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Featured, Lifestyle

Behind-The-Scenes of a Cannabis Grow Facility with Seed & Smith

Emily Mullins

by Emily Mullins

May 17, 2024 08:00 am ET Estimated Read Time: 9 Minutes
Fact checked by Kymberly Drapcho

As the top behind-the-scenes tour of the cannabis growth process in Colorado, the employees of Seed & Smith cultivation in Denver have mastered their craft. Their four daily tours (three on Sundays) are perfectly polished and streamlined, ensuring that visitors get as much information as possible about cannabis in a quick 45 minutes. 

A few other members of the Veriheal team and I were fortunate to have the chance to attend this tour and see what it was all about. When we arrived, we were warmly greeted by a couple of Seed & Smith employees. They immediately made us feel welcome as they told us what to expect. Friendly and approachable cannabis professionals lead this experience with a wealth of knowledge to share. 

seed & smith

After checking in, the tour began. Our group set off to the warehouse with our guide, Jake, who quickly began telling us about the history of Seed & Smith. 

The tour takes attendees through four main areas: the vegetation room, the grow room (or “Bloom Room”), the packaging area, and the MIP–also known as the processing space. The facility that the business is now housed in was once a factory line, and it took hefty investments and several years to convert it into a proper cannabis grow space. 

Despite the size of the task, they did it, and the area looks incredible. 

“Seed & Smith is a little bit of a lie,” Jake told us. “We don’t grow from seed–98% of the time, we get a clone.” 

Indeed, cloning has become a massive part of the growing industry. As we learned, many iconic strains, such as Blue Dream, are simply copies of copies of the original plants. Sometimes, Jake explained, strains change so much throughout the cloning process that they end up with new names or characteristics altogether. Other times, the strains die off completely, leaving behind only hybrid children. 

“A copy of a copy of a copy–it gets pretty blurry,” Jake said. “Genetics are finite.” 

Although it can be distressing to hear that your favorite strains may not exist someday – or may already not exist – Jake gave us hope. 

“The only thing that matters is the terpene profile: the smell and the taste. That is replicable. We can bring back the things lost to the sands of time.” 

He then had us smell a variety of different terpenes. Each of them had a distinct smell representing their unique characteristics, with scents ranging from pine to earth to diesel. As it turns out, we can smell whether a strain is sedating or uplifting–all without ever knowing what it’s called. If a terpene scent appeals to you, it’s likely for a reason. 

“Cannabis is subjective. You’ve got to experiment.”

Seed & Smith uses specialized fertilization formulas to facilitate better plant growth and larger yields.
Seed & Smith uses specialized fertilization formulas to facilitate better plant growth and larger yields.

After showing us the coconut husk compound the plants are grown in, we saw rooms full of young and mature plants. This was perhaps the most standout part of the tour–there was something awe-inspiring about seeing dozens of fully grown cannabis plants in neat little rows. A sweet smell permeated the entire facility, which we noticed as soon as we entered the building. 

Each plant is carefully labeled and tracked with RFID microchips from the moment it’s first germinated, per government regulations. The different strains were sorted together, and there were some clear visual variations between each one. 

All steps of growth have been created to help the plants reach their full potential, from the rooting hormones applied to the fresh baby clone cuts to the artificial wind blown through the grow rooms to help the plant stems become stronger. Stronger stems = a better ability to hold large cannabis buds.  

Fascinatingly, Seed & Smith was able to repurpose machinery in unexpected ways. A prior car washing system was converted into a water and feeding system for the maturing plants, which get too big and numerous to hand-water efficiently. But water and nutrients aren’t the only things that have become automated. 

“We keep the ladies on 18 hours of light [at first]. To get cannabis to start making the fun stuff, we double the dark on them. If you give them 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness, they think fall has arrived.”

“In a commercial grow, we’re cheating every step of the way,” Jake said with a laugh. “We’re turning a six-month process into three and a half months.” 

I’ve seen home-grow setups before, but this was truly on another level. The air quality, temperature, light, water, and CO2 levels provided to the plants are all strictly monitored to ensure maximum growth. The whole facility was impeccably clean and maintained; partially due to the high standards imposed by the government. 

