Take a trip to the Pacific Northwest for an exclusive tour of Pistil Point Farms, a massive legal cultivation facility in the City of Roses run by a dedicated team with decades of growing experience.
Article by Danny Danko. Photographs by Canna Obscura.
Meet the Crew
Pistil Point Farms has designed and constructed a state-of-the-art marijuana-production facility in Portland, Oregon, that is expanding constantly to serve the needs of medical patients, as well as the flood of new recreational users and cannabis tourists flocking to Oregon to enjoy the state’s legal-pot scene.
But the story here isn’t about quantity; it’s about quality. Despite the massive amounts that the company produces, Pistil Point’s cannabis stands out in a competitive market. This quality is a testament to the company’s work ethic and love of marijuana. Co-founders Sid Gupta and Josh Schmidt put together a grow team with decades of outdoor and greenhouse cultivation experience throughout Northern California, and then enabled these growers to adapt their mega-cropping methods to massive indoor warehouse growing in Oregon.
As a long-time entrepreneur in New York City’s bar and restaurant scene, Gupta recognized the need for dedicated employees with extensive experience and a strong work ethic. Schmidt (who also comes from a restaurateur background) has grown for many years on big outdoor farms in Northern Cali. He also operated THC, one of the first dispensaries in the city of Van Nuys, more than a decade ago, and so he understands the needs of both shop owners and cannabis producers.
Drawing on their combined experience and shared understanding that a great grow requires gifted growers, the pair brought in a new partner, Sithat Xaivong, a.k.a. Thui, as their head of cultivation. Thui, who’s been growing cannabis for more than a decade, was born in a refugee camp in Thailand in the aftermath of the civil war in his native Laos. He immigrated with his family to the United States as a child, became an American citizen and went on to serve two tours in Iraq as a sergeant in the US Army.
Like Thui, many of the other members of Pistil Point’s grow team have Southeast Asian roots. Gupta explains the company’s overall strategy: “About four years ago, I started to contemplate a point of entry into the cannabis sector after a lifetime of passion for the plant. While there were many approaches, from adult-use retail to processing to ‘picks and shovels’ on the supply side, I ultimately decided that for the long-term integrity of a successful cannabis company, it was necessary to have a fundamental understanding of the plant, along with the strongest genetic resources available. For this reason, we’ve focused on collecting those genetics and developing best practices in how to cultivate them.”
Pistil Point’s attention to detail and refusal to compromise results in connoisseur-quality cannabis and consumables created on a large scale. Everything from the choice of strains and cultivation techniques, to the processing, lab testing and packaging, is the result of the company’s commitment to ensure the finest quality in its final product.
It all starts with great genetics, and Pistil Point’s favorite sources include Franchise Genetics, Rare Dankness, Sunny Cheba, Dying Breed, the Cali Connection, Top Dawg and other private breeders. Pistil Point hunts for genotypes and phenotypes throughout hundreds of packs of seeds to find its keeper mother plants. After that, a painstaking selection of healthy clones ensures that the plants continue to pack a punch. Hard-to-find clone-only strains are carefully sourced and tested before going into production as well.
The strains that Pistil Point grows, including Gorilla Glue #4, Girl Scout Cookies, Clementine and J1, all boast a whopping 27% THC or more in lab tests! The testing for potency, terpenes and contaminants is done exclusively by MRX Labs in Portland.
All of the plants at Pistil Point are grown in a coconut-coir-based medium to ensure root aeration. The coir is amended with earthworm casings, then placed in 35- to 50-liter containers and fed with a variety of nutrients. When pressed for specifics such as preferred brands, Thui would only reveal that he’s had the greatest success with Cutting Edge Solutions—his plants love the simple yet effective feeding regimen delivered by these nutrients.
Equipment and supplies are purchased exclusively from Roots Garden Supply, whose owner, Neil Bernstein, is a great friend and ally. “Neil’s guidance has been crucial to the success of Pistil Point,” Gupta says. “He has a team of gifted growers that help run his shop and who are always honest and passionate. We’re lucky to exchange thoughts and concepts with them.”
Pistil Point’s grow team employs a “screen of green” (ScrOG) technique to obtain the highest yields and also to spread out the canopy in order to avoid unnecessary crowding. This supports the weight of the plants and keeps them at the optimum canopy level to thrive. The growers use only organic pesticides and fungicides such as Grand Devo and Regalia.
