BY WARREN BOBROW 08/08/2022
I’m a massive fan of something we call in the wine business, terroir. Quite simply, the taste of the place. This terminology holds true in the cannabis industry as well. There are subtle differences between cannabis grown in natural, living soil, outdoors- under the sun, and that which is grown indoors under lights. I’m rather fond of the kind that is grown outside under the sun, Biodynamic- when possible- and at the very least, organic.
I was introduced to the Humboldt Seed Company several years ago, and their relentless hunt for quality strikes me to this day as the good stuff. I consider myself very fortunate to have had the opportunity to smoke the results of their hard work. Very impressive indeed.
Warren Bobrow: Please tell me about yourself. What do you do? Local? Global?
Ben Lind: Humboldt Seed Company (HSC) started out as a local Humboldt County seed seller back in 2001. Our mission has always been to provide the highest quality cannabis seeds to both home growers and commercial cultivators. HSC has grown by leaps and bounds since our humble beginnings. We are now the largest licensed cannabis seed seller in California, have seeds for sale in multiple U.S. states, and as well a provider of seeds to multiple countries abroad, including Canada, Jamaica, Spain, France, Portugal, Greece, the UK, Malta, Thailand, and South Africa. As the Chief Science Officer, I head up our international program focusing on R&D, generating global partnerships, and overseeing exports.
I spend a lot of time talking with government officials and regulators around the world to help start conversations, provide education, and help to develop international seed regulations with the goal of cementing cannabis seeds as a legal, regulated global commodity. This role has led me to travel quite a bit, mostly between Colombia, Jamaica, and Europe at the moment. We are currently going through the extremely rigorous and time-consuming process in Colombia with our partners at Natureceuticals RX to register over 40 of our varietals. Colombia is treating cannabis like corn or soy, or any other traditional agricultural commodity. They have the highest bar of entry in the world for cannabis genetics, with the Instituto Colombiano Agropecuario (ICA) requiring producers to grow a suite of genetics in multiple climate zones for evaluation before being granted registration. This process involves a large capital outlay and a significant amount of time as the plants must be grown to maturity, analyzed, and then destroyed. Agronomists then look at the overall health of the crop, assess the growing methods, consider disease resistance, and perform extensive lab tests. Once this official evaluation process is completed, all the crops are destroyed. Yep, you heard me right. All that choice, high-quality cannabis is destroyed. Once a genetic meets all the government requirements, then it can be officially registered and grown legally.
WB: What obstacles do you face? How do you anticipate removing them? Please tell me about your six and twelve-month goals for HSC.
BL: The biggest obstacle is probably how the decision-makers in different countries often view cannabis very differently. Addressing each country’s specific government needs and requirements can be daunting. My approach has been to start the conversation by asking a lot of questions about what the specific country’s needs are and then to identify what the documentation requirements and regulatory impediments might be. I try to focus on building a bridge to a common goal and then work step by step to create a workable plan to get there so we can move forward. If you have trust and a shared vision, I find that things tend to move in the right direction.
In six months, I’d like to have achieved global seed exports to all legal jurisdictions worldwide. As far as the twelve-month goal, I’d say it would be taking that next big step and having it be possible to export tissue culture and living plant material. Seeds being shelf stable for long periods of time don’t come with the same challenges. Exporting living plant material can be difficult if plants are held up in quarantine or shipping is delayed. We see the beginnings of relationships developing that will hopefully lead to this becoming a reality. Some of the first conversations between South Africa and Canada and Jamaica, and Mexico regarding agricultural imports and exports centered on cannabis. The Mexican and Jamaican governments recently reached an agreement to start exchanging cannabis as well as other agricultural products. It’s kind of cool that this conversation started with cannabis and will hopefully lead to a multifaceted, mutually beneficial trade arrangement.
WB: What are feminized seeds? How do they differ from non-feminized? Do you have favorites in this regard? Indoor or outdoor grown?
BL: With regular cannabis seeds, you have a 50/50 chance of male/female plants. Using feminized seeds from a reputable breeder will guarantee close to 100% female plants. This streamlines the process, and you don’t have to worry about sexing your plants or having half of them be unusable. It’s also a nice space saver, as you’re using all your prime growing space for plants that will yield buds.
Feminized autoflowers will revolutionize the industry in the next 3-5 years. Unlike traditional photoperiod varietals, autoflowers don’t rely on light cycles to determine flowering and can be harvested within 100 days or less of planting. A favorite for indoor growing would be Hella Jelly. It’s a productive, fast-flowering Sativa-dominant varietal high in THC with a fruity cotton candy terpene profile. For outdoor, my pick would be Emerald Fire Auto. Anyone can beat the weather with this one. It has a super-fast flowering time and looks and smells the same if not better than its photoperiodic counterpart. It’s a bit like a side-by-side Coke, Pepsi taste test.
WB: Do you have a mentor? Who taught you the craft? When did you first discover cannabis?
BL: I was exposed to cannabis at a pretty young age by my aunts and uncles. I remember pulling weeds in my aunt’s strawberry patch when I was around six years old. She would intersperse the cannabis plants between the tiered strawberries to hide them. I have this vivid memory of her telling me, “no, don’t pull that out!”. She had to show me the difference between the weed and the weeds. I didn’t make that mistake again. She taught me early on that cannabis was just another plant in the garden with many benefits.
My uncle is quite a character and a cannabis breeding enthusiast. He has kept the same landrace Oaxacan clone alive since 1978. He bred it to not smell like weed to evade detection. It started out in his backyard in Arizona and then got trucked around every time they moved. He used to be a researcher at the University of Tucson and would sneak parts of the clone in for lab testing.
WB: What is your passion?
BL: Preserving indigenous varietals and using ancient genetics as a foundation for creating new, unique strains is something I get excited about. I feel strongly that it’s important that we carefully consider all the past varietals and respect the qualities that are often both special and beneficial. Many contain unique compounds of great value, along with novel terpene profiles and unknown cannabinoids. They are like the rainforest of cannabis. We don’t want to lose all that amazing diversity.
Our South Africa R&D project focuses on crossing the high-THCv (Tetrahydrocannabivarin) Transkei landrace strain that grows well in the highlands of South Africa with our signature strain, Blueberry Muffin. We are just now starting to gain a better understanding of these less well-known cannabinoids. High THCV strains may provide a viable alternative to a variety of pharmaceuticals in the future. Multiple studies have shown possible potential for THCv in diabetes, Parkinson’s, and seizure disorder treatment.
We will be releasing what I like to call our newest unicorn in the barn this fall. Black Beauty is a high THCv strain with appetite suppressing qualities that could potentially be a viable alternative to caffeine and Adderall. It could be a healthier energy booster and perhaps cut into the Red Bull market. We’ll see…
You can find out more at their website: Humboldt Seed Company – The Best Seeds In Humboldt, California