The Grow-Off launched in 2016. It has focused on recreational and medical strains.
The current Grow-Off, which will harvest in August, is focused on recreational marijuana, said Jake Browne, co-founder of the competition and former Denver Post pot critic.
For Marrone Bio (Nasdaq: MBII), the Grow-Off competition is a good way to get its name in front of potential customers, said Pam Marrone, founder and CEO.
“That industry has had some problems with the misuse of pesticides and toxic chemicals. There is a real role for us to help them green it up,” she said.
In the Grow-Off, all growers are sent the same genetic strain of cannabis, and then the competition seeks to see which growers have the greenest thumb.
Marrone said she is interested in the legal cannabis industry because it is a high-value crop, like the other produce her firm targets, including grapes, almonds and leafy greens.
Regalia, Marrone’s flagship biofungicide for control of powdery mildew and other plant diseases, was approved for use on cannabis in April by the departments of agriculture in Colorado, Oregon, Nevada, and Washington.
“Quality and yield are really important in cannabis. In that way, cannabis is no different then other commercial crops,” Marrone said.
Marrone said coffee growers in Honduras and Guatamala have found higher phenol content in their crops using Regalia. Higher phenols indicate higher quality, and she suspects the same would be true with other crops such as cannabis. In addition to fighting off some pests, Regalia activates a plant’s own immune response mechanism, and studies in other crops have shown higher fruit quantity and stronger root systems.
“We’re glad to have them as a sponsor,” Browne said. “They have an amazing product, and it is one of the few options cultivators have under state regulations.”
He said the other main sponsor of this year’s Grow-Off is Scotts Co. LLC, the maker of Miracle-Gro.
In Colorado, the Grow-Off this year started with 52 legal and licensed cannabis growers as competitors, and 10 of them have already pulled out, Browne said. Most of the dropouts were due to failed crops because of pest problems.
The Grow-Off is expanding into California, with a Northern California Grow-Off having just started, and a Southern California competition starting in September, Browne said.
The Northern California competition has 63 licensed growers competing, with competitors ranging from Monterey to the “Emerald Triangle” of Humboldt, Mendocino and Trinity counties.
All the Grow-Off competitions are looking for the best product based on potency, flavor and yield as determined by laboratory testing, Browne said. The samples are rated by chemical analysis at the Colorado University Anschutz Medical Center. The competition had to use chemical analysis, Browne said, because it would be impossible for a panel of judges to sample 30 to 40 samples in a few days.