run,” Pope says.
Pope began with a facility design, and co-founder Steven Lee improved the plan. “His depth of knowledge and experience was completely invaluable because he already understood many things as far as workflow and how to set things up,” Pope says. “It actually gave me insight.”
Maintaining a completely off-grid facility can be difficult at times, however, as Pope and his staff of four must ensure all aspects of the operation perform correctly every day. Sometimes the generator won’t turn off when it’s supposed to, for example, and other times it might turn on and stay running for an indefinite amount of time. “Little things, for some reason, they’re quirky,” Pope says.
The team records data points—a vital step in maintaining a sustainable operation—and it has begun developing standard operating procedures (SOPs), says Pope, noting that once the facility starts operating, unexpected nuances tend to surface. Keeping track of data allows Pope and his team to turn on a dime when needed. “We did reason a lot of things out very well, but now we see how we can make some adjustments, make some changes,” Pope says.
Employees are getting hands-on training in Enterprise Farm’s current facility, Pope says, and will eventually move on to also work in the company’s next facility, which is in the planning stages.
“I decided not to use heavy automation [in our first facility] because I want people to go through this facility to be trained [more hands-on] to go to my next facility. And so in the next facility, it’s going to be ultra-automation and everything we can do to really be as efficient as we possibly can and to also limit the human contact with the plant—just letting the plant do what plants do,” he says.
The Enterprise Farm team is now designing the second facility and dealing with the growing pains of scaling up. “Our team right now, we’re deciding on the shape, the structure and how to [design the facility] , and it’s easy when you’ve got a small, simple structure and you’ve got a small space, but then when you’ve got multiple, large spaces, the workflow … becomes that much more complicated, so we’re going through different designs and ideas right now,” Pope says.
Proper planning is one of the keys to the farm’s success, he adds. “Your setup is as important as your production,” he says. “So, we’re really determining how to pull everything through, from the mothers to the clones. We’re bringing in tissue culture. … It’s a very complex thing. I think we’re going to have to bring in some engineers and some architects this time.”
Looking ahead, as commoditization plunges cannabis prices lower and lower in Oregon’s market, Enterprise Farm is looking toward vertical integration, as well as reaching into the niche, high-end market.
In the shorter-term, though, Pope strives to lead the market with the company’s current facility, as well as continue to fine-tune the farm’s methods. “We’re very small with our small little building that we have right now, but it’s really through science and through proper production methods [that we can] figure out the most efficient way to produce this product with the highest quality that we can, and it’s kind of what everybody’s going for and reaching for,” he says.
Photos courtesy of Enterprise Farm