Standing at 6’7”, Mike Straumietis towers over most people much like his personal legend towers over the company he runs. His 37 years as a cultivator saw him flying planes to scout grow locations, using police scanners and night vision goggles to harvest his crops, living under seven different assumed identities in the states and Canada and squaring off with a biker gang bent on cutting into his profits, to name just a few highlights.
As the founder of Advanced Nutrients, the first cannabis-specific line of organic and hydroponic agricultural nutrients, he made it his mission to help other growers maximize their yields and quality. By pulling on knowledge gathered through his own experience as a cultivator and emphasizing the use of consumer feedback to improve the products his company offers, Straumietis has grown the business into a legitimate industry force and a household name among cultivators.
His cinematic rise from an outlaw cultivator playing a high-tech, high-stakes game of cat and mouse with law enforcement to the dynamic engine of a $60 million company dominating a blossoming legal cannabis industry is outlined in his upcoming book “Marijuana Don.”
We got the chance to speak with Straumietis about some of the slightly less dramatic elements of Advanced Nutrients’ astounding success and what drew him to cannabis in the first place.
Cannabis Now Magazine: Your nutrient company was the result of your working in cannabis for a lot of years. In the earlier days was it always your plan to make something of yourself in the cannabis space or did you think of it as a temporary occupation?
Mike Straumietis: When I first started, I had no aspirations to make growing a lifelong occupation. However, once I got really good at it, other growers started coming to me for help. And I enjoyed helping them. I soon decided to dedicate my life to finding ways to grow the best damn weed possible and sharing my findings with others. I can’t tell you how happy this made me to help growers take their crops to the next level.
When did you first sell/market your own nutrients?
The year was 1999. At the time I had 1,496 1000-watt production lights going but was never happy with the nutrients I was getting. I knew I could formulate a better products — a cannabis specific product that blew away everything else out there. I was so excited to roll it out and see people buying and using it and becoming successful at growing. I talk a lot about it in my book that’s coming out soon called “Marijuana Don.”
At that early time, what particular aspect of your recipe set your nutrients apart from other nutrient lines on the market?
With the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) and the University of Canada (UBC), I ran extensive tests using tissue samples, and in some cases, down to the elementally and cellular level. And today we’re taking it further, all the way down to the cellular level we’re tracing hormonal elementals and the amino pathways of cannabis. We’re committed to bringing cannabis to its true genetic potential. Regardless of strain, all of our scientists love what they do are fascinated with cannabis’s potential for medicinal value, patient safety, yield and quality. Our motivation goes beyond just making a profit. It’s about making a difference.
What drew you to cannabis?
In the beginning it was about making extra money and the technical aspect of growing a plant indoors. I was captivated by the possibilities, drawn to the technology and felt like a badass scientist. I thought it was so cool that you can play god with a plant.
When did you first realize that the cannabis industry would take off and become the juggernaut it currently is?
When medical marijuana became a reality in Canada. I knew the door was open and realized it was the beginning of the end of prohibition. I had no doubt this day would come.
How did you come up with the Advanced Nutrients mascot?
I was digging through the beer section at grocery store and spotted this really cool beer. The beer’s mascot had a Mohawk. It inspired me to create Buddy. I’m a student of the art of packaging. I plow through books for packaging ideas. One book I really enjoyed was The Package Design Book by Pentawards and Taschen.
Was there a particular moment where you knew Advanced Nutrients had taken off and was a force in the nutrients space?
It was about 7 years ago. I was at a show in California. All the growers were thanking us and telling us how much they loved the results our products were helping them get. And it wasn’t just them, the growing community and storeowners were constantly raving about the results. And top-level talent was looking to Advanced Nutrients for career opportunities.
You have an interesting on-boarding process where you send some of your employees to work at hydroponic stores. Can you explain what that is about and why you do it?
We believe our management should be in the frontline trenches, have their ears to the ground and know what the marketplace wants at all times. We have them go to each store three times per year and work alongside owners, staff and growers. We do this to help us understand the multiple layers of all of our relationships. Whether that be with the storeowners, commercial growers, or hobbyists. We always want to have a deep understanding of what our community wants.
You’re known for taking care of your employees – and even once gave money to one of them who required medical help. How are you able to do this?
As a family we have an obligation to take care of each other at all times, whether good and bad. This philosophy has been with us from day one, going back even before we started selling nutrients and were focused on growing marijuana on a large commercial scale in Canada, when the governments weren’t nearly as tolerant of growers as they are now.
Is there anything new coming up that you’d like to tell us about?
Yes, we’re working on a patent right now that will completely change the way growers will grow. It’s something that’ll be a huge benefit to all the growers out there. I’ll be releasing details about this soon. Also, my book “Marijuana Don” will be hitting the shelves in the near future.