From Plant to Packaging: The Life of a Cannabis Plant

At HEXO, growers use cutting-edge techniques throughout a plant’s life cycle to ensure that only the highest quality cannabis gets to consumers.

You’ve likely heard about the many benefits of cannabis; but before you start experimenting, it’s good to know how a safe, high-quality product gets to market.

At HEXO, one of the top licensed producers of recreational cannabis in Canada, there are more than 400 quality control points incorporated throughout the cannabis growth and production process.

From the first stage of a plant’s life cycle — the cutting stage — all the way to the packaging stage, HEXO employees in Masson-Angers, Quebec, incorporate innovative techniques, sustainable practices and scientific precision to ensure the best possible end products.

Here are the main stages of life for a HEXO cannabis plant.

 

The Cutting Stage

Like many other licensed cannabis producers, HEXO doesn’t cultivate new cannabis plants from seeds. That’s because growing new plants from seeds is slow and inefficient, and because seeds produce cannabis plants with greater genetic variety — and greater variety doesn’t always mean greater quality.

Instead, HEXO cultivates new plants from cuttings. This way, the plants take less time to flower and plant quality can be controlled. Cuttings are harvested from established plants known as “mother plants,” and their health is consistently monitored and evaluated. Since a cutting comes from this mother plant, it is genetically identical to it — the mother plant’s desirable characteristics are cloned. HEXO also uses a specific cloning process called industrial-scale cannabis micropropagation to ensure the plant tissue is more disease-resistant.

 

The Seedling Stage

Once cuttings are harvested from the mother plant’s healthy branches, they’re planted in a low-light, high-humidity environment for up to 10 days. The plantlet’s roots will begin to outgrow the rooting medium, and the plant is then replanted in a larger bed.

 

The Vegetative Stage

After about one month, the cannabis plant begins to grow in height, but it will not flower yet — all the plant’s energy is directed into the growth of roots, stems and leaves. Cannabis plants grow quickly and would likely reach the greenhouse ceiling if growers didn’t interrupt this stage by initiating the flowering stage.

The growth of the plant’s leaves, stem and roots are controlled by the amount of light the plant receives — at this stage, that’s usually about 18 hours of light. At HEXO’s indoor facility, summertime is mimicked with the use of LED lighting and climate control systems so that quality cannabis can be produced year-round.

 

The Flowering Stage

Depending on the cannabis variety, a plant will flower sometime between the seven- to 10-week mark. Cannabis plants flower when the amount of daylight they receive is reduced to 12 hours; if they weren’t in a controlled environment like the HEXO facility, that flowering would happen in the fall, when daylight is naturally decreasing. However, within the HEXO facility, the change of season is mimicked with artificial light so cannabis can be continuously cultivated.

 

The Harvesting Stage

HEXO’s harvest specialists collect the plant’s flower — also known as the bud — from the cannabis plant, separating it from the plant’s stem and leaves. This cone-like bud is where the plant’s cannabinoids (i.e. its active ingredients, such as CBD and THC) are found. During harvesting, buds are also carefully inspected for quality, ensuring they are free of mould, discolouration and other blemishes.

 

The Drying Stage

When a bud is first trimmed from a cannabis plant, it feels sticky and wet, so it’s important to place the freshly cut buds on drying trays. The buds are kept in a temperature-controlled environment for about two weeks. This drying stage is essential to quality: drying eliminates excess moisture, prevents mould contamination, enhances the product’s shelf life and elevates its taste.

 

The Testing Stage

One of the responsibilities of the scientists working at HEXO is to carefully test the product in labs for further quality control. Before the cannabis is processed into the final product, it is tested for its potency, as cannabis potency can vary from bud to bud. And even though HEXO’s facilities are pesticide-free — insects naturally control pests within the greenhouses — the company’s rigorous testing stage also includes lab testing for synthetic and illegal pesticides as well as bacteria and heavy metals.

 

The Extraction Stage

Among HEXO’s many cannabis products are oil-based elixirs, and their production requires the extraction of a plant’s cannabinoids through the use of heat. HEXO uses a specialized process called supercritical extraction, a method that puts the flower under high pressure and carbon dioxide exposure to extract the active ingredients. During this process, HEXO scientists use naturally occurring carbon dioxide and no harsh solvents, further ensuring the resulting product is pure.

 

The Packaging Stage

This is the final stage of the cannabis plant’s life cycle. Each completed HEXO product, whether it’s a full bud, milled flower or oil-based elixir, is packaged and labeled with limited colouring and graphics, signaling it’s for adult-use only.

This content was produced for the advertiser by RedPoint Media for commercial purposes. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Avenue staff.

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