- Christopher Smith, Editor-in-Chief
"I had a preconceived notion of cannabis people. Instead, I found people with Masters and PhDs,
Mike Petercsak is the Head of Cultivation for
Triple Seven, one of the companies of Medical Marijuana Acquisition Corporation. He joined MMAC in June 2016 and has managed all capital project investments made in the Los Angeles area, including the Triple Seven grow in Downtown LA. Mike has more than 25 years of experience in plant agricultural biotechnology research in trait discovery and development. He led controlled environment research teams in California and Delaware for nine years at DuPont Pioneer, one of the world’s largest seed companies. For 15 years Mike managed greenhouse, growth chamber, and field operations at the Waksman Institute, Rutgers University and three years at Enichem America in New Jersey. Mike holds a Bachelor of Science in plant science/breeding, and an MBA in operations management, both from Rutgers University.
American Cannabis Report: Sorry to bring you out of the cultivation facility to speak with us, Mike. With Triple Seven just launching, you must have your hands full.
Mike Peterscak: Not at all, I’m happy to take a short break.
ACR: I’ve heard they call you The Mad Scientist a Triple Seven.
Peterscak: I prefer to be called "Annoyed Scientist."
ACR: Excellent answer! I’ve read your background, and my standard opening question seems especially appropriate for you: “How did a guy like you get into the cannabis industry in Los Angeles?"
Peterscak: I had 28 years in the ag-biotech industry, most recently at DuPont. About two years ago, there were lots of consolidations, especially the Dow/DuPont merger. Some genius drew circle around Delaware and in the week before Xmas 2015, they got rid of 400 of us at once. Payroll ended May 30th, and on June 4, 2016 I started at Triple Seven.
ACR: Your interest and knowledge of plants and agriculture is virtuoso-level. How did it start?
Peterscak: My passion started as a kid. My Grandma taught me how to plant tomatoes. We did this together every spring and summer when I was growing up.
In middle school, I kept handwritten logs of harvest amounts, of which beans of peppers did well year over year, and so on. So, it really started in back yard gardens. I went to college for plant science for plant breeding. I only looked at land grant colleges and was accepted at Rutgers.
ACR: And as a professional, you have focused on large scale cultivation?
Peterscak: Yes, that’s right. I’ve grown all agronomy crops you can think of, in growth rooms, fields. Professionally, I focused on high quality and consistently increasing yields across a number of species. I’m an operational science kind of guy. Triple Seven is in the business of biology and agriculture.
ACR: How were you introduced to cannabis growing?
Peterscak: I went to a Vertical Farming Conference, where the focus is indoor agriculture, of course, which translate well in urban environments. (The focus was lettuce, in fact).
For the first time, cannabis people attended. I had a preconceived notion of what cannabis people would be like. Instead, I met people with Masters degrees and PhDs, speaking similarly to people at DuPont.
ACR: Can you tell us, without revealing any secrets, what you’re working on with Triple Seven?
Peterscak: As a group at Triple Seven we’ve looked at over 40 strains, across a diversity we can easily access in Southern California. Ultimately, we want less than 15 strains in our Downtown LA facility. We have refined our selection based on what works well in our facility, and also what will sell well in our retail dispensary for medical and/or retail. We make those decisions in partnership with growers in the organization as well as with our retail experts.
ACR: You mentioned master growers… how many people do you employ in your grow?
Peterscak: In our cultivation team, we have 11 people. Post-harvest we have 15.
ACR: Can you tell us a little about the facility in Downtown LA?
Peterscak: Sure. The space is a warehouse that has been renovated completely to accommodate our current use. It’s 36,000 square feet in total, and 3,000 square feet is dispensary.
We utilize incredibly advanced technology in the broadest sense possible. Our equipment is the kind and quality that a commercial greenhouse would use. We have advanced systems for lighting, fertigation, and fans. What makes us different is processed cooling units to control temp, humidity, and CO2.
None of our individual systems is custom or unique, but the assemblage we put together to grow high quality cannabis is unique.
ACR: What is your deliverable product? Is Triple Seven focused on flower, or are you extracting, too?
Peterscak: Triple Seven’s primary product is flower and pre-roll.
ACR: What is your biggest challenge?
Peterscak: We want to try to achieve great artisanal quality, and do it at scale. We know it’s very hard to compete on quality with a 10-lighter. There are very small cultivators out there who have been focused on cannabis for decades. Every single plant has a name.
So we have created a culture of continuous improvement. We demand feedback on every delivery. This helps us fix anything that can be improved upon and incorporate it into future processes. You can never be complacent in this business!
ACR: Mike, you’ve been great, and so interesting to talk to. One last question: What question did I not ask that you wish I had?
Peterscak: I would have liked to talk about the Company’s aspirations. We don’t have to be the biggest or even the best today, but we must be reaching for the best all the time.
We are using science as the main driver about how we make decisions. There is a fair amount of hippy voodoo magic in the industry, and we would like to bring scientific methodologies to achieve our goals of artisanal quality at scale.
I would also like to mention our focus on compliant practices, according to the regulators. We want to be the gold standard for how well a grow can be successful in the market and compliant, so that the entire industry benefits. I’ve learned over decades in agriculture, that by trying to be best citizen in this industry, by taking your time and acting correctly, you can be successful.
We ain’t making sugar water here. We’re not leaning on branding and marketing to differentiate for us. In the world we’re in, the priority has to be great product. The bottom line is, Triple Seven brings a great product to market.