APRIL 14, 2023

Tips for Hiring Your Head Grower: Cultivators vs. Horticulturists

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As the cannabis industry continues to grow, so does the demand for talented professionals to fill key roles. One such role is that of the head grower, responsible for overseeing the cultivation of high-quality cannabis plants. But when it comes to hiring your head grower, you may be wondering whether to prioritize legacy cultivators or commercial horticulturists.

When it comes to hiring a head grower, there’s often a tug-of-war between these two cultivation approaches. At one end of the spectrum, you have the cultivator or craft grower – an individual with extensive knowledge of the cannabis plant, genetics, and terpene production. They excel at producing exceptional products on a small scale, often with roots in the legacy or black market.

At the other end of the spectrum, you have the commercial horticulturist – a seasoned pro in managing large-scale operations in conventional agriculture. While they possess expertise in consistent product production at scale, they may have limited knowledge of the plant prior to entering the cannabis industry.

Achieving success in the legal cannabis industry necessitates striking a delicate balance between these two cultivation approaches. Making the wrong choice could result in various problems such as decreased employee morale, lower profit margins, and inferior product quality. However, there’s no universal solution for every company.

Read on for some tips to help you make the right choice for your business when it comes to hiring a head grower.

Understanding the Differences

Before we dive into the tips, it’s important to understand the differences between cultivators and horticulturists. While there is certainly some overlap in their skill sets, they bring different perspectives and areas of expertise to the table.

Cultivators tend to focus on the day-to-day care and feeding of the plants. They have a deep understanding of soil, nutrients, watering schedules, and pest management. They know how to coax the best possible yield out of a crop and are adept at troubleshooting when things go wrong.

Horticulturists, on the other hand, take a broader view of plant science. They may have a degree in horticulture or a related field and are well-versed in the science of plant growth and development. They may be more focused on the genetics of the plants, the impact of environmental factors on growth, and the latest research on plant health.

When recruiting from the horticultural industry, the outcome typically involves large-scale commercial operations that could potentially generate mediocre-quality cannabis. While the product may pass all necessary testing requirements, it doesn’t generate much interest from discerning consumers. Such products can only thrive in protected markets, as informed consumers in competitive markets are willing to pay a premium for high-quality, craft flower.

On the other hand, hiring a grower who has an intimate understanding and passion for the plant, often from the black market, can have its own setbacks. Such growers may not be ready to manage a large-scale operation that generates millions of dollars in revenue annually. For some companies, producing premium-quality flower at a small scale is their primary goal. For others, efficiently executing a large-scale grow and producing mid-level products is entirely acceptable and desirable.

It all boils down to making decisions ahead of time about your company’s goals and preferences, so you know precisely what qualities to look for in a potential hire.

Questions to ask Before Hiring a Head Grower

Before hiring your head grower, consider asking yourselves the following questions:

  • What is the scale of your grow facility in the short and long term?

  • How intricate do you want your automation and internal grow systems to be?

  • Will you be a large-scale producer of mid-level products or a small-scale producer of premium-quality flower?

  • What stage are you at in the process – starting from scratch or already established?

  • Do you run multiple grow sites in different cities?

It’s crucial to have a clear plan in place before embarking on the hiring process. Identify any areas where you’re willing to compromise and make note of them.

Tips for Hiring Your Head Grower

Now that we’ve outlined the differences between cultivators and horticulturists as well as some questions to keep in mind, here are some tips to help you choose the right head grower candidate for your cannabis business.

1. Consider Your Business Needs

The first step is to assess your business needs. What kind of operation are you running? Are you focused on maximizing yields and efficiency, or are you looking to produce high-end craft cannabis? Depending on your goals, you may lean more toward a cultivator or horticulturist.

2. Look for Experience

Regardless of whether you’re prioritizing cultivators or horticulturists, experience is key. Look for candidates who have a track record of success in the cannabis industry. They should be able to speak to their successes and challenges, and have a deep understanding of the plant and its needs.

3. Assess Technical Skills

In addition to experience, you’ll want to assess technical skills. This may include knowledge of various growing methods (such as hydroponics or organic soil), familiarity with different strains and genetics, and expertise in pest management and disease prevention.

4. Evaluate Communication Skills

Your head grower will need to communicate with a variety of stakeholders, from other team members to management to customers. Look for candidates who are able to clearly articulate their ideas and plans, and who can adapt their communication style to different audiences.

5. Prioritize Passion and Drive

Finally, don’t underestimate the importance of passion and drive. Your head grower will play a critical role in the success of your business, and they should be invested in your mission and vision. Look for candidates who are enthusiastic about the industry and are driven to succeed.

The Bottom Line

Before making a decision in terms of hiring your head grower, it’s essential to consider various factors, trade-offs, and ask relevant questions. It’s crucial to understand where you stand in the process. If you already have a functioning facility that requires someone to take it over and make some changes to standard operating procedures (SOPs), then you may not need to hire an expert grower as a company starting from scratch. However, if you need a new hire to design and build a facility from scratch, it’s better to look for someone with a horticultural background who has experience in large-scale operations, even if it may cost more. Additionally, if you’re running multiple grow sites, you’ll need someone experienced in managing multiple growers at different locations and willing to travel.

In conclusion, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of whether a head grower should have a cultivator or horticulturist background. It requires asking specific questions about your company’s needs and deciding accordingly. It’s essential to determine what your non-negotiables are and what you can compromise on based on budget and other considerations. With the right choice, you can set up both the new hire and their grow operation for success and avoid any potential conflicts with existing employees. Ultimately, this approach will ensure everyone is on track for a prosperous year of growth in all aspects of the business.

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