Is an In-House Tissue Culture Lab Right for Your Cannabis Business?
20 Sep 2022

Is an In-House Tissue Culture Lab Right for Your Cannabis Business?

Anjali Singh

Table of Contents

Current Scenario In Cannabis Space

Growing Cannabis through seeds or cuttings is the most widely and commonly used technique in the current cannabis business. However, you must be shocked to learn that cannabis plants are not grown from seeds in each growth cycle. Leaving those that are grown using auto-flowering seeds/plants and utilizing feminized seeds.

One most common practices in the Cannabis business space is maintaining cannabis plants of all stages. It’s considered a safe practice to have all stages of plants ready for times exactly when you need them. The term for this practice is mother/clone symbiotic rotation.

In this system, the grower starts its cloning process by first choosing a specimen or clone cultivar from the plants grown previously from seeds. The selected plant is considered the mother plant. Then, the growers target to obtain clones (having the same genetics) from the mother plant and have them rooted, hardened off, and ready to move them to the vegetation room. At the same time, the plants inhabiting the vegetation room are ready to move to the flowering environment. And, at that moment the plants already inhabiting the flowering room are ready to be harvested.

All this process is easier said than done. And, it’s even more complicated when you are working with different or multiple cultivars or plants with different genetics.

Thus, Cannabis growers are moving towards an advanced approach to growing plants: The Tissue Culture Technique.

This article provides you with a brief on the introduction of tissue culture and if it’s a good idea and possible to approach bringing cannabis tissue culture in-house; and what are the challenges one might face while doing so.

Understanding The Tissue Culture Technique

Tissue culture is an advanced plant propagation technique that allows growers to grow plants at a larger scale in a sterile environment. It requires only a small tissue of the plant to regenerate a whole plant. The obtained tissues are nurtured on an artificial media containing all the essential nutrients, vitamins, and hormones required for the normal growth and development of the plant. Support to the growing plants is provided by solidifying agents, like agar and gellan gum.

For four decades tissue culture has been practiced by scientists globally. The technology was first introduced in the mid-20th century to grow plants like orchids that were difficult to produce from seeds.

What are the benefits cannabis growers obtain from the tissue culture technique:

  • Tissue culture allows plants to grow in closed vessels under germ-free environments which leads to the development of disease-free plants.
  • Any destroyed valuable genetics can also be remediated and recovered using the tissue culture technique.
  • This allows growers to maintain and bank the genetics of the plant as it is.
  • Grow cannabis clones on a commercial scale in a small space.
  • Achieve the desired cannabinoid content in plants.

Synthetic Seed Technology

It’s a method of cryogenically storing the elite genetic material of plants without degradation. It’s a type of tissue culture technique in which somatic embryos of the plants are encapsulated inside a nutritive coating and stored at 4 degrees Celsius. It allows you to store the genetics of the plant as it is for 3-12 months. The success rate of the technique to grow plants is around the 90 percentile. However, considering freezing, thawing, and then again populating the synthetic seeds leaves viable seeds close to 50%, which is more than we need when it comes to genetic preservation.

Can We Perform In-House Cannabis Tissue Culture?

The advanced equipment involved and the requirement of a sterile environment are what make the tissue culture processes more suitable for giant Cannabis businesses. However, the requirement of small tissue and small space is what makes it more convenient for the In-house or small-scale Cannabis Grower. According to experts, only a space of 800 square meters is required for a complete tissue culture lab setup.

The cultures are maintained in a small box that can be stacked one over the other on racks. And, every culture is in its own individual closed box, which further reduces the chances of spreading infections among other cultures.

During the pandemic, a large number of growers moved to in-house propagation of cannabis using traditional approaches. This at least proves one thing that Cannabis can be grown and maintained in a house environment.

Coming to Tissue Culture

Tissue culture needs you to have basic knowledge of the technique, basic operating experience, and sturdy hands to perform the process, eliminating contamination. Saying this means, of course, you can bring tissue culture in-house!

But, one thing you need to have is money. Because even if you perform the process in an area of 800 square meters, you need equipment, instruments, and other consumables, which increases the associated cost. According to some culturists you need at least $50000 to run a full-fledged, small-scale Cannabis tissue culture operation.

However, it’s totally up to you!

You can reduce the cost associated with tissue culture by acquiring small equipment, surplus equipment, or leasing equipment. The two major pieces of equipment used in tissue culture are autoclaves and laminar flow hoods. So, to reduce costs, you can go for small pressure cookers, and for a laminar flow hood, you can prepare a culture space by keeping a small plastic box and air filter in your culture room.

As you know, the primary requirement for performing tissue culture is to maintain sterile conditions. And, if you are an in-house tissue culture practitioner or working in a loose setup irrespective of laminar flow hood, you just need to follow these basic Dos while culturing your plants:

  • Clean your culture area using 70% ethanol.
  • Clean your hands and wear gloves while culturing your explants.
  • Sterilize your tools, such as forceps, needles, or any such material using alcohol, then burn their tips on a bunsen burner. You can also use a bead sterilizer that serves the same purpose, however, it can be a bit expensive for your house lab budget.
  • Sterilize your culture vessels using an autoclave or pressure cooker and transfer explants in a completely aseptic environment.

The other equipment needed for tissue culture is a refrigerator and freezer, stir plate, and magnetic stirrer. With this, some requirements include forceps, Petri dishes, culture vessels, and other consumables and reagents like culture media, growth hormones, and gelling agents.

In-House Cannabis Tissue Culture: Is It Possible?

The tissue culture technique has been practiced for decades on different plants. However, it’s recently when the technique was applied to the Cannabis setup. The reason is the controversy surrounding the legalization of Cannabis.

For so long Cannabis propagation has been considered illegal, and by today only around 30 states around the globe have legalized the propagation of medicinal cannabis (and some for recreational uses as well).

Thus, the main challenge about bringing tissue culture in-house for Cannabis is not a technical issue, it’s the unavailability of an effective working protocol and accessibility of information. More than the cost and space, the novelty of the technique in the Cannabis space is a major hurdle for interested growers. And, it might take a while to obtain healthy, stable, and reliable Cannabis genetics using the tissue culture technique.

Plant Cell Technology Can Help You Introduce Tissue Culture In Your Cannabis Business

Plant Cell Technology is a leading tissue culture company that help culturists and growers of all scale to grow their plant businesses by offering comprehensive tissue culture products and services.

Learning tissue culture on your own or creating a procedure for your plants might take several days, even years. But, we can help!

We have brought you our comprehensive “Cannabis Tissue Culture Masterclass”. It will be a 3-days class starting from December 16-18, 2022. The class will be conducted by one of the legends in the Cannabis Tissue Culture Industry, Bill Graham.

In this class, you won’t only learn how to prevent HpLVD infection and produce healthy plants, but a range of other topics, including synthetic seed production, sterilization techniques, Meristem dissection, and many more.

Here’s our complete curriculum.

This a one of the most popular Master Class, for which booking has already been started. And, for one-on-experience with our tissue culture expert, only a limited number of seats are available.

So, if you are interested in giving a boost to your Cannabis business, then book your seats TODAY!

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