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Growing Better with Tech

Hemp farming is difficult. Due to the highly regulatory nature of this emerging commodity, farmers need access to testing facilities, genetics companies, equipment sellers, and much more. At Cedar Valley, through our farms and our labs, we are working to help farmers connect these dots.

At the farm, we are growing hemp in a variety of different ways, from out in the field to state-of-the-art greenhouse facilities. This serves to create a symbiotic relationship with our labs team, giving them access to study and collect data on hemp cultivation.  This, in turn, helps to inform and develop technology-driven solutions for hemp farming. These solutions, like Cedar Valley Labs’ artificial intelligence platform agMD, are then put to the test back on the farm to further understand how to make this tech more efficient, easier to use, and accessible to all farmers and their needs.

However, there is a limit to the data that can be collected on one farm. That’s why Cedar Valley has developed partnerships with leaders in this new field, like the seed genetics company Trilogene and agricultural institutions including Ohio State University. These partnerships give us access to farms across the globe, providing us with more information to develop into workable results. It also helps to further the cycle and reach of the symbiotic nature of our work by enabling Cedar Valley to provide our partners access to the data they need in their respective areas of the hemp industry.

In our efforts to improve efficiency in agriculture, Cedar Valley is also creating a network of the some of the best minds currently in hemp farming and beyond. Together we are conceiving and creating products that will drive agribusiness forward through technology.

 

2020-12-15T20:54:09+00:00December 15th, 2020|Blog|0 Comments

Hemp: Our Versatile Friend and Environmental Savior

hemp plantFor centuries, hemp has been used by dozens of different civilizations to produce fabrics and other goods. It has a fibrous material which can be transformed into a variety of different products. It also poses a much more sustainable alternative to cotton and other traditional crops.

Here are just a few ways that hemp’s versatility can be harnessed to create a more sustainable future for agribusiness:

Hemp as paper
Hemp won’t just save trees, but paper made from hemp is stronger and more durable. The hemp plant, like cotton, produces cellulose fibers that are much purer than fibers derived from wood. Many of the early documents printed on hemp paper hundreds, or even one thousand years ago, are still in existence…including the original Declaration of Independence.

Hemp to renew soil
When plants grow, most deplete the soil of some natural vital nutrients. Hemp revitalizes the soil it grows in, both by aerating the soil and through the deposit of carbon dioxide into it. This makes hemp ideal for crop rotation, and the crop that follows in the soil hemp grew in will develop better than if hemp had not been used.

Hemp as a fiber
Hemp is one of the strongest plant fibers. The venerable fiber is extremely resistant and rugged and has been used by sailors to hold ships and sails. In fact, Betsy Ross sewed the first American flag from hemp. It can produce 250% more fiber than cotton and 600% more fiber than flax using the same amount of land.

To aid in the cultivation and production of hemp, farmers need tools to help them successful grow it. By bringing cutting edge tech and data driven solutions to agriculture, Cedar Valley Labs is helping to make that a reality.  Our team is devoted to developing technological advancements in hemp farming that will position this ancient crop at the forefront of modern, sustainable farming…where it belongs.

 

 

 

2020-12-11T01:28:34+00:00December 11th, 2020|Blog|0 Comments

Bringing Mission Control Direct to Farmers

Variety is abundant at Cedar Valley. From the multitude of hemp products we are creating to the range of tech gear we employ to grow it, you’re likely to find something new and interesting wherever you look…and this rings true with not only our goods and services, but also with our people.

Donnie Kerr is a perfect example of this. He works on the tech-side of things with Cedar Valley Labs. While Cedar Valley Farms is out to change the face of agribusiness through hemp, Cedar Valley Labs’ focus is merging cutting edge technology and automation with agriculture to improve processes and give farmers the tools they need to be successful.

Donnie brings over 20 years’ experience with him that draws from many different industries. He’s a former NASA Rocket Scientist and worked for NASA in Mission Control. He has even built software so easy “a monkey actually used it!”, and on top of all that, he is also an expert in interactive systems.

His brilliant mind and affable demeanor play a critical role in the development of agMD, a product line that provides agriculturists with the knowledge and resources of a virtual team of horticultural experts, allowing them to be proactive about their plants’ health. Every day, Donnie is hard at work infusing simple concepts with incredible technology to create tools like Wanda – a smart wand. At first glance, Wanda may seem like an ordinary plant support pole.  However, she does much more than just prop up plants. She works in tandem with an AI application that operates much like an Alexa device, and comes to life, glowing when your plants need attention and alerting users to potential problems before they become detrimental.

Imagine the panic a farmer experiences when they notice damage to an entire section of their crop that wasn’t there the day before. Their options are limited.  They could scour the internet to try and find the cause, but that could lead to misdiagnosing the problem, potentially making it worse. They could leave it up to a lab to test samples but not only is that option expensive, in the time it takes to get an answer, significant yields could be lost.