At the moment, Pistil Point has two full bloom rooms totaling 96 lights licensed under Oregon’s medical marijuana program. Limited by plant counts, the grow team vegged fewer plants for longer periods to obtain greater yields, but under Pistil Point’s new indoor rec license, the grow will be expanding to nine rooms, for a total of 450 lights. In simple terms, the facility will upgrade from 50 to 120 plants to as many as 600 plants per room! This “sea of green” (SOG)–style approach will produce bigger yields in less time without compromising quality.
Lighting the Space
Each of Pistil Point’s growrooms uses 48 1,000-watt lights broken up into four separate grids, with 10 high-pressure sodium (HPS) fixtures on each, plus two metal halide (MH) lights on movers. This scheme allows for a full spectrum of red, orange and yellow from the HPS lights and blue and white from the MH. “Plants can only absorb so much of each color, and the mixed light helps increase photosynthesis and allows our genetics to develop to their full potential,” Schmidt explains. “It doesn’t really increase yield much, but it certainly increases the quality of the finished product.”
The lights are affixed to a pulley system that allows Pistil Point’s growers to position them approximately 60 inches from the canopy at the beginning of the bloom cycle and again towards the end. The team keeps the lights as close as 36 inches from the canopy during the middle of the cycle, in order to simulate the sun’s natural patterns during the spring, summer and fall.
Pistil Point uses Gavita lighting with adjustable ballasts ranging from 500 to 1,150 watts, controlled by a Gavita EL2 master controller. One great safety feature of the EL2 is that if a room gets too hot, the controller will auto-dim the lights or shut them off entirely. Pistil Point also utilizes the lights’ built-in “sunrise” and “sunset” settings, which will increase the lights’ intensity over a period of 15 minutes (as in sunrise) and then, at the end of the day, will decrease it over the same period (as in sunset) to mimic natural outdoor conditions. According to Schmidt, “The EL2 controller and the DE [double-ended] lights have changed the game by eliminating costly electrical contractors for lighting timers. They also lower the risk of one burning out and potentially hurting our plants or making them hermaphrodites.”
During the transition from the vegetative stage to flowering, Pistil Point’s growers use the adjustable ballasts to set the lights at a lower wattage for the HPS (500 watts), while turning the MH on full blast (1,000 watts). The team does this for the first week in order to acclimate the plants to the transition from a lower light intensity during veg to a harder one for the flowering stage. The growers then raise the wattage of the lights gradually to simulate the intensity of the sun in the summer months, bringing them to their full 1,150-watt output toward the middle of the cycle. They then start to scale back the intensity to simulate the summer changing to fall; toward the end of the cycle, the lights are raised on the pulley system while the wattage is dropped to the minimum settings again to mimic the sun being further away from the earth, as in fall, allowing the flowers to ripen properly.
Pistil Point’s growers change the temperature throughout the bloom cycle via 20 tons of HVAC per room, lowering the temps toward the end of the cycle to simulate fall. The team uses three Quest 205 dehumidifiers in each room to control humidity, set around 55%. The growers also depend on Titan controls for the injection of carbon dioxide. The facility has a 250-gallon tank that’s piped into the HVAC system for consistent feedings of food-grade carbon dioxide; a sniffer is used to sense the room conditions, and the CO2 is automatically fed as needed.
The custom-built 20-inch-high corrugated tables roll on tracks, enabling Pistil Point’s growers to access every plant. This is crucial to diagnosing any deficiencies or pest infestations. The tables slope and have a gutter at the end with an automated sub-pump for draining. The plants are fed using an automated drip system intermittently, depending on which stage of life they’re in.
Most of Pistil Point’s strains have a nine-to-10-week flowering period, and they’re flushed with plain water for at least two weeks. All of the water goes through reverse-osmosis (RO) filtration. The team also lets the plants “sleep” in the dark for two full days prior to harvest to enhance their essential-oil production.
The plants are then hung and dried for 10 to 14 days before any trimming begins. The drying room is kept at 55% humidity, with fans providing air circulation without blowing directly onto the plants. Thui emphasizes that the real curing begins in the drying room, because a nice, slow dry results in a cleaner-burning product.
Once dry, all of the buds are hand-trimmed. Pistil Point doesn’t like to use trimming machines, which can compromise the quality of the product; only good human trimmers can get into every nook and cranny and remove all of the unwanted leaves and stems. The buds then go into their curing containers to ensure potency, flavor and consistency.
Pistil Point’s products are currently on sale in more than 100 stores in Oregon, and the company’s reach is constantly expanding. To that end, it’s working on a full line of jarred flowers, pre-rolled joints and BHO (butane-extracted hash oil) shatter with special packaging. Given the company’s success thus far, the future is looking bright green for Pistil Point Farms!
Related: 4 of a Kind—Las Vegas Grows
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