By Tuan Nguyen
Posting in Cancer
Earth Day Special Feature 2011: "Big Bud" is a trailer that allows owners to control agricultural processes remotely from their iPhone.
Mr. Greenthumb's latest gardening tool may just be... an iPhone?
Derek Peterson sure hopes that may someday be the case. The 36-year-old former investment banks is CEO of GrowOp, a green tech start-up that has a product line of equipment and mechanical systems for people who are looking to grow crops hydroponically, that is, an artificially-controlled indoor environment that provides lighting, mineral nutrients and water -- but not much else.
Although the company's goal is to develop and offer consumers a more advanced and environmentally friendly way to grow crops in general, the one product that's garnered the most attention (not to mention controversy), is a hi-tech mobile trailer used for cultivating medicinal marijuana. The aptly-named "Big Bud" is a fully functional weed farm that features programmable lights, nutrient injectors and even an app that allows owners to control all these processes remotely from their iPhone.
After posting a revenue of $250,000 in the month of January, the company is preparing to do an IPO within the next few months. Metaphorically speaking, he's betting the farm that the next revolution in agriculture will be more about software and machines than soil and irrigation.
He admits that process has been a challenge. For example, he mentioned that someone broke into the facility a couple weeks ago and cleaned out some of the company's inventory. But he did he took some time out of his hectic schedule to speak to this correspondent about dirt-free farming, wasteful agricultural practices and, of course, cannabis.
So about this trailer designed to grow marijuana, where did the idea come from?
Oddly enough, it's something that's been done for about 30 years. Old school marijuana growers started out planting them in shipping containers and buried the crops in the ground before they eventually switched to using trailers. This is pretty rudimentary, so what we did was just take it to the next level by implementing hydroponic technology and developing it into a full line of trailers for not only the medical marijuana community, but also those with broader agricultural needs. For instance, a lot of our products are used for urban farms. So what started out as a singular product line has expanded to a wider array of applications.
From what I've read, this isn't something that has a tried-and-true business model, so why did you decide to get involved in the legal pot market?
Well the demand is already there. And since technology is much more energy efficient, we think there's a great opportunity to capitalize on this new "green rush." On the non-marijuana agricultural side, there's a need too. California, for example, every year loses some of it's agricultural land to dust bowling and urbanization so more and more growing is going on in indoor farms, which is what's happening a lot in Europe. Over there you'll see a lot of vertical stacked hydroponic systems used to cultivate lettuce, micro-greens, mushrooms and other produce. We actually have a similar kind of mushroom container called the "shroom room."
What's the advantage of an indoor growing environment over outdoors?
Some of the things that indoor growing environments don't have are pests, molds and infections. You can restrict a lot of that with a closed environment and reduce your crop failure, which also means higher yields. And by going vertical you can grow a lot more crops without having to take up so many acres of land.
And this makes it more attractive to growers?
Part of it is less space, reducing our usage of natural resources and now having the ability utilize technology that effectively reuses resources like water instead of letting it go to waste by flushing it down a storm drain. Our systems can re-filter and re-circulate this with additives and nutrients that are beneficial for plant matter.
You mentioned Europe is ahead of the game on hydroponics, why haven't we gotten with the program?
I think Americans tend to do things on massive scale, which is where you get the adage "bigger, faster, better, more." Our approach is different in that it's about less power and more conservation. Currently, much of energy intensive light used to grow cannabis is wasted instead of being absorbed since plants can only photosynthesize so much of it. So it's more about perfecting the indoor growing environment.
What's kind of reactions do you get from people regarding the idea of allowing customers to wheel around their weed supply?
With more and more states allowing the use of medical marijuana, what I'm seeing is broader acceptance of it. The old way of doing it was getting pot from your dealer down the street who maybe got it from a source that grew it in a relatively unsavory environment like a garage where you're dealing with chemicals, molds, mice. I mean think of the actual patient that's using medicinal marijuana; it's probably a cancer or HIV patient that can't hold down food because of the disease's affect on their appetite. The last thing they need to be introducing into their system are extra toxins and parasites. Giving them the marijuana from a sterilized environment like our trailers is a huge benefit to this industry.
So what kind of customers do you get who express interest in owning a "Big Bud" trailer?
I've found that the customer base is a pretty diverse cross-section of this country. You get everyone from ex-mortgage brokers to attorneys and doctors. It's been pretty interesting because it wasn't what I expected the client base to look like. I mean there's white collar folks, blue collar folks to everyone in between. So yeah, definitely not as stereotypical as I thought they was going to be.
Photo: GrowOp Ltd.
More from SmartPlanet's Earth Day Special Feature 2011:
- Why cities are on the ‘cutting edge of environmentalism’
- Climate change: it's time for the health sector to get involved
- Earthquake could threaten California’s water supply
- Invention may lead to greener power plants
- Accidental environmentalist designs furniture from invasive species
- When it comes to packaging, is it possible to be ‘too’ green?
- Reuse and recycling, a modest proposal
- 10 steps toward making your home ‘net zero’
Related on SmartPlanet:
- New irrigation system helps farmers conserve water
- Infographic: What is the water footprint in the U.S.?
Apr 21, 2011
robc2064, man your on it, this society sucks as to what is better for them, but you have to realize one thing, most of the people against it were around and fought to get alcohol legalized and do not realize the side effects of the drug called alcohol, and it is a known fact that alcohol destroys brain cells, no wonder they can't think straight, where as smoking medical marijuana promotes brain cells. Wow I think the President just might be on alcohol. ( let's unite and make things right )
The USA was founded and supported on Tobbacco and alcohol taxes, for over 200 years the Government has profited by these two items. Pot would bring in tax money in one year what those two products brought in 200 years. Its dirt cheap to grow and process. Our government has no sense. We could bail out this country with this simple product being made available and taxed. So we keep it illegal and the only folks making money off it is the criminals? Get real people demand the legalization of this gift.
Well sense this is and always has been a natural herb put on this planet I'm sure for many uses, such as rope, clothes, or a number of things that our society can use, other than the effect it has when ingested properly. It was made illegal by society as a whole because of the affects it had when mixed with alcohol. Of course it was a nu sense for us to have a good drug mixed with one that was made by man that causes adverse side affects. such as sclerosis of the liver. People would be much better off to legalize the use of maijuanna and make alcohl and aproved medicine illegal. wake up people you are supplying the government with population control, alcohol and precription drugs kill, they kill you dead slowly but surely, and as far as hates idiots, man I hope you don't look in the mirror cause you just might see some stupid.
It is not illegal in, what a dozen states now. I suppose you think it's a good idea to continue filling our prisons with and ruining the lives of people over a little marajuana? Who needs to keep all those who commit violent crimes in prison? Let the murders & rapist go & lock up the cancer patients for ingesting a natural plant material. We certainly don't want to take any business away from the pharmaceutical companies. Why would you use a natural plant to replace something they make obscene profits off of and poisons our bodies with chemicals. I see your point now. Lets pass a death penalty for pot possesion. that will fix everything, won't it you freakin' sheeple........ Baa-Baa You want to get rid of a deadly drug???? ALCOHOL!!! The only thing pot ever killed is a dozen donuts. Ignorance is a very dangerous thing. I noticed your name is "hates idiots". Is it hard going through life hating yourself???