Construction of the marijuana growing facility at the Port of Grays Harbor’s Satsop Business Park is proceeding quickly, and developers expect it to be growing a high quality crop by the early spring.
“They’re on a pretty fast construction path,” said Jerry Derevyanny, general counsel for Global Real Estate Properties. “I expect it to be going in the early part of the second quarter.”
Global Real Estate Properties and its subsidiary, Fuller Hill Development, share common ownership of the operation, according to the Port of Grays Harbor. Global and Fuller Hill were the driving force behind the largest marijuana producer and processor in the state, Northwest Cannabis Solutions in Olympia. They are putting more than $6 million into the 50,000 square foot Enterprise Building, getting it ready to provide the space and equipment needed for the grow operation. The final tenant who will run the operation has not been named yet, “but we are working on getting them moved in ASAP,” said Derevyanny. It is that tenant who will be doing the hiring for a projected 60 to 70 positions in the spring.
Derevyanny says the facility will strictly be a grow operation, “with a little processing. They’ll trim it, dry it, but won’t do extractions or edibles at this facility.”
A modern marijuana grow operation is significantly more high tech than most people think. “The funny thing is when most people think about a marijuana facility, you can describe it all you want and people still assume you’re growing in a garage,” said Derevyanny. “It really opens their eyes when they see what a modern facility looks like.”
For one thing, the facility will require a massive amount of power. The company is putting in three new transformers to draw the 9,000 amps of electricity needed to manage the operation. Then there are “chillers, which are cooling towers for the HVAC system,” said Derevyanny. “The lights generate a lot of heat, but the plants can’t get too hot or they will die, so you have to cool them down.” For reference, the Northwest Cannabis Solutions grow operation uses three cooling units; the Satsop operation will have at least two.
“In terms of growing we have about 2,000 growing lights, with additional lights for cloning and vegetative stages,” said Derevyanny. “We use different types of light for different stages of growth.” The plants are grown from clones, or trimmings, from a mother plant. The clone, so called because it possesses all the traits of the plant from which it’s harvested, is placed into a cloning machine — there are several different types — until it grows roots deep enough to be transplanted into a specific type of medium, sometimes cocoa.
“That takes about four weeks or so — it’s strain dependent, it’s an organic thing so it’s never exactly the same every time – the plant is in its vegetative state, where it is just growing, healthy and strong, but not flowering yet,” said Derevyanny. “When it is finally ready to flower we take it into a flowering, or growing, room, with powerful lighting.” Early in the growing process, the plants require light 24 hours a day. Once they begin flowering, they are moved to an area where natural lighting is mimicked, 12 hours of light, 12 hours of dark.
After the product is harvested it will be shipped in cargo vans to a processing facility, likely Northwest Cannabis Solutions. Derevyanny says this facility will likely ship around 1,200 pounds of marijuana every month, 1,000 pounds of which will be product ready to be processed, and about 200 pounds of trimmings to be used for extraction and other purposes.
Each step of the process takes specialized equipment and skill sets. As a result, some of the initial jobs offered by the operation will be simple grooming of plants. As employees start to show some aptitude in a specific stage of the growing process, they could move up the ranks into some more technical positions. “It will be a three-shift, 24-hour operation,” said Derevyanny. “There will be security positions, management positions for each shift, and some more technical positions may be available because the lighting and HVAC systems are fairly high tech.”
Derevyanny also wanted to make sure to give credit to the crew at the Port of Grays Harbor. “They have been phenomenal,” he said, so much so he added, “This could be just the first facility of a few that go into that business park.”