What do you get when you bring science and sustainability together for a positive impact on the world? Since 2014, Phylos Bioscience has worked towards building the infrastructure necessary for grower success by supporting Hemp growers with their innovative, high-quality seed genetics, backed by their highly trained and experienced team of breeders, data scientists, and agronomists for higher consistency and predictability, mitigating risk in this ever changing industry. 

As a seasoned entrepreneur and business leader of multiple companies in the high-tech industry, Ralph Risch, Chief Executive Officer of Phylos Bioscience, has experience in unpredictable, high-staked industries. With the hemp and cannabis industry’s speedy growth in recent years, the focus turns to revolutionizing the field by offering growth in ways that help the world’s growers sustainably increase productivity and transform our economy, environment, and society. 


How much of a decrease in cost of production have you seen for growers who switch from using clones to using seeds? What are the benefits of growing from seed, beyond the cost savings?  


Costs vary greatly across the industry and are largely dependent on production method. Indoor production from clones can cost as much as $1.00 per gram or higher. Outdoor production from seed can be as low as $0.10 per gram or less. Clonal varieties will continue to serve the market for top shelf flower and novelty, but we have seen the economics of seed-based production offer a sizable advantage when it comes to producing pre-rolls and bulk extract.

Plants grown from hybrid seed also have more size and vigor than the same varieties grown from clone. This is partly because of the strong central taproot that emerges from seed-grown plants.


What consistencies have you created with the two lines of cannabis seeds you have so far, that other seeds don’t have?  


Cannabis seeds have been traded and sold for centuries, but only recently have genetically stable seed lines been available. Phylos seeds are true F1 hybrids, meaning they are the offspring of inbred parental lines. As a result, there is so little variation in our plants they look like clones. Compared to other seeds on the market these seeds are superior in biomass yield, cannabinoid content and flower quality. 


Is there a benefit to consumers to having seeds that are the intellectual property of Phylos? 


Let’s say you walk into a dispensary today and a budtender grabs Blue Dream off the shelf. Is there any way for you to know if it is actually Blue Dream? Or could it be a clone of something similar? With our genetic fingerprint technology, Phylos Tested, we have the ability to confirm the identity of a plant from its breeding origins all the way through to finished products. For the consumer this guarantees a consistent experience and a product from a local, trusted source. 


Can you give some more insight into what is meant by the terms, “Stringent quality standards” and “rigorously test and analyze,” both of which are used on the Phylos website? 


In regards to seeds, we believe quality control starts in breeding, continues through seed production, and ends with positive customer feedback. We implement multiple quality control checks throughout the entire supply chain. For each of our seed lots, they are monitored throughout the production process, density and/or color sorted, and tested for purity and germination from a third-party AOSA certified laboratory. We perform routine germination testing to ensure that the seeds remain viable throughout the season and our customers are getting the best quality seed. 

In addition, we sex test enough seeds to have statistical confidence that our seed lots are truly feminized. For our AutoCBD line, we found zero males in 4,304 plants, making the feminization rate an industry leading 99.98%+. We also genotype our seed lots to ensure that they are genetically pure and consistent. 


You work with a lot of experienced farmers.  For those investors entering the cannabis and hemp industry who are experienced in business but not in agriculture, can you explain a bit about why Phylos’ data supported understanding of the germination rate, feminization rate, and genetic stability of its seeds is beneficial for their businesses? 


While growing cannabis is an art, it is also a science. These data points have a large impact on the success of a grow and, ultimately, on its profitability. Germination rate is the number of seeds that will actually turn into viable plants. Phylos seeds have high germination rates (in the mid-90%), and we provide additional seed with each purchase to ensure growers get all of the plants they need. Feminization rate determines whether there are any male seeds, which could ruin a grow if not detected. Phylos invented the cannabis sex test and each year we test thousands of seeds to ensure they are fully feminized. 

Phylos is also one of the few companies that can test for genetic stability (or homozygosity) of the plant. This information enables the creation of highly consistent F1 hybrid seed.  Consistent yields and consistent cannabinoid content are critical to growers who want to receive the highest prices per pound for their product.

We rely on all of these data points when selecting varieties for commercial seed production. 


You have sex testing kits for hemp plants that help hemp farmers to, “cull males faster than ever.”  Are these tests yet available for cannabis plants? 


Yes! Our testing kits have supported both hemp and cannabis since 2014 and are federally legal for both.


The about page says, ” We are structuring our research, facilities, plants and outreach around sustainable cultivation methods. Agriculture has been hurting the environment in some ways, but agriculture could be what saves the planet.” Can you elaborate on how agriculture practices in cannabis could contribute to agricultural practices saving the planet? 


In the US, most chemical pesticides and herbicides are not approved for use on cannabis requiring more sustainable cultivation practices. Phylos partners with farmers and growers to trial our plants using cultivation methods that are optimized for success without the use of these chemicals, leading to a lower impact form of agriculture.

We also believe that agriculture, and hemp specifically, can play an important role in carbon capture and in mitigating the impacts of climate change.


As a company, what are you most proud of so far, and what’s coming in the future that you are most excited about? 


I am most proud of the team we have built at Phylos. We have assembled a passionate team of geneticists, breeders, plant scientists, agronomists, cultivators, and business people who are all passionate about this plant and the benefits it can bring people. A genuine belief in hemp and cannabis drives everything we do at Phylos. I have learned so much from them all and feel fortunate to work with them every day.


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Juliana Whitney