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Report on Business Cannabis Professional More than a fad? Home-grow cannabis equipment companies see strong sales

Companies that sell products to grow cannabis at home say sales are skyrocketing, with some popular products such as grow kits and tents regularly selling out, as a new breed of gardeners takes shape in Canada.

Canadians outside of Quebec and Manitoba can legally grow up to four cannabis plants at home, which has created a new line of business for companies selling items such as grow tents, lights, seeds and nutrients.

Nine months after recreational cannabis was legalized in Canada, it’s not yet clear if the home-growing movement will develop further or taper off into another niche hobby similar to making your own beer or wine at home.

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For now, companies in the home-growing hydroponics industry say sales are strong.

Grow Daddy Canada, which has a store in Stratford, PEI, and an e-commerce site, says it has experienced a 60-per-cent increase in both online and in-store sales since October.

“With no sign of it slowing down, we are very excited about how things are going,” says Hunter Kerr, director of online operations at Grow Daddy Canada.

Mr. Kerr says sales are driven in part by Canadians who are testing their green thumb for the first time.

“Since legalization, people who have never grown anything in their life are now growing cannabis,” says Mr. Kerr, citing several customers asking for advice on how to get started.

“There are a lot of misconceptions about cannabis growing,” he says, including that the plants grow similarly to tomatoes or grow quickly, "like a weed. … It takes some care and dedication to grow it properly … [and] it does take work, but it is a fun hobby for those willing to get right into it.”

Hunter Kerr, manager and partner at Grow Daddy in Stratford, PEI, poses inside the shop on Tuesday, July 2, 2019. Nathan Rochford/The Globe and Mail

Nathan Rochford/The Globe and Mail

Experts say it costs about $2,000 to set up a home-grow for four plants, including seeds, soil nutrients and power, which could yield roughly 500 to 600 grams in each of three harvests a year. Statistics Canada’s crowd-sourced cannabis-prices page says Canadians are paying, on average, $6.94 for a gram of pot, although that includes prices in the illicit market. Prices at most legal stores run between $8 and $14 a gram, so savings from home-growing could be substantial.

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Grow kits, which help new growers get started, are hot sellers at Grow Daddy Canada, as are tents, in particular the higher-end models. Another trendy item is the Magical Butter Machine for making edibles at home, Mr. Kerr says.

At Montreal-based online retailer Indoor Growing Canada, chief operating officer Tyler Stanley says they’re continuously bringing in new and existing products to meet the surging demand for growing cannabis at home.

The company brands itself as a general indoor-plant-growing company, but about 40 to 50 per cent of its products are cannabis-related, including home-growing kits and nutrients formulated specifically for cannabis growing.

“With legalization, the hydroponic industry has exploded,” Mr. Stanley says. “All of the cannabis-related products sell very quickly.”

With legalization, Indoor Growing Canada’s business has almost doubled since it was founded two years ago, Mr. Stanley says, which includes the introduction of new cannabis-growing products on the site. Today, the company has more than 2,000 products, including both cannabis and more traditional growing products for indoor plants and herbs.

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Home-growing can also be more cost-effective that regularly buying weed from retailers, but some retail experts believe the trend will wane over time.

“I do feel that we’re probably seeing an initial spike as consumers try their hand at home-growing,” says Doug Stephens, founder of the Retail Prophet consultancy. “In time, and as legal distribution of cannabis broadens and improves, I anticipate sales of home-growing equipment will normalize to a level similar to what we see in the home-brew beer and wine markets.”

Marc Emmelmann, founder and owner Green Carpet Growing, a cannabis-cultivation education and training organization based in San Diego, Calif., says hydroponic sales have risen in California since recreational cannabis use became legal in the state on Jan 1, 2018, which included provisions for Californians to grow up to six plants if over the age of 21.

“Californians who were interested in growing cannabis at home, but uncomfortable with getting a doctors’ recommendation to grow cannabis at home pursuant to Proposition 215, jumped on the opportunity to grow at home pursuant to Proposition 64,” Mr. Emmelmann says, referring to two state voter initiatives on cannabis.

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Many consumers don’t realize the “simplicity and viability” of growing cannabis at home, he says, and he expects more people will get into home-growing as they become more educated about it. “For example, many people believe you need a big setup, ducting, and hot HPS [high-pressure sodium vapour] lighting, and it’s just not true,” he says.

“Once people grow for the first time, if they followed best practices and harvest successfully, they want to grow again,” he says. “They want to keep growing and improve and because gardening is cathartic, that’s another benefit. There’s also a learning curve when growing cannabis, so you don’t learn everything in one fell swoop – the learning experience is also alluring to people.”

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