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Owen Papworth: Regulated Markets Are the Healthiest for Cannabis Operators

Why efficiency per foot is paramount in finding early success as a craft grower with limited canopy feet in a young Illinois market.

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This week, Owen Papworth, co-founder of Oregonix Farms, joins the Cannabis Equipment News podcast to discuss why efficiency per foot is paramount in finding early success as a craft grower with limited canopy feet in a young Illinois market. 

Owen Papworth fell in love with cannabis when he was 11 years old. By age 13, he was working with his older brother, a legacy cultivator who got in on the ground floor as one of the first growers in Oregon's medical program.

Papworth helped his brother cultivate a small number of sun-grown cannabis plants in the southern part of the state. He recalls the turbulent times in an upstart market that were intense and stressful, eventually leading to a bit of a falling out with his sibling. While he was young, the experience taught him a few things, and while he has never been a risk-averse individual, he learned that every detail matters and, in both life and cannabis, you get out what you put into every effort. 

Papworth co-founded Sitka Northwest in Oregon, known for its Disco Dabs line of products. 

When the Illinois market opened, Papworth partnered with a friend's father, co-founder David Schwimmer, to set up craft operation Oregonix Farms in the state. 

Papworth's philosophy is to emulate the best and innovate from there. For example, he stuck with what worked in Oregon regarding facility design and cultivation leadership. He selected Andrew Wise as director of cultivation because he is very plant health-focused and capable of maximizing efficiency per foot and quality. 

As a craft grow, Oregonix is limited to 5,000 feet of canopy. Efficiency per foot is paramount, as are yield and quality. Papworth stresses that Oregonix needs to have extremely high-quality product to be competitive. While Illinois is a younger market, Papworth says it has more sophisticated players who are more capitalized, which breeds tougher competition. 

Still, he believes that regulated markets, over time, are the healthiest for cannabis operators. He says that, as long as Illinois doesn't allow too many people to get involved, everyone should be able to make a living—something that became difficult in Oregon. 

Papworth says that it's not about how much market share you can grab, but what you can keep, and it all comes down to serving the end customer and taking pride in the work.

Jump around: 

  • Watching his brother transition from the legacy to the medical market. (1:50)
  • Why he will only grow indoors. (2:38)
  • The birth of Oregonix Farms. (3:50)
  • Co-founding Sitka Northwest and what he brought to Illinois. (6:53)
  • Why efficiency per foot is paramount for craft operators. (9:45)
  • Launching Northern Heights, a new brand in Illinois. (11:34)
  • How he saved money by starting with clones from a reputable partner. (12:55)
  • Challenges unique to craft cannabis. (17:26)
  • Why startups should quadruple their budgets. (23:54)
  • Working closely with Illinois regulators. (25:56)
  • The value of a sophisticated Midwest workforce. (28:28)
  • Why he prefers making cannabis professionals rather than hiring them. (30:13)
  • How he vets manufacturers and suppliers. (33:10)
  • New strains launching in Illinois. (34:56)
  • The state of the cannabis industry in Illinois. (39:30)

Please make sure to like, subscribe and share the podcast. You could also help us out by giving the podcast a positive review. Finally, to email the podcast or suggest a potential guest, you can reach David Mantey at [email protected].

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