Longtime grower Josh Munk recently assumed the role of Cultivation Advisor for the Resource Innovation Institute (RII), a Portland-based nonprofit organization that aims to establish industry standards and sustainability-related incentives in the rapidly growing cannabis marketplace.
Munk tells The Clever Root that his appreciation for crop cultivation dates back to his childhood, when he often spent time helping out around his family’s pear orchard. A self-proclaimed “efficiency junkie,” he’s continuously strived to implement efficient practices in his growing methods while teaching others in the cannabis industry to do the same. In his new role, Munk will assist fellow cultivators in tracking efficiency levels in their own growing systems, helping them improve production while minimizing their environmental impact.
How did you first get involved with cannabis cultivation?
My first experiences with cannabis cultivation was probably similar to a lot of folks: growing a couple plants behind my house when I was a kid and getting caught by my parents. I got my medical card while in college and started growing both indoors in retrofitted garages and basements and on a smaller scale outdoors before starting commercially in Northern California in 2006.
Spending time on an orchard helped foster my appreciation for cultivating crops and food. Growing up, my dad had cacti, bonsai trees, orchids, and lilies in addition to an organic garden and the orchard, so my appreciation for plants in general and the connection between food and its origins started very young. I still grow bonsai trees, cacti, and orchids and also maintain an organic veggie garden.
What experiences in cannabis led you to your new role as Cultivation Advisor for RII?
I’ve always had an interest in sustainable cultivation and conservation of resources, so I’m committed to implementing best practices and optimizing resource management in my own operations. I’m diligently trying to motivate the same priority throughout the cannabis industry, so RII was a natural choice to help me increase my reach and impact. Additionally, building, owning, and operating one of the first vertical [grow] facilities on the West Coast to only use sustainable lighting technologies has given me tremendous experience in everything from design, HVAC, and commercial-scale organic IPM [Integrated Pest Management] to human resources and executive management—as well as a comprehensive understanding of the obstacles facing cultivators and how to overcome them.
What does your job as a Cultivation Advisor entail?
My job is to help create systems and services that will help cultivators measure their efficiencies and resource management to ultimately improve their production abilities. It also allows me to operate as a liaison between growers and resource providers, municipalities, and government programs to help ensure the services they create to facilitate increased sustainability are tailored to the growing needs of cultivators.
How can a grower benefit from an affiliation with RII?
The many benefits to becoming a member of RII include group purchasing discounts to a large network of service providers and retailers, access to cutting-edge information and educational content, and much more. In addition to gaining access to RII’s wide network of experts, members also immediately receive a credit from Growers Supply for the same amount as their membership, so the fee is completely reimbursed. By completing the Cannabis Powerscore on the RII website, growers can track their facilities’ efficiencies, compare those to other facilities, and begin to work toward optimizing their systems.
Does RII work with dispensaries as well?
RII does not currently work with dispensaries.
What defines sustainability in the cannabis industry?
I think sustainability as it relates to cannabis cultivation can be described as the ability to consistently cultivate maximum production of the highest-quality products with the lowest impact environmentally and socially, as well as in terms of resource consumption and, of course, production costs.
What is the most important step growers can take to make their practices more sustainable?
I think the most important initial step is to measure and evaluate their current consumption levels. Once you have a benchmark, then one can begin to adjust individual variables based on those metrics.
How do you recommend growers improve the value of their cannabis product(s)?
Building a strong brand and marketing are key components, but an open mind toward innovation and the ability to evaluate where there are needs currently in the marketplace allows cultivators and operators to consistently develop new products for their customers. Strain selection and finding unique phenotypes throughout the cultivars is also key.
For more information on RII, visit resourceinnovation.org.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.