BOX ELDER, S.D. (KELO) — Scale. It is the word that may come most readily to mind when you look upon the growing operation that is Genesis Farms, which aims to be the state’s largest cannabis production operation.
Genesis Farms’ main facility is located in Box Elder, South Dakota, and will consist of a cultivation and manufacturing center, as well as a potential dispensary once operations are fully up and running.
Currently, the indoor portion of the cultivation facility is still under construction, a series of cavernous rooms branching off a central corridor.
Emmett Reistroffer, COO for Genesis Farms gave KELOLAND News an exclusive tour of the facility, highlighting these rooms early on. The height of the rooms will allow for two levels of cultivation throughout the facility, he said.
“What’s so unique about it is it’s 100% atmospherically and environmentally controlled,” said Reistroffer of the indoor cultivation facility. “We’re striving for clean-room status, and to be 100% GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) compliant — that means we make every effort to prevent and eliminate contaminants from getting into the product.”
Reistroffer said that this compliance means that employees will be wearing PPE which includes hair nets, gowns and lab outfits to prevent outside contamination.
But this indoor facility is not the only type of cultivation that Genesis Farms is employing.
The company also has an outdoor portion of their facility, where the majority of their growing is currently taking place as the indoor structures are being built.
“We harness natural sunlight, and as you can see — these plants grow much faster and bigger with natural sunlight,” said Reistroffer.
But traditional indoor and outdoor cultivation is still not the extent of the growing practices at Genesis Farms.
They are also using greenhouses.
“Historically the legal cannabis industry has been growing cannabis indoors, where we can create an optimum environment for growing cannabis, however that comes at a cost of increased energy consumption,” Reistroffer said. “We anticipate we can save up to 80% in energy costs compared to an indoor grow.”
Getting back to that defining word, “scale”, we look at the capacity for which Genesis Farms is building.
“Genesis Farms is striving to be a market leader,” Reistroffer said. “We want to be a reliable provider of this product, so if that means most of the market or over half of the market, we’re certainly prepared to provide that much product.”
How much product is that? Well, that will depend on whether Genesis ends up growing to meet the needs of a medical market or a full-blown adult-use recreational marijuana market.
In November 2022, South Dakota voters will be voting on Initiated Measure 27, a measure to end cannabis prohibition for all adults aged 21 and older.
“My analysis tells us that the South Dakota (recreational) cannabis market could be worth half a billion dollars annually,” said Reistroffer. “We’re striving for scalability, not only so we can satisfy the needs of patients by providing variety and affordability, but also so we can be prepared for the potential adult-use market that voters could be approving in November.”
Currently, Genesis Farms is growing about a dozen strains and may have as many as 40 by the end of the year. “We could be growing around 10,000 plants, or up to 20,000 plants depending on the square footage we want to utilize,” Reistroffer said. “We are prepared to grow really as many plants as we need.”
In seeking an answer to the question of yield, Reistroffer hedged, answering within the context of the current medicinal market. “We’re probably looking at several thousand pounds of cannabis that we are prepared to produce per year.”
Growing that amount of product is no simple task. “It’s not rocket science… but it is plant science,” quipped Reistroffer at one point along the tour. “We are bringing a new industry to South Dakota, however, it isn’t a new industry across the country. Cannabis has been legal now in some states for over a decade,” he said. “I was one person who grew up in South Dakota, left, worked in the industry in Colorado and Nevada, and moved back — we’ve also brought on a very talented grower with more than a decade of experience out in Washington state and California.”
The other main question, of course, is when. “I get calls every day — ‘when are we gonna open, when’s product going to be available’ — we’re probably about six-months out from being fully operational with our 14 dispensaries across the state,” Reistroffer said.
Asked how it feels to be working in the cannabis industry in his home state after so many years, Resitroffer let his excitement shine through just a bit. “Sometimes I wonder if I’m gonna wake up from this dream,” he said. “It almost doesn’t seem real, but of course, it’s 2022, and the vast majority of Americans, including South Dakotans, support fully legalizing marijuana.”
In the event that voters do pass IM 27 in November, implementation of recreational marijuana may not be immediate, just as with medical. “Because we have a medical industry that’s currently standing up, I do believe we can get to market with recreational much quicker,” Reistroffer said. “As long as the state works with us, and other stakeholders to make sure the new regulatory framework for recreational allows the current medical operators to easily transition into recreational operators.”