BY JULES BURN
Trent Hancock smokes blunts–has since 1995, and he’s been growing just as long. He comes from the Oregon underbelly, preserving old-school techniques, genetics, and methodologies, while pioneering some amazing innovations in fresh air exchange, engineering the perfect storm of environmental and pest control. He can replace and move air at the fastest rates ever achieved in a commercial grow, while controlling its temperature and humidity. The air can change direction instantly, sending gusts that travel throughout every square inch and leaf of the grow with remarkable speed.
Trent and his dad designed the first automated air control rooms, making it possible to mimic nature’s algorithms indoors. The results are some of the smoothest, terpiest, tastiest, and cleanest organic colas around. Best of all, the capability of the system eliminates the need for spraying completely. His rapid air exchange principles are the core of his personal growing philosophy, and the tech is also an effective defense against bugs, mold, and other undesirables. The intellectual property has the potential to revolutionize greenhouse microclimate control. Imagine spray-free cannabis gardens. Now imagine the bigger potential: spray-free agriculture across the board coupled with the ability to create microclimates specific to any crop, virtually anywhere.
In the risky business environment of the ’90s, cannabis growers were able to experiment with new indoor horticulture technology decades before vegetable producers. At the time, cannabis prices basically guaranteed great profit margins no matter how inefficient the growing style. Today, horticulture technology is veering off in multiple directions. Professionals from diverse backgrounds are entering this industry rapidly. These individuals are playing key roles in refining business management, increasing process efficiency, innovating indoor equipment, and helping growers appeal to a wider base of consumers. However, the Achilles’ heel for many companies with “professional” teams is bad advice circulating from inexperienced growers with inefficient styles and quality control issues, which often translates to spray at the end of the day.
We caught up with Trent and his fiancée Shayney Norrick on their cosmic journey grown from seed, carried on the wind and germinated decades ago. It started with an outlaw who didn’t always have the best relationship with his Navy “SeaBee” dad Larry. Now he’s making a name for himself thanks to Shayney and a father-son reunion.
The fruits of their labor and experimentation are rooted in techniques handed down from first and second generation West Coast growers and simply based on the principles of nature. These principles protect the plants against bugs at lower temperatures (with nightly cold bursts around 45 degrees each night) and kill mildew with higher temperature bursts (around 93 to 96 degrees in the middle of the day cycle).
These theories are actually basic principles from one of Trent’s mentors, an old hippie, and not necessarily confirmed and documented by “real science.” In fact, it’s one of many scientific hypotheses tested by Trent in his clandestine career. With a chuckle, he refers to his methods as “underground science.”
Through fresh air systems and vertical lighting, all contained within the “octagon,” Creswell Oreganics has been able to eliminate the need for CO2 and pesticides while yielding large grows with high-quality bud. The multiple patents that have come out of their discoveries speak to their expertise and the uniqueness of their design, while its applications in other agricultural avenues reflect Creswell Oreganics’ commitment to sustainability.
Back to the Future
Picture the scene 20-plus years ago: a young buck in a ’90s grow, smoking blunts and watching the thick smoke swirl in the light, noting the patterns. He tinkers and adjusts until he achieves what he believes to be the most efficient airflow in the grow.
Enter the aforementioned “SeaBee” Larry, who can barely make out the stacks of cash through the haze of blunt smoke. Trent and his dad reunited in 2009, realizing they had a lot in common, except for cannabis. As we have emerged from the shadows and proudly proclaimed our commitment to this healing herb, most of us have had that seminal moment with one or both of our parents. This was Trent’s. He explained to his dad exactly where those stacks of cash came from, and invited him into the garden. Dad was impressed, maybe a little proud… and of course, had some suggestions.
His father “was so straight edge that we barely spoke from 1996 to 2009,” Trent says. “I would rather go through the struggle to be involved in cannabis as a kid than live with his strict rules.” Larry’s background in invention and experience as a Navy “SeaBee” (which means he was involved in construction during his time in the service) helped make Trent’s dreams of natural air flow a reality. Trent had the ideas, but his dad had the knowledge of analog controls, and was able to help Trent build his first automated air system.
“The system my dad built is the first control system designed to move very high volumes of air, and control its temperature/humidity using ‘air control rooms,’” Trent says. “Prior to this, I had built dozens of medical grows, but no control system existed. I earlier built systems that were adjustable manually, and provided the air in large volumes, but with far less control and capability.” This was the moment that Trent’s tech graduated from “underground science” to intellectual property.
Creswell Oreganics Emerges
It can be said that behind every grower is a capable business manager. Shayney is the yin to Trent’s yang on the biz and grow side of things, while Trent and his dad work on research and development of new technology soon to be available to other farms. The three of them have perfected the system and are poised to change the world. Their mission is to eliminate sprays and teach the world precisely how to control micro-climates, pests, and spores with air.
As a result, Creswell Oreganics owns patent-pending intellectual property that could revolutionize global food production, or at least the cleanliness of the food we eat and bud we smoke. Trent’s patent-pending wisdom is a gas, as in the air we breathe, and the system they have engineered to manipulate air temp, humidity and pressure to combat mold, mildew, and pests in the garden, circumnavigating the use of harmful and potentially toxic sprays and pesticides. Through this experience, they’ve earned badges and solved problems the hard way, and building on that with a perfectionist pioneer spirit and unrelenting effort to outdo themselves with each and every buildout.
