Boulder's SURNA bridges the gap between technology and industrial cannabis grows

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May 21, 2018
San Francisco, CA

Your typical nugget of cannabis at the neighborhood dispensary is not like the produce you find at a grocery store. Unlike those other agricultural goods--produced en masse and imported from afar to maintain availability throughout the year--local cannabis must be grown locally, and continually harvested to meet demand. But this is no basement-operation. Most dispensaries farm indoors, combining elaborate lighting and watering systems to mimic environmental changes throughout the seasons. With so much value at stake, how do growers know they’re dialed in the correct temperature?

There’s always traditional novice HVAC--long popular with home gardens--but today’s industrial greenhouses need something more elaborate and efficient to balance the intense light and humidity. SURNA (SRNA:OTC US) is a Boulder-based company quickly rising among competitors as the eco-friendly, budget-wise solution for such climate control. By using a flow of water to cool the operation, dispensaries can reduce power usage by up to 30%, control humidity levels, and recycle resources.

At SURNA’s helm is Zynga (“Farmville”) (NASDAQ:ZNGA) co-founder and Silicon Valley alumni Tom Bollich, who saw great potential to innovate in a technologically-stricken industry. Unlike online games--which peak in popularity and wane over time--Bollich believes consumers will not tire of cannabis, and that the regulated legal market will replace the black market in the future. But most dispensaries still lack the systems required to meet that kind of demand. CNBC correspondent Jane Wells interviewed Bollich at the Colorado Cannabis Summit in Denver in May, in which she began “The rest of agriculture has invested heavily in technology, pot not so much. Enter a techie from the Silicon Valley.” In other words, things are about to change. (watch full interview here)

Even with such exponential expansion, SURNA’s services are one-of-kind. The only other choice for dispensary owners are routine air-conditioning contractors who have little-to-no insight into growing cannabis. That very lack of research may have a costly, negative impact on the harvest itself.

Accordingly, the SURNA system has been developed with the grower in mind. Different rooms can easily be set at different climates. And then there’s the “dark room” dilemma: many grow houses cannot avoid light pollution during “flowering” stage, when a plant’s light source must mimic half-day, half-night schedule--as if in natural habitat--to trigger cannabis production. The result can be inferior product, and thus, lower return on investment. But with the water-cooling system, no ductwork is necessary. Growers can isolate flower rooms, not to mention, keep strong odors from escaping the building. Not surprisingly, current grow warehouses utilizing their system have boasted up to a 20% increase in product yield.

Bollich moved to Colorado from New York to oversee the venture after acquiring an intellectual property holding company specializing in the cannabis industry. Climate control is definitely not the end; SURNA filed a newly patented light reflector technology in May, called the Airstream, due out by the fourth quarter. New sectors such as food products, nutraceuticals, pharmaceuticals, bio tech, remote agricultural monitoring technologies are also being pioneered, not to mention innovative irrigation and lighting systems.

Fortune Magazine, Wired, Fox, CNBC, and several others have already plunged Bollich and crew into the media spotlight this year, even outside the U.S. But how do Bollich’s former peers in Silicon Valley feel about the career switch? They think it’s the best idea he’s ever had--even better than the game software company that peaked at $10 billion dollar value. Watch the full PBS video and interview above.

Sources/SURNA in the News:

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