Cultivating hemp outdoors in Texas works great for those growing it for fibers that they plan on turning into clothing and hempcrete. Growing the plant for medicine, smokables and CBD products has proven to be a challenge.
The Texas climate is the reason that growers of hemp plants have tried their hardest to move their business indoors, away from the unpredictable, extreme, stormy nonsense that we call weather.
One of the first indoor hemp farms in North Texas is showing why its business model may become a Texas hemp industry standard in the near future.
Power BioFarms is a vertically integrated indoor hemp farm that houses from 300 to 600 plants at a time, with plenty of space to expand. Its products are currently in 13 stores in North Texas, and consumers can also purchase hemp through the company's website and have it mailed anywhere in the country legally.
The operation is a beautiful site to see for any cannabis enthusiast or even regular plant lover. When you walk through the building's various rooms, you'll find hemp plants in all stages of growth, from a 2-inch clone to a 4- or 5-foot healthy flowering plant that yields anywhere from one to two ounces of some of the best hemp flower available in the U.S. market.
The farm is primarily operated by a small team that includes Colt Power, CEO and co-founder, and Nick Williams, director of cultivation. The pair only recently hired extra hands to help care for the hundreds of plants in the facility that require daily attention. Power and Williams connected and found their way into the hemp industry after meeting at a hydroponics store in Fort Worth called the Caged Tomato, which sells supplies and equipment for indoor hemp gardens.
At the time, Williams was working as a chef in one of Dallas’ premier hotels, and Power had left the world of commercial real estate to pursue his dream of becoming a business owner. Power’s original business plan was to run an indoor vertical vegetable and herb farm, but he quickly realized he'd need a lot more space to pull that off and that the profit margins would be minimal. He pivoted into hemp, a plant he'd cared for ever since the day he learned of its healing properties.
Power is from Dallas and went to the Episcopal School of Dallas before earning his B.A. in Business from the University of Notre Dame. While at Notre Dame, he was a goalie on the D1 men's lacrosse team for his entire college career. Then he moved back to Dallas.
He learned about hemp when it was recommended to his mother, who has multiple sclerosis, and his father, a fellow athlete who has undergone 19 orthopedic surgeries.
"I just knew a lot of people around me that could probably benefit, and I started to get really into it and learning about it," Power says.
When Power first got his license to grow hemp, he didn't have a building yet and had to start with a room in his home, relying on some on-the-fly consultations with the owner at the hydroponic store he frequented.
“I took over the media room, took all the furniture out, put a couple tents in there, and I think I had about 40 plants in there,” Power says. “Then I told myself if we are going to do this, this is not the way to do it."
In the early months of 2021, Power was still trying to get his business running by himself, with some help from his co-founder and wife Reagan Power, who works at a hospital and spent the majority of the past two years working overtime when COVID-19 was at its peak.
The owner of the Caged Tomato recognized that Power was getting in over his head and introduced him to Williams. HIs hope was that Williams and Power could figure out a way to better operate and organize the structure of their farms together.
“The first time Nick came out to look at the plants he was like, ‘Hey, I’m sorry to break it to you but these flowers are hot garbage,’” Power says of Williams. “And the rest of the time he was pruning them, laying them out and doing all this stuff and I could see the way he was working with the plants and knew that he knew a lot about this stuff. It’s really easy to get them to grow big and look strong, but it does not mean that you're growing them good.”
Williams has a green thumb and could be considered a master grower at this stage of his career. Power says he was a major help in turning the facility into an almost fully automatic operation that harvests every two weeks. They still have to manually perform minor tasks like repotting the plants as they grow or occasionally might move a bucket of water. Power BioFarms has become a rotating machine, increasing production as well as the variety of products it can manufacture from its own indoor hemp farm.
The farm has an industrial rosin press that allows the manufacturer to squeeze pure hemp oil from its flower and use it for a wide range of edibles and topicals. Power and Williams consistently try to use every part of the plant in their operation. And every part of the plant really does have a use. One of their clients even buys the leaves from the hemp plant to add to her cold-pressed juices, because the leaves are rich in cannabinoids and chlorophyll.
Power BioFarms is destined for growth on par with the ever-expanding Texas hemp industry, though the company has had a few hiccups along the way. Power and Williams have both accidentally flooded the entire building a couple of times, coming into the building in the morning and finding everything sitting in three feet of water. They once purchased clones from a supplier that brought bugs into the space and infected the farm to the point that they had to discard a table full of clones. There was also the time pollen from some of the plants accidentally ended up pollinating an entire room of about 330 plants. Being resourceful, they were still able to salvage and process the seeded flower.
More recently, they had to stick about 200 plants into one of the smallest rooms in the facility, which is now the kitchen, because the building's electrical wiring had to be switched out. The original electrical boxes were old and small and not providing enough power, so they had to confine the operation to a single
room until the building could provide more power.
“My favorite part probably is knowing that what we are doing is actually really helping people ... It’s not like someone is just getting high but it's helping people who are actually finding relief out of this." – Nick Williams
This task took several months because Oncor became backed up after the winter storm that swept through North Texas at the beginning of the year. Now the pair has more than enough power to run the farm, and they've switched to an automated water system to eliminate the risk of potential flooding.
There are several subsections within the cannabis industry, including growers, extractors and distributors. But it takes a certain will to be a grower of any plant. You pretty much live on the farm year-round. If you take your eyes off the plant for 48 hours, whether it is indoors or outdoors, you could return to a bug-infested mess or have to deal with other unexpected occurrences. Retailers or distributors primarily make sure that bags are wrapped tightly and are in a cool place until they can sell them. And they aren’t confined to the farm for an extended period of time. Power and Williams both say they love the plant and even farming.
“My favorite part probably is knowing that what we are doing is actually really helping people,” Williams says. “It’s not like someone is just getting high but it's helping people who are actually finding relief out of this. For me, that is more of a driving factor than anything. If I can help people that means more to me than just making money from the plant.”
Power and Williams say customers often let them know how their quality of life has improved because of their products.
“Someone had come out and toured and a woman brought her husband who had been in a car wreck a year ago and said he could not sleep at all until he found our pre-rolls,” Power says. “And those were just our CBD ones, not even anything infused. That is fantastic.”
Power BioFarms are trailblazers in the Texas hemp industry and plan to position themselves for the long term with a primary focus on servicing Texans, who no longer have to rely on cannabis farms out of the state. Texas farms are also often overlooked because of the assumption that they lack quality or the education it takes to produce a high-quality product. But there are several award-winning farms, retailers and extractors that operate in the Lone Star State and. like Power BioFarms, in North Texas.
Power and Williams love to invite guests to tour the farm. In most cases, it will be that guest's first time seeing a cannabis farm and getting a firsthand understanding that the product they consume starts with the grower and the cultivation of the plant.
The Texas hemp industry is still in its infancy and growing into what it will become one day. Power BioFarms is at the forefront of it all and working with the ups and downs as they come, busy cultivating some good-looking and good-smelling flower.