The disruptors amongst us
Innovation is something that is constantly happening around us. The majority of which fly under the radar, unnoticed by those around it. Minor software updates, obscure improvements to a manufacturing process, or a simple optimization of a routine are all examples of these subtle innovations. Then, there are innovations that aren’t so discreet. When an innovation delivers monumental improvements to a process, product, or service, they are often bestowed the title industry disruptor. Some examples of these once-in-a-generation disruptors include the advent of the smartphone, contact lenses, and the Polaroid Instant camera. So, how does this relate to cannabis? According to an increasing number of growers, data scientists, and researchers, an advanced generation of cannabis and hemp seed genetics are poised to become the next industry disruptor for commercial growers in a rare “everyone wins” situation.
The current situation
The legal cannabis and hemp industries have experienced levels of growth over the past few years that many industries strive to achieve over generations. With no signs of slowing down, analysts project the value of the cannabis sector to hit $200 billion within the next six years (2028). With this degree of expansion, it is natural to expect hurdles, growing pains, and setbacks, but with once-in-a-lifetime growth comes once-in-a-lifetime problems that, until recently, no solution was available.
One of the largest issues keeping environmentalists, economists, and commercial cannabis growers up at night is the foreseeable sustainability concerns. As more states continue to adopt medical and recreational cannabis legislation, market demand only continues to grow. Those in and around the industry have begun sounding the alarm in terms of the most pressing sustainability concern: energy use.
According to the Alliance to Save Energy (ASE), an estimated $6 billion is spent annually on energy requirements for indoor cannabis cultivation.  To put this in perspective, the amount spent on energy for indoor cannabis cultivation is equivalent to the amount spent annually by the federal government to provide energy to all of its facilities. 
Energy requirements aren’t the only sustainability concerns plaguing the rapidly expanding cannabis industry. Consternation around increasing input requirements (pesticides and herbicides), long-term resource management, and meeting consumer demand are quickly becoming frequent topics of discussion by growers as well. Until recently, it seemed that there were no viable solutions to these issues that wouldn’t cause other problems or weren’t cost prohibitive.
Autoflower - A hero in the making
If you’re involved in the cannabis or hemp industry, then you’re likely familiar with autoflowering genetics. Autoflowering cannabis, sometimes referred to as autos, is believed to have been first introduced in the early 2000’s. As with most first iterations of a new concept, early autoflower genetics didn’t garner the best reputation with growers. The first autoflower varieties were frequently criticized for their lower cannabinoid and terpene composition as well as sub-par yield, compared to the more commonly used photosensitive varieties.
Even industry disruptors though, require time, research, and ingenuity before they reach a palatable form — and autoflowering genetics are no different. Nearly 20 years have passed since the first versions of autoflower varieties were first made commercially available. Thanks to advances in technology and the determination of data scientists at companies like Phylos, a new era of seed-grown, short-season genetics built on the foundation of autoflower genetics, is leading the charge to solve multiple problems of the cannabis industry in one fell swoop.
Not the autoflower you think you know
Old habits die hard and preconceived notions are exceptionally difficult to dispel. This serves true for many commercial cannabis growers who retain quips and qualms around the perceived potential negatives of autoflower genetics, the foundation of Phylos’ current varieties. These concerns are largely based on outdated criticisms bestowed by growers of those early generation varieties decades ago. In fact, modern autoflower genetics can prove to be a vital tool by providing earlier planting windows before the standard outdoor photosensitive season, allowing for staggered planting and harvests for multiple cycles in a season, or if you’re trying to save a short season.
Through data analytics and advances in genetic research, Phylos is championing a future of revolutionary stable, seed-grown genetics that maintain exceptional uniformity, yield, and consistently high cannabinoid and terpene content — a far cry from the options of the past. Let’s explore the benefits of what some have deemed cannabis 3.0.
Reduced energy use - Stable F1 hybrid genetics from Phylos are bred with sustainability in mind. Unlike clonal varieties used by many growers, Phylos’ hybrids are designed to produce optimal results in outdoor, hoop house, and greenhouse environments. By eliminating the need for light deprivation practices, growers can bypass the use of energy-hungry indoor grow facilities. This alone has positioned Phylos as an industry front-runner in terms of energy-efficient seed options. With indoor facilities requiring up to 55% more energy than greenhouses, Phylos seeds not only result in lower production costs, but also present a viable solution to the energy sustainability issues created by market growth. Phylos’ seed grown, early maturing cannabis enables outdoor or greenhouse production at an average cost of $100/lb, compared to the industry average of $500/lb when grown indoors. These cost savings are largely attributed to the reduction in energy needs when growing Phylos autoflower varieties.
