Plant Life Company
August 20, 2018 Issue
Q&A with David Ellerstein, Co-founder and Managing Partner of Plant Life Company providing Inorganic Salt-based Fertilizers and Non-Salt based Bio-Stimulants high in Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium that enable Cannabis Growers produce a Greater Yield and Faster Growth Cycle
Co-founder and Managing Partner
Plant Life Company
Interview conducted by:
Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor, CEOCFO Magazine, Published August 20, 2018
CEOCFO: Mr. Ellerstein, would you tell us the idea behind Plant Life?
The genesis behind Plant
Life Company, and as I have done throughout my career, is identifying a
niche that is not being completely served. Not that there are not already a
number of nutrient companies in the space, but in evaluating and discussing
it with my partners, we identified opportunity with what the others are
doing and what we perceived the industry needs. We observed that it was
somewhat of an underserved market, not that it was poorly served but that
there was just a better way of doing it. So we had lots of discussions and
went into the labs to develop what we thought, based on 160 years of
experience and six generations between the two family businesses, was a
product that would
CEOCFO: What is in the product and why is it better?
To some degree, nutrients are a commodity. The same NPK (Nitrogen,
Phosphorus and Potassium) that grow all of your shrubs, grass and trees are
the same NPK, which are the macronutrients that would grow cannabis.
However, the difference is a percentage of each of the ingredients that you
provide in those nutrients as well as the timing of when you provide these
nutrients. It is like any another business; there is an art and there is a
science to it. What the other major companies in the space did 25 years ago
or so was to create
CEOCFO: How do you know when it is too much of one nutrient?
Mr. Ellerstein: As I mentioned, our nutrients were developed in concert with our partners, whose families have been making fertilizers for a combined total of 160 years. The products are ideally blended to ensure a wonderfully successful grows. Alas, gardening is an art form and each master cultivator is an artist in their own right as well as there being so many variables with each respective grow. The cultivators observe often and make real-time decisions on how much of one nutrient maybe too much
Generally speaking the only chemical that could provide too much but is necessary is the nitrogen. Nitrogen is essential in the early stages and then it tapers off to near zero as you go into secondary phase of cannabis growth cycle which is the flowery bloom phase. Nitrogen is the only thing as industry experts say, may cause a burn on your leaf tip. All of the other nutrients that are provided within what is in essence a daily vitamin, it will consume and dispose of what it does not use.
CEOCFO: Have growers been looking for something better or do they not understand that it can be better?
Mr. Ellerstein: Change is always difficult and in this space everybody is trying to have their secret sauce or pixie dust that they feel will be a little bit better than the next guy. Are they looking? The existing farmers may or may not be looking. That is difficult for me to say, however if you can demonstrate to them that you can produce a greater yield and faster growth cycle and potentially more THC concentration, then absolutely they are looking for something. However we are $8 to $12 billion into what I believe is going to be arguably a $500 billion industry from cannabis and hemp. We are still at the beginning and there are a lot of new people coming into the marketplace that are going to be educated consumers and business folks that are going to do analysis and determine scientifically what is going to produce the best bang for the buck, so with that being said I believe they will be looking for a product like Plant Life.
CEOCFO: When is it appropriate to use liquid as opposed to non-liquid materials?
That depends. A lot of time it comes down to price because the mindset is
and it may be so, that shipping liquid is
CEOCFO: Who is buying from you today?
Mr. Ellerstein: We are primarily a B2B, a large-scale growth cultivator. So far, we do not sell to anybody that has less than a 10 thousand square ft. grow, but really aiming towards and having success more towards the larger greenhouses and indoor facilities where they are growing 2,000 or 3,000 plants. We even have a grow doing 12,000 plants, but that is where we are aiming towards because we have an extremely high-end line of nutrients. Although they work great for the home grower, they are not marketed for the small, home growers. Our target clients are large scale, commercial growers that are looking to lead the industry.
CEOCFO: When a customer comes to Plant Life, do they know what they want and understand or are you having to walk them through so they understand?
