5 Illuminating Questions With Ed Dow, CEO Solar Therapeutics Cannabisby Warren Bobrow
Based in Somerset, MA. Solar Therapeutics (Solar) is a 67,000 square foot marijuana cultivation facility coupled with on-site and off-site dispensary storefronts that supply both medical and recreational cannabis products. Solar is organized as a MA. domestic for-profit corporation and has secured a Certificate of Registration from the MA. Cannabis Control Commission to operate in the Commonwealth. Developed behind the mantra Elevated. By Design™, Solar is unlike any cannabis manufacturing facility in America. Its key differentiators are its production architecture, which is centered around the facility’s innovative design that utilizes green infrastructure and microgrid assets comprising a combination of solar arrays and high-efficiency combined-heat & power generation units. These green concepts enable Solar to produce sustainable cannabis both by lowering its overall energy profile as well as by generating all of its own clean power. While initial facility design lowered Solar’s energy profile by over 40%, the microgrid assets help to further reduce the remaining emissions by at least 60%, with a goal to offset completely. Learn more at www.solarthera.com
Going and Growing Off-Grid
These days, it’s difficult to not see a new marijuana facility or pot shop opening in states where cannabis has been legalized (medically, recreationally, or both). And while it’s great to see this young industry flourish, there’s a major concern that comes with the territory of indoor cannabis cultivation: energy consumption.
With more and more of these “grow operations” popping up across the U.S. (and seemingly getting bigger and bigger), one company has taken an alternative route to cannabis cultivation and is producing its own clean energy on-site.
I had a chance to sit down with Ed Dow (CEO of Solar Therapeutics) to discuss how his Massachusetts-based cultivation and retail operation is redefining the approach to growing cannabis indoors and where this budding industry is headed over the next few years. Cheers, WB
Warren Bobrow=WB: Where are you from? What was your path to cannabis? When was the first time you smoked cannabis? Who were you with?
Ed Dow=ED: Cannabis is something that’s been a part of my life for quite some time. I’m not exactly sure what carved out my path to cannabis, but growing it has been a hobby of mine since I can remember. The first time I smoked cannabis was the summer leading into college. My friends and I were at this popular rope swing we always went to out on Cape Cod. They had always smoked, but I was more interested in building the devices to smoke from. I was always building pipes, water bongs...that was my way of being able to hang out. When I first smoked, I didn’t really feel it the first time. Later that night we tried again and I definitely felt it. I fell in love with cannabis. I knew that it was something that had been around forever, but didn’t really know its full potential until I actually tried it.
WB: Please tell me about your business? What six and twelve month plans. What growth opportunities do you see going forward? Stigmas? East Coast vs West Coast.
ED: Our six-month plan is to operationally execute at our facility here in Somerset, MA. We’re done with construction so now it’s about polishing off the build. Even though the heavy construction of our facility is completed, there’s still a lot of optimizing to do. We’re constantly figuring out ways we can adjust our energy load profile to run as efficiently as possible. We’re also trying to optimize the way each room runs and how that translates into us producing less power so we are consuming less. In addition, the constant undertaking of the six-month (and 12-month) horizon is our retail network. We’re working with multiple entities here in Massachusetts to fine tune our strategic partnerships and ensure that they are mutually beneficial for each party involved.
We’re also always honing in on ways to make Solar’s own retail establishment as successful as it can be. This facility is meant to support multiple dispensaries and this serves as a good framework for us to hop into other potential markets. Solar was selected as the baseline efficiency model for Massachusetts and I intend to take this platform to other states when the right opportunities arise.
There are still some stigmas around cannabis. I’ve seen it at town hall meetings. I’ve seen people call cannabis “the devil.” Are there stigmas? Yes. Some people have them and they’re loud about them. However, I believe that these are all fast-dissolving in this current day and age, as they should be.
I think what the “west coast vs. east coast” really brings to us is a great knowledge transfer (from out west). They have these deep roots and have been growing cannabis for a really long time. They can see and feel what a plant is doing. They're really in-tune with the way that marijuana grows. Now, take that and put them in a state-of-the art facility like Solar and you can only imagine what they can do. We’ve gotten some incredible results in our first round (grow & harvest) and as we get more grows under our belt, it’s only going to get better.
WB: What obstacles do you face? How do you anticipate removing them?
ED: Obstacles are still everywhere in the cannabis industry. If you can’t navigate through, around or over obstacles, there’s no need to enter this industry (at least operationally). The roadblocks are real and truly do exist in legal cannabis. We’ve had to deal with hurdles at every level of authority; from a municipal level to state level and certainly on a multistate and federal level. There are always tax implications, as well. Taxes are one of our biggest challenges right now. When you’re talking about the redundancies and lack of write offs at a state and federal level, it’s tough. The hurdles are almost innurmeralbe at this point, but we keep pressing through them. Honestly, that’s what’s exciting about being a part of a new and emerging industry. You’re going to keep finding these roadblocks and you have to figure out how to get around them.
WB:What is your favorite restaurant? Where? What kind of food? Do you cook?
ED: Shout out to my boy, Vinny Mahoney! He runs an awesome place in Bourne, MA (right next to Buzzards Bay). Props to him for running such a great spot. Mahoney’s on Main. I cook a mean Mac N’ Cheese. I can cook well on the grill. I love the idea of cooking, but I’ve never been too big into cooking. Give me a grill and I’ll be grillmaster all day.
WB: What is your passion and how does it correlate into cannabis
ED: Honestly, my passion is building. I’d say “engineering,” but it’s really building and trying to do the best I can at each project. I love figuring out the task we’re trying to accomplish and how to get it done. I just love building things, whether it’s a chair or a cannabis facility. I love building things. I think it directly correlates to cannabis. I never felt like I was the right person for any job I’ve had in the past. You look now and this is the first job I’ve ever had where I said to myself, “I know I’m the right person for this job.” My knowledge and background in mechanical engineering coupled with industrial design fits this industry perfectly. I do think we’re trying to do something a little different here. I think we’re more than just cutting-edge on the sustainability energy side of the cannabis industry. We’re really looking at figuring out how we can make this process better, more efficient, more automated and more data driven. That’s something we incorporate into every facet of this operation right now.