Why do you grow? For the next 90 days we’re featuring real life growers, some in cannabis some in urban farming. Our goal with Eddy is to build the best network of growers and data anywhere in this universe so know-how is accessible to all! Check out our latest GrowGuru Joseph Chidiac, based in Denver.
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Joseph Chidiac or JC BASSicly from Denver via Beirut grows cannabis and vegetable plants at home, and consults others through his advisory. Read on with our Q&A. He grows to relax and loves strawberries.
Where do you grow?
I’m based in the Denver CO region but grow at home and out and about with clients and partners. Recently, a lot of my growing activities have revolved around Warehouse Farms’ research and development program, in which we are testing hydroponic systems and LED fixtures and trialling seeds, fertilizers, media, and a whole lot of other exciting things!
What’s Your Grow Background?
Why do you grow?
I grow because I am fascinated by biological processes and know that the key to overcoming the challenges that humanity faces is to learn as much about nature as we can and apply it to everything we do daily. The plants don’t seem to mind, and it relaxes me so I don’t get into trouble as often when I’m gardening.
How long have you been growing?
I have been caring for plants in an urban environment since I was a young boy growing up in a Beirut suburb; my parents always loaded the balcony and roof with anything green. It’s now a little over 10 years that I have been growing cannabis and food crops indoors, and the past four years have seen much more intensive experimentation. There are still plants that I do not eat, but I anticipate that will change as soon as I grow any of them for the first time.
Tell Us About Your Grow
Favorite grow medium?
Expanded clay aggregate is a very high performance usable substrate that I enjoy growing in. It’s also amazing how much you can grow in a small cube of rock-wool. For germination, though, my favorite so far is polyphenolic foam–it’s sterile, inert, and works like a charm. I am testing compostable alternatives currently.
Indoor, outdoor or greenhouse. Why?
I believe every cultivation system has its place, and field, greenhouse, and indoor farms complement one another quite nicely. Together, these systems comprise a strong and sustainable fresh food industry. Greenhouses alleviate production pressure on open fields while decreasing water usage, and vertical farms decrease the need for storage and transportation. That’s really the tip of the iceberg, and there are many more reasons to keep all three growing models alive and strong.
Seed or clone?
Never again will I accept cuttings or clones from other people. More than once bitten, eventualy shy. Seeds are really the best way to minimize the risk of bringing pests and pathogens into your facility or onto your farm through propagative material. Once you have established healthy plants from seed, then rooting cuttings/clones is a great way to increase your population and speed up your production. Tissue culture methods also help get the most out of your material and tease out disease of need be.
Nutrients you love or make?
My favorite is mixing individual dry salts from scratch because it gives me complete control and the flexibility to adjust each new batch based on crop feedback. On the consumer side, Foxfarm, Botanicare, and GH all work well for most crops if you refresh the reservoir often enough. I have been trialling Cyco, Elite, Advanced, and Emerald and find them all to be high quality and appropriate for a variety of crops so far. I’m really excited about Key to Life coming out with a full and usable fertilizer, as they ship it dry and have you simply add water. Another thing I have my eye on is the effort to release an organically derived water soluble fertilizer, as companies such as Re-Nuble are making progress in this area which will contribute significantly to the sustainability of hydroponics.
Tell Us More
It’s a changing world, and LED technology is changing faster than most things. While a lot of our assumptions and evaluations were true just a couple of years ago, LEDs now have higher efficiency, versatility, and a lower price tag than ever before. Based on my own tests, I find LED technology to be the best option for a large portion of horticultural lighting applications. There are plenty of parameters to play with depending on the crop, cultivar, and desired outcomes, and it’s good fun playing around with them.
What is your favorite plant of all time? It can also be a strain. Let us know why you love it.
While I love cannabis and all the potential it holds, I may have to go with the strawberry plant on this one! Aside from the fact that it is a majorly generous sugar and flavor factory, these things’ drive to survive and propagate themselves commands my undying respect.
How has cannabis affected your life?
Since first learning about and consuming cannabis, it has affected my life in very positive ways, not the least of which stress relief. I have been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to grow it, teach others, and present on the cultivation and breeding of cannabis to academic and professional audiences and was surprised to yield nothing but positive responses and questions. The plant’s impact on the field of CEA is marked, and it continues to drive the technological advances we see for another while longer.
What Else Can You Tell Us?
Tell us about your biggest farming/growing/gardening screw up.
While my job rests on not making any hefty mistakes when it matters, I have definitely overfilled reservoirs, run pumps on empty, and forgot to turn timers back on in my own gardens. Still, most of the time I get to put out fires started by others or even just simple circumstance, and sometimes it takes quite a bit of counseling and psychology to turn off the waterworks when someone thinks they’re in big trouble and it’s all over!
If there was one song you could play to your plants, what would it be?
Poems of Shape and Motion by Linton Kwesi Johnson.
Final question — everyone has a superpower or a special skill. Tell us about yours. Can be growing related, or not.
I’m definitely not the only engineer who is critical to a fault, in fact I lose sensitive friends with my careless technicalities. My superpower or special skill then is being able to communicate with engineers, farmers, scientists, and business people at the same time. It seems to be coming in handy daily.