Donnie’s work developing technology with Cedar Valley Labs brings the potential for a farmer to snap a picture, get a diagnosis, map exactly where it’s happening via GPS, and rectify the situation quickly. All at a price point the average American farmer can afford.

To some, variety may be the spice of life, but at Cedar Valley, variety is creating a system that will bring together the expertise of a team of agricultural professionals that anyone with a cellphone will be able to manage and understand.

 

2020-10-30T18:28:56+00:00October 30th, 2020|Blog|1 Comment

Rethinking Smokable CBD

Purple Cowboy CloseupThere is a lot to be excited about out at the farm right now. Our successful first harvest has provided us with the foundation we will utilize to bring an extensive line of hemp products to life.

We started researching the current landscape of hemp derived / CBD-based consumer goods currently available on the market almost two years ago with the goal to create something new for consumers.  At this point we have an extensive list of unique products we are planning on bringing to the public.

One of those is vaporized CBD extract. With smokable flower poised to gain a real foothold in the CBD market in 2021, we decided to take the idea even further.

We started by partnering with a highly regarded extraction lab based in Steamboat, CO, called Diesel Haus Inc. John Kelly is an expert in their field and doesn’t cut any corners.

Our CBD extracts are coming from several different strains with unique profiles. They will feature true cannabis-based terpenes, not artificial additions, alongside the CBD isolates that will be rendered from our hemp plants. Hemp plants that were grown in a small-batch greenhouse and tended to by a High Times award winning grower.

At Cedar Valley, our hope is that all of the care and consideration we put into our products will quietly underscore our dedication to providing quality over quantity hemp goods. We aren’t out to simply satisfy fellow hemp consumers from all walks of life; we want to impress them.

 

 

2020-10-27T19:37:45+00:00October 27th, 2020|Blog|0 Comments

Hemp from the Heartland

Currently, out in the great state of Ohio, the Cutter family (pictured left ) and a few Cedar Valley staff members are tying up loose ends from the farm’s first hemp harvest. It’s been a lot of work – over 50K plants total came off the field and out of the greenhouse – but also an incredible experience. We have found that both our outdoor and greenhouse crops provided great perspective and knowledge that will be beneficial when we head into our next grow season.

However, before we get wrapped up in the details of our second grow, we need to offload this season’s final yields. In anticipation of this undertaking, we started developing a wide-ranging line of hemp products before our first plants were in the ground, and we are equal parts excited and nervous to finally be able to share the fruits of our labor with the world.

One of the projects is a line of smokable hemp flower we grew in our greenhouse. This batch of around 1,500 plants were our pride and joy this season. We partnered with Trilogene for our seed genetics and couldn’t be more pleased with how beautifully they turned out. We used five different strains from their labs including: Purple Cowboy, Sangria S1, Aquawoman, GNO, and Superwoman. They all have their own distinct flavor and scent profiles that are sure to please. We also have plans to develop smokable concentrates out of these strands, so keep an eye out.

Alongside that, we are putting the finishing touches on a CBD brand that will have an array of options for those with a more refined palette. It will feature tinctures, oils, topical cremes, and many other CBD wares. The merchandise produced under this brand will be held to the highest quality standards in the industry for extraction and processing and will be sure to please even the most sophisticated CBD connoisseurs.

We will have offerings for your favorite four-legged friends too! We’re working on everything from CBD oil to help your dog deal with separation anxiety to hemp animal bedding that naturally provides a more hygienic and environmentally friendly alternative to woodchips for your hamster friend.

There’s much more on the way, we are just getting started! Make sure to keep checking back for more announcements to come. Also, stop by the Hemp General Store! Soon you’ll be able to find and order our products there!

 

 

2020-10-23T17:29:49+00:00October 23rd, 2020|Blog|0 Comments

Decoding Hemp

The Cedar Valley team has gleaned a wealth of knowledge during our first growing season. From one perspective, hemp can seem like a rather unassuming little weed…but taking a closer look at this ancient and versatile plant reveals a vast assortment of intricacies that modern agriculture is only starting to unravel.

For example, when you start to compare hemp to other, long-standing commercial agricultural commodities such as corn or wheat, variances between the products and how they are farmed become apparent immediately.  Those crops have been bred for generations, and in that time, standards have been developed that mostly guarantee consistent yields.

This is not the case with hemp, which essentially was cast into exile for a century thanks to prohibition. This means farmers across the U.S. are starting at square one when it comes to hemp cultivation.

At Cedar Valley, we decided to start by studying the very basic elements of what makes hemp – or any organic organism – unique: genotypes and phenotypes. Both play a fundamental role in defining what starts as a seed and becomes a product on a shelf, and they are the factors that serve as the baseline for identifying and naming plant strains.

