Interview with Douglas Fyvolent, CEO of Hyperponic
On February 26, 2019, Douglas Fyvolent, CEO of Hyperponic, will be speaking at Kahner Global's Cannabis Private Investment Summit in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. The event will host more than 130 industry leaders and investors for a day of collaboration and networking.
1. What brought you to the cannabis industry?
We started developing this aeroponic system that became Hyperonic, thinking it was going to be the first sustainable urban farm to feed people in what are known as “food deserts” all over the country. It was going to be farm-to-table for both restaurants and communities. As we were developing the technology, getting everybody involved, and growing lettuce and herbs in our towers, all the investors we spoke with were fixated on cannabis. They kept asking, “Can you grow pot?, can you grow pot?,” so we understood that’s where the demand, money and margins were. Eventually, we started redesigning the system from an outdoor urban farm to an indoor cannabis growing system.
2. How did your previous experience prepare you to take on the role of CEO at Hyperponic?
I’ve always been an entrepreneur. Prior to Hyperponic, I had a uniform and ad specialty business here in Florida that began as a small company. Over time, I started working nationwide with Walmart, Sam's Club, Office Depot, and Publix. I learned the struggles of bringing a small company to these big conglomerates and working with them to develop a line and to sell product to them, so I've learned what it takes for a start-up and how much hair you lose when you go through it.
3. What issues within the cannabis industry does Hyperponic help resolve?
Most of the industry grows in pots hydroponically: flooding water into horizontal trays under the plant roots on a regular basis. We grow aeroponically: the plants can be grown in vertical towers. This allows us to maximize space and grow more efficiently. We also use LED light, so we save energy as well. The plants are easier to manage, too.
Cannabis is becoming more and more of a commodity, so it will be critical for growers to invest in systems that are much more efficient. What we've developed is significantly better than what is currently in the marketplace. We’re making that possible with our CropTowers, technology, water usage and improved growing techniques.
4. What are the advantages and disadvantages of growing indoors compared to growing outside?
Growing indoors obviously requires more energy than sunlight, but we can control the environment much better. Outdoor growers have to deal with many unpredictable environment issues like pests, fungus, too much or too little rain, and in some states, even hurricanes. We don't have to worry about those issues. By controlling the environment and all the aspects of the grow, we believe our indoor grow system creates a higher quality product than an outdoor grow. Also, in an indoor environment, we can grow year ‘round in what we call a perpetual harvest. We can far exceed the harvest of an outdoor farm compared to our indoor system. For example, for hemp, a 40,000 square foot (1 acre) indoor location can compete with a 100-acre outdoor farm.
Another issue is lighting. Lighting technology has come a long way in the last ten years. Competing with Mother Nature and natural light will always be an uphill climb, but LEDs are pretty close to being able to compete with the sun.
There’s also consistency. One problem with growing outside is that you can't be consistent. The soil is not always consistent, the environment is always not consistent. And to be a high-end quality consumer or pharmaceutical product, you have to be consistent and be able to document that you can grow it the same way every time. We believe we’ll fill that void. We've developed our system with the goal that it will create growing conditions precise enough so that it will produce pharmaceutical-grade plants and oils. That's one of the areas where we will excel and outpace the industry.
5. How does Hyperponic's system differ from other indoor and hydroponic growing systems?
Our roots don't grow in a medium like soil or coconut husks. By growing aeroponically, we use no grow media. The roots hang inside our CropTowers and are watered constantly and consistently. NASA and Disney have proven that this way of growing can produce a ten percent more efficient method of growing. Previously, the big flaw of aeroponics was the use of fine spray misters to water the roots. These misters send the water and the nutrients to the roots for growing. But these misters tend to clog. We have developed a new system to solve the mister clogging problem and have developed a proprietary and patent-pending water flow system that does not clog, and is easy to clean and maintain. In this business, that’s a pretty big deal.
6. What criteria does the system monitor (nutrient content, moisture, light, temperature, etc.), and what are the most difficult environmental factors to recreate?
Our software and technology monitor every aspect of the grow: The entire environment, the water, nutrients, pumps, lights, every aspect.
One of the critical components of indoor growing is locking in the right light spectrum. We have lights, tweaked just for how we grow, that produce a beautiful product – color, smell, stickiness and potency. As I’ve said, we're getting close to being able to compete with natural light.
7. Do you believe that the future of agriculture, including the cannabis industry, will be more urban/indoor?
There are a number of companies around the world that are developing indoor growing systems. We see that continuing as the urban areas expand, and as less and less farmland is available to supply the food for more and more people. I see indoor farms typically continuing to grow in popularity. On the cannabis side, many growers already rely on indoor farming, mainly because of security and being able to control the environment. I see that trend continuing.
8. Are there advantages to growing vertically with a CropTower besides saving space?
Absolutely. We also reduce water usage to about 2% and in some areas, we’ll have a zero water use footprint by capturing the condensation from the air conditioning systems. We are efficient in our use of electricity, as well as the time employees spend tending to plants. We also drastically reduce pollution in the form of runoff. A lot of growers water the plants and that water goes through the soil in the pots and literally down the drain—or into the surrounding outside soil—taking chemicals and fertilizers with it. By recycling and conserving water, we eliminate this pollution.
