Choosing Cannabis Products

Meet the Masters: Tairance Rutter and Seth Rimmer, 34 Street Seed Co

Garlic Cookies, Pink Lemonade, Bubba Cheese — these are just some of the genetics that cannabis growers can germinate at home thanks to the insatiable curiosity of Edmonton’s 34 Street Seed Co, Canada’s largest purveyor of cannabis seeds.

Cannabis Plant Flowering

Just four short years ago, four friends got together to hash out how they could get involved in the then-newly legalized recreational market. 34 Street co-founders Thomas Facciolo and Tairance Rutter, now vice-president of business development, brought traditional cannabis-growing experience to the equation, while co-founders Clayton Bordeniuk and James Clarke brought business savvy. Together, they created ANC Cannabis, the parent company of 34 Street and its sister brand, ANC Solutions, a wholesaler of white-label pre-rolls.

ANC became Alberta’s first licensed micro-cultivator. “We were the first micro to create a brand and take it to market, which was 34 Street Seed Co,” says Rutter. “From there, we transitioned from a micro to a standard, and then became Canada’s largest seed company, with the largest portfolio of legal genetics.”

In a short time, the company has become renowned for the quality of bud its seeds produce. By focusing exclusively on seeds, 34 Street can breed strains and genetic crosses new to the Canadian market. Its Pink Lemonade — a citrusy, indica-dominant cross between Pink Kush and Lemon Skunk — is a fan favourite, its bushy green-and-purple growth known for yielding high THC percentages. 

Cannabis Seeds

Genetics like Pink Lemonade typically get their start in the vegetation room at 34 Street’s Edmonton facility. The room, measuring about 35 by 110 feet, is packed with anywhere from 400 to 1,000 plants at any given time, each one with potential for innovative genetic crossing and experimentation.

“A lot of [the work there] is pheno hunting — actually looking for correct strains from different genetics,” says Seth Rimmer, 34 Street’s marketing coordinator. “We have our veg room that has probably 50 or 60 different genetics constantly on the go.” They keep this many alive to preserve particular strains or rare phenotypes, which they may try to cross with a different genetic in the hope of reproducing a successful strain or creating something new or different.

The room’s humidity, temperature and CO2 are all carefully monitored by automated sensors. Yet irrigation is still done by hand so co-founder and master grower Facciolo and his team can investigate the plants’ progress.

The inventory they select for a seed run is then moved to a flowering room, explains Rutter. Breeding and flowering are done away from the veg room in self-contained units to avoid unintentional cross-pollination and contamination.

It’s through these measures — and under the watchful eye of Facciolo and lead grower Jared Spagnolo — that 34 Street’s Pink Kush reached a terpene milestone. “We had tests performed with a third-party lab who let us know that we were in the 99th percentile in comparison to all the other samples in their database,” says Rutter. Terpenes play an important role in the flavour and aroma of cannabis, and possibly also its effects. “We were in the 95th percentile for total terpenes at 5.2% and the 99th percentile for the specific terpene terpineol at 1.8%,” he adds. It’s one of the highest levels of terpinolene ever recorded in a plant, Rutter explains. “In the cannabis nerd world, it’s a pretty huge feat.”

The success of a seed company, however, isn’t measured by what it can grow in a facility with optimal, tightly controlled conditions. Rather, it’s about individual growers’ ability to use the seeds to grow quality cannabis in imperfect home-grow setups.

That’s the impetus behind 34 Street’s annual Grow Cup competition, in which recreational and medical growers compete for the bud with the highest THC and terpene percentages.

Flowering Cannabis Plant

Participants grow their plants between April and October using seeds from 34 Street or its import partners, California’s Humboldt Seed Company and Amsterdam’s Dutch Passion. Samples of the resulting flower are then sent to the Cup’s sponsored testing facility in southern Ontario for cannabinoid and terpene analysis.

The inaugural year, 2021, saw the winner’s Pink Lemonade weigh in at 28.87% THC, while a runner-up hit 25.89%. Last year’s winner produced a Bubba Kush at 23.28% THC, with the two runners-up yielding Pink Lemonade with THC concentrations above 22%.

Home growers rave online about the potency and terpene percentages they can extract from plants grown with 34 Street seeds. “Grew Chocolate Cake in my last crop. It is currently the best strain I have in my stash!” gushes one grower. Rimmer tries to personally respond to all the emails the team receives, offering first-time growers and seasoned veterans alike advice and encouragement on germinating their seeds, adjusting water, pH and light levels, and transplanting seedlings outside.

What’s next for 34 Street?

For the new growing season — which typically begins in mid-spring and ends with the fall harvest — 34 Street will be offering several seed varieties in Ontario, including Pink Kush and Acapulco Gold. It’s also launching multi-packs with an assortment of seeds, each one coated in a coloured, water-based polymer so growers can identify the strains.

From CBD toothpaste to beard-grooming oil and body scrubs, the legal cannabis market in Canada is gaining an ever-evolving suite of products. For its part, 34 Street is doubling down on genetics and its commitment to the craft of growing rave-worthy cannabis seeds.

“We plan to keep making beautiful genetics for growers to bring home and grow,” says Rimmer.

Dos and don’ts for growing cannabis at home

Do make sure your seeds are feminized. Male seeds won’t flower.

Don’t dunk your seeds in a glass of water. This old-school way of prepping seeds can actually drown them and make them unviable for growing.

Do germinate your seeds before planting them using the paper-towel method. Lay out your seeds between two layers of damp paper towel and keep them in a warm, dark spot; within two to five days, the seeds should sprout a small white tail (the taproot). 34 Street recommends using its seed-case packaging as the seed incubator.

Don’t forget to check the pH level of the water you’re using to germinate and water. An ideal pH level is 6.0. Growers can use basic gardeners’ pH up and down solution to adjust the acidity of their water.

Do use coco coir as your seedling growing medium. Made from coconut husks, the medium is resistant to fungal growth and offers excellent drainage and aeration. Once your seeds have sprouted, you can plant them in a coco-coir pellet or in loose coir in a small pot.

Don’t plant your seeds in ceramic or clay pots. Cloth/fabric pots offer better drainage and air circulation, helping protect your plants against over-watering.

Do let your seedlings’ soil dry out completely before watering them. As with houseplants, it’s safer to under-water than over-water — but of course, don’t let the seedlings get so dry they wilt.

Don’t skimp on light. Natural daylight in the waning winter and early spring weeks won’t be enough to keep your seedlings happy, and you’ll likely see them stretching far too much to try to get a glimpse of the sun. In the veg cycle, seedlings need about 18 hours of direct light per day — so invest in a good light, ideally with a built-in timer, to keep your seedlings growing strong.

Do transplant your seedlings to a bigger cloth pot once they become established. A 10- or 20-gallon cloth pot is a good option.

Don’t let your plants get too tall in the early stages. Topping young plants — that is, cutting off the top of a plant, just after a node — is a proven way of encouraging your plants to grow more stalks.

Do wait until all threat of frost is over before bringing your plants outside (if you want to grow outside, that is). As with flower and vegetable gardening, late May is typically a good time to start hardening off your plants. You can start by placing them outside in the shade on warm, sunny days and bringing them in at night. Over the course of a week or so, give them a little more sun exposure each day, with the ultimate goal of making them more resilient to direct sun and colder night-time temperatures.

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