Simply put, genotypes are genetic indicators – inherited traits. Within humans these indicators manifest as traits such as hair color, eye color, height, etc. Genotypes are encoded in a plant’s seeds and determined before the plant even breaks ground on a field or in a greenhouse.

Phenotypes, on the other hand, are created as a plant grows. While a phenotype is influenced by its genotype, phenotype traits are not inherited through genetic coding. Rather, these are traits influenced by environmental factors…and this is where things can get tricky.

For example, on a hemp farm you will typically have different strains in different sections of the field, and those sections can be large with varying environmental characteristics.  One section of a strain could be receiving different environmental elements than another section of the same strain. This will cause different phenotypes that will influence a variety of factors like terpene profile, cannabinoid content and physical appearance.

We recently (and somewhat inadvertently) created a quintessential case study on this subject when we discovered around 10 different phenotypes occurring from one strain of our Purple Cowboy plants. Phenotypes also impacted our harvesting decisions. Due to the regulations involved with THC content in hemp plants, we found ourselves forced to make the unplanned decision to pull some less mature plants in order to keep them from developing levels of THC that would render them unsuitable for the intended market.

To try and get in front of this for next season, we have implemented some strategies. We’ve been running side-by-side comparisons with plants that have come from seed and those that have been cloned from mother plants. These comparisons aided in Cedar Valley choosing to work strictly with clones next season.

The unpredictability that is presented by phenotypes has been all but eradicated in the world of established agribusiness. Common grains or vegetables you consume on a regular basis are derived from seed genetics that were studied and bred with the direct intent to develop a crop that grows efficiently and abundantly; and every day at Cedar Valley we are utilizing technology and science to establish the same standards for the future of hemp genetics.

 

2020-10-21T15:12:12+00:00October 21st, 2020|Blog|0 Comments

Ohio State University Tours Cedar Valley Farms

This week out at the farm, we had a couple small groups from Ohio State University stop by for tours. Guests included university faculty and researchers who were curious to know what we’ve been up to.

Our CEO, Shawn Cutter, took time out his busy harvest schedule to share his insight on what this first year of hemp farming has been like. He also showed them around greenhouse and new barn that currently houses tens of thousands of drying hemp plants that have been coming off the fields for processing over the last couple weeks of harvest.

Jacob Hagemeyer, our VP of Business, also hosted a group of guests and answered questions ranging from cultivation protocols to extraction methods.

He noted that there is a lot of crossover with ongoing agriculture research projects at OSU and what’s happening on the farm, specifically with a few of the attendees that specialize in indoor vegetable growing.

“Growing corn and beans outside involves more or less a ‘set-it-and-forget-it’ process for a lot of farmers, where growing vegetables indoors – much like growing hemp in a greenhouse – takes a lot more of a hands on approach. You have to factor in a completely different workflow and there is a greater need for a crew of people to monitor day-to-day activities.”

Overall, it was a great opportunity to share ideas and strategies, as well as find ways in which partnerships could benefit ongoing agricultural studies for both Cedar Valley and OSU.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2020-10-15T18:03:52+00:00October 15th, 2020|Blog|0 Comments

Harvest 2020 – Lessons in Making the Inevitable Invaluable

With our greenhouse harvest behind us, we’ve been busy with the main event: Cedar Valley’s first outdoor harvest. Last week we had a team of 15 to 20 people (including some mighty kind neighbors and friends of the farm) working 12-hour days.  Everyone went above and beyond and we were able to successfully harvest just over 25,000 of our 50,000 outdoor plants.

This week is the home stretch. While last week went well, we are always looking at ways to make things more efficient with hemp farming – and with that in mind – we’ve got some notes to share.

A big lesson we learned so far came from not putting mulch down on the field before we planted. This decision, made in March, ended up causing a string of unexpected events that arose during our harvesting work that could have been detrimental to our final yield.

The original piece of harvesting equipment we planned on using, called a CleanCut, was designed specifically for hemp and cannabis harvesting. It worked great…in the sections of the field where the vegetation around the hemp plants had been mowed. The sections that weren’t mowed proved a bit more problematic. When the hemp plants came up with the CleanCut harvester, so did a lot other vegetation on the ground. This made for an extra step as our crew then needed to sort through what was hemp and what wasn’t before we could bring it into the barn to dry. Hemp begins to biodegrade immediately after it’s cut, so the moisture the plants have from being out on the field must be dealt with as quickly as possible. The longer you wait on drying plants, the bigger the potential for mildew issues.