Seed & Smith uses warm, high-pressure sodium lights to mimic outdoor light, which can help with vertical growth and flowering.

“We’re overseen by the Marijuana Enforcement Division,” Jake explained. “If they walk into this room and see a single piece of leaf on the floor–that’s a $10,000 fine per leaf.” 

While the government is certainly strict, it leads to immaculate grow rooms. It must be working well for Seed & Smith because the plants are huge; some were much taller than me.  

Once we were done with the plants, we moved on to harvesting and cultivating. I was surprised by how many elaborate processes there are for turning cannabis into the products we know and love. Some buds are trimmed into flower for wholesale or joints, while others go through rigorous scientific steps designed to extract terpenes, turn them into concentrates, or make them into edibles. 

“We don’t allow robots to take these jobs from anybody–we’ve got a team of ten back there [trimming] right now,” Jake told us proudly. 

Some of the extraction processes can get so intense that employees must undergo extensive training just to enter a few of the rooms. One such explosion-proof room held a highly reactive chamber that uses butane and propane to wash flash-frozen cannabis for turning into live resin, a complex process only handled by commercial grow facilities. Using butane and propane allows for clean extraction of cannabinoids like THC-A

Turning flower into concentrates is no easy feat, as we witnessed. After the terpenes, cannabinoids, and oils are extracted from the plant matter, they may go through a vacuum chamber or be filtered further in a process similar to laundering clothes. The room where these processes take place was filled with gadgets and instruments I couldn’t even begin to decipher in my short time there, although Jake did take a moment to explain some of them to us. 

“This black box of doom–this is called the Vape Jet,” Jake said, referring to a large, dark-colored machine that looked a bit like an electronic safe. “She [fills] 3,000 cartridges a day on her own, and she cleans herself at the end of her shift. She was made to fill Juul pods, but we reconfigured it for our needs.” 

After we saw the full extraction process, we smelled the various concentrate products produced by Seed & Smith. They also showed us a batch of shatter ready to be packaged, and the quality reflects the effort Seed & Smith puts into their cannabis–the color, shine, and uniformity of the wax were consistent throughout the entire batch. As a company that processes more than 100 pounds of marijuana a week, it’s essential to be streamlined. 

seed and smith concentrate

“We’re the last line of defense for quality control. We grow, package, and sell it all within about 50 feet, and we have to make sure it works the first time, every time. Guess who the guinea pigs are?” Jake laughed. 

If the amount of product these guys have tested is any indication, they certainly know their stuff. Jake provided us with tidbits of information that will forever change how I purchase cannabis products. For example, he revealed that THC percentages are more of a marketing tactic than anything else–which he demonstrated with a jar of 99% pure THC-A. 

“This is downright dull–it does one job, and it does not do it well. When you smoke this by itself, it’s like sitting in the passenger seat of a drag car with a blindfold on. It’s pure acceleration. This is the conductor of the symphony, but the terpenes are playing the instruments. If there’s no smell, there’s no effect.” 

He further explained that THC percentages in cannabis products are easily altered and may not always be truthful. A product listed as 30% THC could be closer to 15% THC since companies are not required to disclose ranges; instead, they get to pick one number. 

“If you enjoy getting stoned, treat the number on the label differently. Treat it like the alcohol percentage on a bottle of wine–how important is that number to your purchasing decision?” he asked. “The journey is in the taste and the smell.” 

Throughout the rest of the tour, we caught glimpses into the daily lives of the employees. From seeing the room where the buds were hand-trimmed and packaged to hearing the expert advice provided by the budtenders in their on-site dispensary, cannabis culture is truly embedded into every part of Seed & Smith. The passion is evident in what they do and in the way they treat visitors like us. 

This entire experience is completely free to those who would like to stop by, and we highly recommend doing so. I gained invaluable insight into the cannabis industry and what goes on behind the scenes of prepping this incredible plant for consumers, and it certainly changed the way I view cannabis myself. 

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