A local cannabis company is working on the cutting edge of the industry by utilizing automation and embracing new cultivation techniques.

“Our whole approach has been: Don’t take any shortcuts—no matter how long it takes,” says Sawmill Cannabis Co. owner Chris Tapia. “Do it right and in the end, everybody wins.”

Tapia says their brand new growing facility is state of the art and will help meet the needs of cannabis consumers near Albuquerque and Los Lunas. “Our building is set up so that we’re harvesting one room a week—that’s 70 to 80 pounds per week, every week,” he said. “So we can produce 4,000 pounds a year in that facility in a very efficient manner.”

The new facility is the brainchild of Sawmill’s Director of Cultivation Darren DeSimone. Tapia says DeSimone was given free rein to design the operation exactly as he wished. To increase efficiency and lower the chances of crops suffering from human error, the team decided to use a sophisticated automated system for tending to the crop.

“You can make so many mistakes when employees are hand-mixing batches,” says DeSimone. “Everything has to be perfect for the plants, so we’re totally 100 percent automated to avoid all that.” He says that automation not only cuts down on human error—it also cuts down on water and nutrient waste, meaning lower overhead costs.

Automation has also freed the team to really dial in on the needs of the plants. “We can focus on what the plants are getting, instead of spending half the day focusing on how the plants are going to get it,” says Tapia.

The facility is also using an advanced growing technique known as a vertical hydroponic system. Plants are stacked vertically on shelves with lights above each level. The setup allows double the canopy and provides even lighting for a more consistent product.

DeSimone is approaching the project with over 20 years of experience growing cannabis—10 of which were spent working professionally in the industry. He’s helped a number of local producers improve their grow operations in that time and has used that knowledge to focus the design of Sawmill’s facility.

“His knowledge of the industry—what has worked, what hasn’t worked—has really been a godsend for us,” says Tapia.

The first batch from the new facility isn’t expected to roll out until January at the earliest. Tapia says he’s especially proud of Sawmill’s live rosin line, in which the company invested over half a million dollars. Sawmill Cannabis Co. has three dispensaries in Albuquerque with three more on the way in the coming weeks. The company also operates a dispensary located in Los Lunas.

“We’re excited about providing high-quality cannabis at low costs, so patients and recreational customers won’t have to break their bank,” says Tapia.