Reduced input requirements - Most growers utilize nursery plants or clones in their operation — as opposed to seed-grown plants. Clones are notorious for introducing pests and pathogens to grow operations, which can lead to devastating crop loss unless you have the time to scout, and the labor to properly apply pesticides and herbicides. Phylos’ genetics, however, are bred to be pathogen-free and pest resistant, resulting in reduced inputs needed, which means lower operational costs and a reduced environmental impact.
Optimized for production throughput - Maximization of production space throughput is a constant battle for growers and modern hybrid genetics are proving to be the key to achieving this. By growing from seeds instead of nursery clones, growers are able to free up valuable space that would otherwise be dedicated to maintaining mother plants. This can result in upwards of 25% more production.
Why Phylos uses autoflowers in their breeding program
As mentioned, early autoflower genetics instilled some not-so-positive reputations given some of its shortcomings. Although some of these issues were observed in autoflower varieties, modern autos have all but eliminated these antiquated concerns of growers. Let’s put to rest some of the apprehension that growers may express towards incorporating autoflower genetics into their operation.
Yield optimization and consistency - One of the old arguments against autoflower genetics was that they simply don’t produce a yield comparable to photosensitive varieties. With the introduction of Phylos’ breeding program, this concern is now nothing more than a myth. Phylos genetics maintain a remarkably high flower harvest index, which is the measure of flower to whole-plant biomass (the stalks, stems, leaves, and flower). With improved crop yield, growers can reduce their canopy space and their environmental impact using genetics optimized for yield. (We recently ran a density trial on our autoflower seed-grown genetics. Learn more about the setup of that trial.) Additionally, consistent yields are vital to nearly all growers. Although the autoflowers of decades past may have presented some inconsistent results, growers can expect performance more on par with photosensitive varieties, including the incredibly stable, uniform, and consistent growth exhibited by modern F1 varieties like Phylos’ AutoCBD Alpha Explorer.
Predictability - Phylos’ F1 hybrid genetics produce vigorous and uniform harvests while minimizing pathogen and pest susceptibility in comparison to clonal cultivars and heterogeneous seed cultivars. Additionally, Phylos’ genetics maintain a 99.9%+ feminization rate, practically eliminating the risk of undesired pollination from unexpected male plants in your operation.
Reduced time to market - Unlike photosensitive varieties, F1 hybrids developed with modern autos give growers the ability to plan when their crops will reach maturity. This is due to the fact that autos mature based on a timed schedule, instead of day length. By eliminating the need for light deprivation practices and creating a predictable environment, growers can also incorporate multiple harvests in a single season.
Cannabinoid and terpene composition - Much like consistency, growers often scrutinized those first-generation autoflowers for inconsistent or lower than expected cannabinoid and terpene composition. This topic has become a relic of the past as modern autoflower genetics like those available from Phylos are capable of producing consistently potent cannabinoid and terpene compositions that rival most photo varieties.
How do we expect the seed-grown cannabis of today to impact the future?
What may seem like science fiction is actually just an innovative merging of cannabis, data science, and genetic research. Using a data-driven approach to crop and production improvement efforts, data scientists and geneticists at Phylos have been able to leverage genotype, chemotype, and phenotype data to select plants, enabling the delivery of rapid improvements in key agronomic traits.
As a result, Phylos has paved the way for the rapid development of new seed varieties. For cannabis and hemp growers, this translates to revolutionary and sustainable solutions to industry-wide problems, in addition to improved profitability, consistency, and reliability.
On top of providing solutions to many of the headaches that cannabis and hemp growers face, Phylos’ genetics are going to bat for other global movements, like reducing pesticide and herbicide use and energy conservation efforts.
The cannabis and hemp industries are projected to continue their rapid expansion on a global scale, which means issues like sustainability and environmental impact will scale up as well. Having recognized the potential environmental effects that this rapidly growing industry poses, Phylos has positioned themselves to not only provide growers with genetics that helps minimize the footprint of commercial-scale operations, but options that will help create a sustainable playing field for generations to come.
Ready to hear more about Phylos’ genetics? Contact us and a member of our team will help answer your questions.
- Cannabis/Marijuana Market Share, Size and COVID-19 Impact Analysis | Fortune Business Insights
- Legal Cannabis Presents Challenges For Utilities, Opportunities For Energy Efficiency | Alliance to Save Energy
- Annual Report on Federal Government Energy Management and Conservation Programs, Fiscal Year 2016 | energy.gov
- The history of autoflowering cannabis seeds | CannaConnection
- How autoflower can save a short season | Phylos