Luckily, we were able to remedy this by using a sickle-bar mower, also called a reciprocating mower or a bar mower. These pieces of equipment have a long (typically six to seven and a half feet) bar on which are mounted fingers with stationary guard plates. The sickle bar is driven back and forth along the channel cutting the hemp off at the ground level, leaving the rest of the vegetation on the ground and not mixed in with what is needed to get into the barn to be dried.

It was a great lesson in planning ahead. What seemed like a minor, inconsequential decision to not use mulch at the beginning of our growing season, came back at harvest to haunt us. Almost causing a significant threat to our bottom line. Needless to say, we will be adding mulch into our list of “must haves” for our next growing season. We will also be keeping our eyes wide open for any other hiccups that we may encounter as we finish out harvest. Mistakes are inevitable but can also be invaluable tools that improve efficiency.

2020-10-14T04:55:17+00:00October 13th, 2020|Blog|0 Comments

Big Hempin’ Ain’t Easy

To say we have been busy out at the farm these last few weeks is to put it lightly. Last month, the crew at Cedar Valley began our first hemp harvest. We started with our greenhouse grow, which is where we grew our highest quality hemp that will be used in a line of smokable products.

Thanks to the foresight of Greg Averill, our Director Cultivation, we were solidly prepared. He was able to map out a workflow that prevented any major hiccups. In fact, the team was able to cut, move, and hang 1500 plants in only 2 hours. This is no small feat. The plants are really beautiful, and we are very excited to share them with the world.

While we didn’t have any major issues during this harvest, there were certainly lessons learned. For example, we may have been a little too optimistic on projections about our final yield. Looking forward to next year, we will also be bettered prepared for state testing and how best to incorporate our R&D testing into that. With the private labs we work with, we were accustomed to getting results in a couple of days. The state took a little longer than we expected with end results being a bit of a mixed bag between the two entities.

However, all things considered, we overcame many unsuspected issues -like well water quality changes – so we are calling the greenhouse harvest a win. Above all, we are so thankful for the team we have. They deserve some serious kudos, and a few days of R & R. But that will have to wait until we finish harvesting the 50,000 plants we have out on the field over the next couple of weeks.

 

 

 

2020-10-13T20:08:49+00:00October 8th, 2020|Blog|0 Comments

Hemp Research

At Cedar Valley Farms, our ultimate goal is to establish hemp as a lucrative agricultural commodity. A key component to accomplishing that goal is utilizing science and technology to drive precision farming methods.

That is why Magdalena Pancerz, Cedar Valley’s Director of Research & Development, is currently working on a soil study out at the farm. Recently she shared a few details about the study and how it plays an important part role in understanding hemp cultivation.

“The biggest challenge in hemp production is to find cultivation practices that will allow high quantity and quality yield while keeping THC within regulation standards. Existing commonly grown agricultural crops have a long, continuous research history. Hemp, being part of the cannabis family, was prohibited for decades, thus there is a huge knowledge gap in understanding the needs of this plant,” Magda wrote in an email.  “What makes the research on hemp even more important is the THC content. It must stay below 0.3% , but it can be triggered by many factors resulting in the production of unacceptable levels of THC. That is an outcome that could end in the loss of an entire crop.”

The history of hemp prohibition in the U.S. essentially eliminated any opportunity to study and develop efficient cultivation practices for the plant.  Magda sites how setback creates a foundation of challenges in modern day agriculture.

“The path leading to sufficient information on hemp growing practices just started. There is a variety of ‘pot lore’ circling between growers currently, and very often it express contradictory observations on the same issue. There are numerous stress factors that can spike THC content in the plant, however, most of the time the increase is caused by a few of them acting simultaneously. That’s why research in controlled greenhouse conditions to monitor environmental factors in order to track all growing practices is necessary. It is the only way to learn how to grow this crop without taking the risk of getting “hot”.

And this is where Magda believes that starting with studying the soil is the crucial. She noted that it is the easiest place to start. Her efforts to untangle such a complicated net of interactions begins with consistent environmental factors and modifying other potential influences, like soil fertilization. This is why she is focused on a comparison between commercially available substrates and fertilizers designated for hemp/cannabis production alongside other grower’s “recipes” for her first cycle of research at Cedar Valley Farms. Her timeline of research covers an entire cycle – from repotting plants and starting greenhouse production to harvest. It will provide information that encompasses all the factors that lead to how the plant reacts during both vegetative and flowering stages.

She notes that the study is important to bringing key insights out of clandestine methods of cultivation and into a new era for hemp, based in practical scientific facts.

“My main assumption is that the plant’s growth, as well quality of the yield, will be significantly affected by the substrate type and fertilizer applied in my research. The results from this trial will crucial to implement as a baseline for further experiments and will determine the direction of even more detailed testing as we move forward.”

 

 

 

2020-10-13T20:29:35+00:00October 6th, 2020|Blog|0 Comments
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