9. What fail safe systems does Hyperponic's CropTower system utilize to prevent crop failures?
We have built our solution to have complete redundancy. We have computers that monitor all the pumps, sensors, electrical grid, and more. For example, if a computer identifies that one of the pumps is not working, it will shut that pump down, turn on the auxiliary pump, and send an alarm to staff and management as text messages and emails. An employee can go in and replace the equipment in just a few minutes. Everything we've built is plug and play. So in the pump scenario, as the backup pump is running, a team member can replace a defective pump in less than ten minutes - sort of like as NASCAR pit stop. It screws out and a new one goes right in. The computer then knows that new pump is online and goes back into service. We have no downtime. Here’s another example: if the Internet connection goes down, our system backup connects to a cell tower so that we don't lose our ability to communicate with the system.
10. Do you see Hyperponic expanding into other industries or creating additional product lines?
Yes. We believe our systems and products will be in line with what the pharmaceutical industry is looking for – clean, consistent and replicable. Also, our company, as part of our goal of giving back to the community, will set up some sustainable urban farms, growing greens and fruit. That will take us back to our roots, so to speak. We're also looking at other crops that could be compatible with our technology.
11. What is Skyway Oil?
Skyway Oil was created as the Hemp and CBD division of Hyperponic. Because THC is in limited states and still federally illegal, a lot of investors have been hesitant to get into that side of the industry. But now with the passage of the Farm Bill, that has opened the window for CBD and industrial hemp, so we have two divisions. We’ll have to watch the FDA and other government division closely as they try to figure out how to handle this product that is in very high demand.
12. You've developed a solution, Hypergrown. What is it and how is it used?
Hypergrown is not really a solution as much as it our education division, and a brand name, like the Good Housekeeping seal that our partner companies, growers, wholesalers, and retailers will be able to use to differentiate our products from other growers’ products.
We will be educating consumers and doing marketing and social media outreach to explain to consumers why our product is better, and “clean” meaning that it’s grown without heavy metals or pesticides. Let’s face it, this industry is like the wild west, and it’s not regulated right now. There are a lot of products out there that are potentially dangerous even though they claim that they have been tested for mercury or lead or arsenic. I think there's a lot of education that needs to happen in the industry. And that’s what Hypergrown has been developed to do.
13. Would an organic seal of approval be sufficient?
No. We don't technically qualify for organic. There are some real technical terms of what you can use for organic, and we don’t fit. And frankly, claiming organic is not necessarily a positive thing. Organic fertilizers could use heavy metals that are absorbed into the plants. They don’t talk about that, but it’s accurate. We like to say that we are actually beyond organic.
On a bit of a side note, consumers have to look out for the products they buy, where they are grown, how they are processed, and what exactly is in the lab reports. Hemp and cannabis plants are soil-cleaning types of plants. When they’re planted in a field, they absorb whatever is in the soil. Unless it’s virgin soil, this potentially includes things like lead and mercury. So even when you grow organically, you don't know what was in the soil before you planted and what’s been absorbed into the plant.
The hemp plant has even been used to clean the soil for a couple of the nuclear plants that have collapsed. At the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan, they’re actually planting hemp around the site to absorb all the chemicals that went into the soil following the meltdown.
14. Since you've begun work in this industry, what do you see as the biggest opportunity? What do you perceive as the biggest threat?
The biggest opportunity is that the states, and in small steps, the Federal government, have started to accept that it’s beneficial for medical purposes. Consequently, the industry is going to keep growing for the foreseeable future.
The threats to the industry are, with it not being regulated, people are making claims that just aren’t justified. Eventually, this could bring a bad name to the market. Also, regulation from the government can be both good and bad. While we welcome some regulation, there is a point where regulation could begin to limit opportunity for consumers, for growers, and for businesses.
Another threat is Big Pharma. I believe that Big Pharma is going to leverage the Congress with their lobbying process and the patent process and try to eliminate the small, efficient growers. Every cannabis business in this country is scared of their power.
15. What do you think the future of the cannabis industry looks like?
Pending resolution of the threats I just mentioned, I believe the industry is going to grow for a long time. We are just at the beginning of what’s possible if medical researchers are given the latitude to discover the myriad of uses for this plant. I can see that there's going to be more regulation, and I believe the first step in regulation is going to be good. But it's a matter of how far they, or big pharma take control.
You’re also seeing more consumers, medical practitioners and states recognizing the value of cannabis over the synthetic painkillers, opioids and other addictive drugs.
Hyperponic (www.hyperponic.com) was founded in 2014 with a mission of building, its CropTower™ vertical aeroponic grow system. The company is led by Doug Fyvolent, a business owner and entrepreneur who envisioned a better way to grow all types of plants, from leafy greens and strawberries to cannabis. Hyperponic™’s fully-integrated and patent-pending 10' tall CropTowers™, computer-controlled environmental and nutrition management systems facilitate higher volume, faster production, reduced warehouse space and better yields at lower cost, translating into higher revenue for its grower customers.
With a focus on growing a profitable, high-quality business, with production efficiency and the smallest footprint when it comes to use of space, the ecosystem and “clean room” level environment, the company believes it will be an attractive potential acquisition in the next 3-5 years.
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The Cannabis Private Investment Summit showcases the best and brightest cannabis entrepreneurs in the industry and is the premiere summit for institutional investors, family offices, and ultra high net worth investors. For additional information on Hyperponic, please contact http://hyperponic.com/contact/.
To sign up for Kahner Global’s 2nd Annual Cannabis Private Investment Summit Florida, being held on February 26, 2019 in Fort Lauderdale, click here.