Trent moved from Oregon to Montana in 2004, where he fell into some trouble when he was caught with three ounces of cannabis, a felony at the time. Because of the charge, he could not be a medical provider, but he could be an owner in someone else’s company. He consulted with other growers, helping them to set up their grows using his airflow systems. In 2011, he met Shayney, and she immediately started working with him. In 2013, she decided to set up her own grow. It was perfect timing for Trent, who was feeling used by his clients.
From Creswell Oreganics’ point of view, there are three key forks in the path to developing an indoor grow style. At all three junctures in the road, they have ventured down trails less blazed. While considering their path and any other growing style, always keep in mind that the process presented to you should not merely sound good, it should also add up and be able to stand up to scientific scrutiny. Growers should welcome debate, because those of us who do not will eventually wind up in the industry dustbin. In the spirit of debate, we present Creswell Oreganics’ journey to developing their style.
CO2 vs. Fresh Air
The largest unrealized fork in the road is CO2 versus Rapid Air Exchange. A grow room without air exchange is a “closed” system, resulting in a moist, hot breeding ground for trouble. CO2-based systems require sealed rooms recycling stagnant air. Operating lights boost heat levels and increase humidity from plants and their medians, neither of which can escape the closed air environment. To overcome the heat and humidity, CO2 style growers must use very large air conditioners and dehumidifiers that can double power consumption. For this reason, never trust a grower’s math if they use the formula “weight of dried product divided by watts of lights in flower” to calculate their efficiency. This omits the energy used in the veg cycle, on dehumidifiers, and A/C, not to mention the cost of CO2 itself. The accurate energy formula is “total kilowatt hours the facility uses divided by the weight of dried product.”
When Trent first came into growing, he used CO2 because avoiding detection was key. It wasn’t until 2000, when he was introduced to the “octagon method” of vertical growing that he learned the benefits of fresh air over CO2. “I immediately rebuilt my grow, and have been developing air control ever since,” he says. “My quality was immediately better than any of my friends who ran CO2.”
The system Creswell Oreganics created utilizes the fastest air exchange built to overcome the heat and humidity issues that come with indoor growing. Even in the hottest days of summer, they can run their lights without cooling systems. While many growers are turning towards LED in the hopes of lowering A/C and operating costs, their company uses the heat generated from the lights as an advantage. They run a patent-pending air exchange system that recycles the heat from the lights to do three things:
• Mix with incoming air when temperatures outside are cooler than what is needed
• Assist in reaching temperatures needed around the plant in a cycle to prevent mold
• Exhaust out to increase the air exchange and maintain pressure control.
Rapid air exchange done right will drop your electric bill between 30 to 50 percent and remove the cost of continually adding CO2.
Vertical vs. Overhead Lighting
The next trail breaking off from the main road that an indoor grower must choose between is vertical or traditional overhead lighting. No doubt you can grow larger plants with an overhead lighting system, and equipment designers have favored overhead historically. But the reason for its domination the last two decades is not because of efficiency. Medical regulations have always been based on plant count. This moved growers toward overhead and generating the largest plants they could produce.
In the beginnings of indoor cannabis production, “Sea of Green” and vertical grows quickly proved to be very efficient styles in the underground scene. The largest advantage is the up to seven weeks shaved off the veg cycle, allowing a higher percentage of your facility to be flower rooms. Sadly, these efficient styles did not have a chance to evolve due to medical cannabis regulations. At Creswell Oreganics, their veg rooms are only 30 percent of their grow while 70 percent is continually in flower. Increasing the number of lights in flower and cutting back the amount of lights running 18 hours a day increases production and efficiency dramatically.
Spray vs. No Spray
The final fork you will come to is tricky: to spray or not to spray. Being a new legal market, there is a disconnect between consumer and producer. Most cannabis passing testing has been sprayed with products that are not yet tested for. Growers simply switch sprays as they get banned. A cheap bottle of spray twice a week allows a grower to cut their buildout cost in half. This was acceptable in the past, but as consumers become connoisseurs and retail managers learn what to look for, the market will balance itself out. Growers who put quality first will quickly gain ground and retail stores that were not just looking for the best wholesale price will earn consumers’ business.
Spraying in the flower stage dramatically reduces the finished quality and can be harmful to consumers. It will pass testing perfectly, but leave you with a sore throat and potentially a headache. Oil-based organic sprays like neem use degreasers to break the oil down in water to be sprayed. This assists the spray in merging with trichomes, altering the aroma, taste, and the overall quality of the cannabis.
Air quality outdoors is much higher than indoors in most places, a principle that cannot be overcome with A/C or dehumidifiers. Without the ability to exchange fresh air around the plant at effective rates and without temperature algorithms to prevent spraying, the growing environment becomes a haven for bugs and molds, leaving growers no option but to spray. Creswell Oreganics’ facility simulates high altitude in the night cycle to prevent bugs and bursts heat once a day rapidly around the plant to prevent mold.
These bursts are only for minutes at a time, with one warm burst to mimic the hottest part of the day to kill off any mildew. “We’re truly organic,” Trent says, continuing to say that he would love to be a “thorn in Monsanto’s side.” Once their patents go through, they hope that the same principles can be applied to other crops and vegetable growth.