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The Sundance Method
April 2016
From proper pest management to state-of-the-art technology, this Denver, CO-based grower is perfecting the art of the harvest and producing a superior product in the process.
When hordes of determined would-be entrepreneurs packed shovels and strainers into horse-drawn wagons and headed for the west coast in search of gold, few found the success they'd imagined in the Golden State. Today's green rush paints a similar picture: Although many have been growing plants under the radar for decades, not everyone has been able to replicate these methods for large-scale production and capitalize on the commercial market.
Sundance Gardens in Denver, CO is one of the exceptions. This large-scale wholesaler uses a combination of research, technology and experimentation to produce more than 30 strains of plants, ranging from a potent sativa called IcedGrapefruit to a 100 percent indica like Bubba Bruce and an array of hybrids in between. Part of the company's success comes from growing in state-of-the-art facilities. The operation spans 15,000 square feet and includes eight blooming rooms. Sundance Gardens grows its plants from seeds, selling the buds and sweet leaf trimmings directly to retail outlets and dispensaries. "We usually harvest once a week," Swartz confirms. "There's the occasional week where we don't, but we probably get close to 50 harvests per year."
Another key to the operation's success is its emphasis on research and experimentation. That's where Ken Swartz, a former science researcher in the biofuels industry who joined the Sundance Gardens team a little less than two years ago, uses his expertise to ensure superior crops. Swartz employs a small electrical device to pulse plants with high-voltage frequencies during the clone stage. The device, which was created by Swartz's electrical engineer friend, gives the plants the boost they need to grow better buds. Swartz reports a 20 percent increase in bud weight when he pulses the plants.
"I didn't know anything about growing pot when I first started in this industry," he says. "I've spent my time learning, and now I do all sorts of things for the operation."
In addition to testing new products and growing methods, Swartz's job description also includes pest and disease management. He's in charge of figuring out the best products to keep the plant free of powdery mildew, gnats and other pesky crop-killers. His go-to health tonic for strong plants is Companion® Biological Fungicide. This product, which contains naturally occurring beneficial bacteria, helps the roots colonize with the nourishing symbiotic bacteria in the soil. It also keeps root and foliar diseases like blight and stem and root rot at bay. This unique biological has been studied for years at leading universities and is proven to elicit the plants natural defense resistance (ISR), to fight against many pathogens. Companion can be used in combination with other fungicides and phosphites (PO3) at reduced label rates, boosting their efficacy, resulting in higher yields and a more marketable crop.
"We see significant plant growth when we use Companion which is why we use it," Swartz says. "You can visually tell the plants that use Companion from the ones that don't. Those that are watered with Companion do much better."
Sundance Gardens prides itself on having pampered plants and superior crops, and despite the operation's success, it isn't satisfied with the status quo. Swartz says the team is always looking for new technology and growth inputs to take the business to the next level.
"At Sundance Gardens, proper practices are very important," he explains. "I evaluate what comes through the door when people bring in new products to try, and I make sure we're following basic protocols to ensure the product holds up. We don't use anything without testing it in a scientific way."