Mr. Ellerstein: At this point, most of the customers that are coming to us have a good idea of what they want and so all we do is talk through what our product offering is and how we feel that it will better serve them. It really comes down to what is the cost and what is the benefit and how the two marry. Everybody wants to spend as little as possible to get the greatest benefit. That said, our supplements offer several advantages that are not commonplace in this market and we love to help educate our customers to their advantages.
CEOCFO: You have a number of additional product supplements. Do people tend to take advantage of these offerings? Are there some products that are getting more attention than others?
Mr. Ellerstein: Nutrients to some degree are a commodity and when I say a commodity I am talking about your macronutrients which are the primary nutrients you need to grow. Ours have both secondary and micronutrients so our products are fully loaded. However, the supplements and the differentiator of Plant Life are our two flagship products. At the front end we have our Onyx, which is an early stage root boost. We have witnessed the massive complex root mass that Onyx develops early from the get-go compared to other players in the industry, but literally and visually it is like strands of spaghetti compared to all of Little Italy, when you see a side-by-side comparison. In the last three to four weeks, your plants are moving towards harvest and we have our Crystal product, a proprietary formula of premium sugar complex for enhanced flavor, fragrance and yield. Used together with Onyx at the end of the flowering phase, which delivers stimulates, enzymes and additional nutrients, the resulting products are aromatic, frosty and dense. These are our flagship products that are real differentiators in this space.
These proprietary formulas are providing what is stated by our clients, amazing root masses unlike they have ever seen and a healthier product with greater stress tolerance, disease resistance, great stem and cell and leaf structure; just different products that are our differentiators.
CEOCFO: Where do you manufacture, how, and what type of inventory do you need to maintain?
Mr. Ellerstein: We have two manufacturers and both of them are partners in our business. We have a liquid manufacturer and we have a dry water soluble manufacturer. Both of them happen to be on the east coast, tri-state area where I happened to grow up. One was founded in 1946, that is the liquid company and the other was 1927 which was a dry water soluble company. As we are a commercial B2B, we do have constraints on size so our container size for all of our liquids is minimally 2.5 gallons and a 5 gallon case. We also have 25 lb. bags for our dry water soluble. Additionally, we offer drums and totes for our established large growers. When we do trial with a customer, we try not to do less than 100 plants, because that will give more than enough product for any of our prospective clients to run two or three cycles.
CEOCFO: Can your clients use the product incorrectly?
Mr. Ellerstein: A client could use the product incorrectly. We give best practice advice and strongly recommend that you follow our guidelines. What we tell everybody is use best practices for liquid or dry water soluble, stir, mix or shake vigorously before you begin each feeding. All of our products stay in suspension wonderfully but growers should always use best practices. The wonderful thing about this industry is everybody has so much OCD when it comes to growing their plants that the cultivators are in their greenhouses and indoor facilities at all times and constantly taking care of the plants. We tell them if they see any stress to call us as we are always available. It is like anything else, there are a lot of grow medias and a lot of environments, and a lot of different variables that are taking place. Although we are trying to provide product that is all things to all plants all the time, we do have to let the plants indicate if they are potentially getting a little bit under or overfed. We err on the side of conservative feeding. I liken it to a steak, you can always order rare or medium-rare and have it cooked a little more but you cannot order a medium-well and ask them to make it rarer. We have an open dialogue with the cultivators at all times to make sure that we are continually getting things right.
CEOCFO: How does Plant Life standout at a conference?
To some degree, it comes down to being in the space for about five years and
having a lot of relationships. There was a guy two months ago that moved on
to another facility and they said to me that Plant Life always came across
honestly with a lot of integrity and that that was important. To me, that is
all you have so we promote a solid product and arguably the best but at
least none better and we stand behind it completely. We are always prepared
to guarantee and warrantee what we are doing so long as everybody follows
our guidelines. It is the reputation
It is the reputations that precedes us and of course we lean on the fact that we have 160 years or more of expertise bringing six generations of growing. We promote plant health, which is proactive in ensuring happy plants and happy customers. It is the building blocks of a healthy plant all the way through harvest.- David Ellerstein
Plant Life Company
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