The Mad Science of Microbiology and Chemistry is Growing the Cannabis Industry
Dakine 420 takes its science of producing fertilizers for the cannabis industry very seriously. And with THC yields coming in at over 35 percent, many growers are taking notice.
Kelly Martin, Founder and CEO of Dakine 420 has seen it all when it comes to the cannabis industry. He grew up in a home where it was acceptable to smoke marijuana. “My dad was a diabetic, so he never drank alcohol when I was a kid, but both he and my mom smoked marijuana,” he says.
In the late 1970s and early ’80s he was involved with cannabis on the consumer side. As a young adult he started growing marijuana in the mid-80s. Throughout the hardships and challenges that came with it, Martin stuck with an industry that was viewed suspiciously by some and saw it come full circle through recent legalization. He started a fertilizer business in Redmond, Oregon specific to cannabis plants.
“After things loosened up with the medical side and prior to the recreational market taking hold, I decided that I would put on my big boy pants and say exactly what this is being used for, exactly what we’re doing and why we are doing it.”
From there, he filmed garden videos, photos and covered his company Dakine 420’s website with cannabis testimonials.
The truly impressive thing is that, throughout all of these experiences, Martin continues to have a good sense of humor which is very apparent in his brand ambassador: the mad scientist. Martin came up with the idea from his collaborator who has dual PhDs in chemistry and microbiology and is the scientist behind the products. “I liked him and became friends with him. So, I thought, let’s use the ‘mad scientist’ as a branding tool because he really is the guy behind the brand,” Martin says. His clients have responded so well that there is often demand for shirts, hats and other promotional materials with the company name and logo.
And while the brand is fun, when it comes to the results, it’s all business for Dakine 420’s fertilizer. It’s important to provide growers with any edge when it comes to yields, because prices for cannabis on the wholesale market in Oregon and other states are very dependent on the THC levels marijuana plants produce.
A product that yields 15 to 20 percent THC may get $800 a pound on the wholesale market. Raising that percentage to 25 could see prices of about $1,100 a pound. If you get over 30 percent of THC levels, a grower can command a premium price of up to $1,600 a pound. And this is where Dakine 420’s powder fertilizers shine with some very strong results in the yield of THC levels.
“We have lab reports that show THC levels as high as 37 percent or more, which is in the top one percent of all strains being tested in the state.” Martin is quick to point out that genetics and environment also play a role in increasing THC. But he is clearly proud of the results.
Choosing to produce the fertilizer in powder form also makes Dakine 420 stand out from the crowd as more than 90 percent of fertilizers used to grow cannabis are liquid concentrates. However, the truth is all fertilizers start as powders and are then watered down into concentrates.
There are also a number of drawbacks when it comes to storing liquid fertilizer such as taking up more shelf space and not holding up well against extreme heat or cold. And since Dakine 420’s fertilizer is sold in powder form it is not only more efficient for the grower who can calculate exact amounts of the fertilizer for their crops. Dakine 420’s approach to the market is very much focused on the needs of growers.
“We actually try to simplify the process,” Martin explains. “Most of our competitors have up to 10 different parts to their line while we have it down to a three-part solution. So we can save people money, keep it simplified and keep it easy.” Dakine 420 also makes its team of experts available to growers so that they can contact the company with any issues relating to their crops.
Martin himself recently had a direct hand in helping a grower succeed. “I met a gentleman in California about a year ago. He had recently sold his business and was semi-retired and able to do a very large cannabis grow but really didn’t know anything about it,” he says. “He knew the business part, but he didn’t have the experience to be a successful cannabis grower, so he was struggling a little bit. I brought in a team of people that I have known over the years who were very good engineers and growers who also understood my product very well. We helped increase his yield and got his project turned around so now he is doing substantially better.”
Not only does Martin and Dakine 420 support growers through advice, the company is also a staunch advocate for the industry. “I have worked with NORML, the Marijuana Policy Project, and the Drug Policy Alliance, which are some of the big associations that are trying to take the criminality out of it,” Martin says.
“I love that the industry has come around and it is being accepted more than it ever has before. Imagine, from reefer madness and all this horrible propaganda against it. Then to actually come around where now hemp is being farmed.”
While marijuana receives a lot of media attention, it’s actually hemp that may have the largest impact on the agricultural industry. The plant is very fibrous and is excellent for producing twine, rope, string and cable. The seeds from the plant are a good source of protein and fiber and are used as a health food by sprinkling on a salad or added to a smoothie. Hemp is also a source of CBD, which is the non-psychoactive cannabinoid that has a number of applications in medical use such as pain and anxiety treatment. And since it is a plant, it also a renewable resource.
One of the main advantages of hemp is that it can be grown outside on a much larger scale. “Our largest marijuana growers may have 30,000 square feet or ten greenhouses. All that is less than one acre. But then you can have a hemp grower who has up to 1,000 acres. The opportunity is there in a big way and that’s what I’m excited about.” In fact, total sales for hemp related products were more than $1 billion in 2018 and are set to increase from there.
That is why Dakine 420 is now introducing two new fertilizers designed for the plant. One is called Hemp Pro which is a natural, broadcast fertilizer that is used in large parcels of acreage to fertilize the soil. The product includes extruded and expelled soybean meal, minerals from an ancient fossilized seaweed bed, amino acids and microbes which slowly release as the plants grow.
The second is Bio-Gold, which is water-soluble 20/20/20 all-purpose fertilizer. It is also the only fertilizer that includes the beneficial bacteria, bacillus subtilis and bacillus planterum, which are proprietarily secured by Dakine 420’s very own “mad” scientist.
Martin is excited about the expansion of the hemp and marijuana industry and feels that there is more opportunity for Dakine 420 to expand into to new markets. The company recently added Amazon as a fulfillment center and that now gives them the opportunity to widely distribute its products. And while the company’s reach may be expanding, one thing that isn’t changing is the focus on customers.
“The last paycheck I ever took was when I was 18,” Martin says. “I have been self-employed for 40 years. And I would not have made it unless I take care of people; that is something I instill into everything we do as a company: make sure our entire organization has a clear understanding of world-class customer support. A live person is always available during business hours to handle all customer support questions.”