Photo by Thumb Genetics

Learn | 02.10.2022

Thumb Genetics Uses Fish Poop And 10,000 Gallons Of Reused Water To Grow Cannabis

With no soil in sight, this cannabis grow operation consists of thousands of fish, their poop, and nutrient-rich water.

While most cannabis grows require fertilizer and soil, this Michigan-based licensed grow operation uses only two key elements: recycled water and fish poop. The Lansing “Thumb Genetics” is reintroducing more sustainable ways to grow cannabis without wasting excessive amounts of water or using harmful chemicals. 

According to Michigan Live, the family-owned operation uses aquaponics, which was first introduced generations ago by the Mayan and Aztec farmers. Lloyd Ownes, company director and co-owner alongside his son, Jack Owens, attests that “you’ve never been in a grow like this.” And he’s right; it’s not every day a cannabis cultivation site is free of soil and fertilizers—and abundant in fish. 

Photo by Thumb Genetics

Aquaponics is usually used to grow vegetables, but using it for cannabis is something more cultivators should implement. It calls for far less water and doesn’t need costly fertilizers that come packed with nutrients. Owens said to Michigan Live that his system contains 10,000 gallons of recycled water, which is pretty expensive, and explains why many cultivators don’t want to pay such a high price up-front and opt for your usual dirt-growing methods. 

However, once the operations are set up and ready to go, Owens said all he has to pay is the “$80 worth of fish food per month, versus tens of thousands of dollars in chemicals each month,” he told the outlet. The main reason his company uses aquaponics is that its sustainable and saves ample water. “We’ve had the same water in those tanks for about a year and a half,” he said.

A substantial array of 4-foot-tall blue tubs sits at Thumb Genetics, with thousands of Tilapia swimming through the pipes. Inside these pipes is water that’s packed with nutrients thanks to the roaming beneficial bacteria and fish feces, all of which are absorbed by the roots of cannabis plants.

Photo by Thumb Genetics

Owens broke down the process for us further by explaining how after the fish eat and digest, their fecal waste is released into the water and filtered through various white PVC pipes. This leads the water into a few pools that look rather grimey but contain beneficial algae and bacteria. Before the water heads to the pools, it gets refined in a 1,200-gallon water tank with red wiggler worms. The recycled water then flows into the grow rooms and is absorbed by the cannabis plants sitting under their grow lights.

We love to hear news of companies making good use of unconventional yet sustainable ways to grow their plants, and because Thumb Genetics is “never draining,” says Owens, this should be a wake-up call for other cultivators to look for more environmentally-friendly growing methods.

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