Are you planning to grow and produce your own cannabis supply or venture into this growing industry? If your answer is yes, Nicolas Botti gives you the right guidance for starting your own plantation. Today, Anthony Frischknecht interviews Nicolas as he shares his story on how he started Grow With Jane. He talks about his hopes about the future of cannabis being welcomed by the law in Argentina. Working with growers, he discusses the top three problems that they have and gives some tips for anyone wanting to grow their own products at home.
Listen to the podcast here:
Grow With Jane: Your Right Hand In Growing Cannabis With Nicolas Botti
Nico Botti is the CEO and co-founder of Grow With Jane, formerly Jane. It is a platform for cannabis home growers from seed to harvest. They help growers all over the world reach harvest, no matter how much they know about cannabis or plants. They have over 23,000 active users all over the world and they are based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I’m looking forward to sharing what’s happening down in South America. Please give a warm welcome to Nico Botti.
Nico, it’s great having you here. How is everything going with you?
Everything’s going great. Thanks for having me.
I’m glad you’re able to join us. I’ve been waiting for this interview so this is exciting. How did you become a grower? How did you start in the growing industry?
It started because I lost a consumer, I didn’t want to go to the black market. We are from Argentina and over here you cannot buy legal weed. We have to go to a shady dealer and that’s not a fun experience, not even a safe one. You can grow it yourself and the quality is a lot better. Once you start growing, it now becomes like a sport. It’s fun, entertaining and it’s a passion. I started, my friends started and some of them were already growing. It’s a cool experience.
For our US audience, a lot of us don’t understand how the black market works. Is it big? Is it small? Are there a lot of players in it? Are there a couple of big guys that monopolize the black market? Can you explain how that works?
It’s similar to a lot of places all over the world. You have two black markets. One of them has the worst quality possible because it’s being grown in fields and stored in awful places, humidity, fungus and that’s the worst quality you can find. It doesn’t even look like a flower when you consume it. You have the people that are growing at their houses or country houses. They’re selling it from their own apartments or houses. You have a normal conversation with them and you buy a jar or two of flower. That’s pretty much it. It’s not old chapel or degree. It’s those kinds of markets.
How did the local officials deal with it? Is there much policing going on?
There is and they’re sometimes active in chasing down people growing but not necessarily for people having one plant or two because it’s difficult for them to find it. You always get the annoying neighbor that may call the cops but unless you have the house stinking of weed, you won’t have much problem. If you have twenty plants, you’re going to be in trouble. Not only for the smell, but because of how the police are going to react to you. You can always get that shitty cop that is going to chase you down or you can have the one that is going to ignore you even if you’re smoking a blunt in a corner.
Are the penalties high? Do they throw you in jail? Do they find you big? Are there some stories out there that you’ve heard of people getting into some pretty serious trouble or personally?
You can get in trouble and the police are not regular on how they behave. You can have a cop that it’s going to ignore you like I said before. You could have one that is going to ask you for money if he found a weed on you. The penalties could be over a couple of years just because he had some weed on you. We decriminalize the session up to certain amounts but depending on the cop that found you or whatever, you can go from either getting a slap on the wrist or seeing some jail time.
What’s the weight in grams to decriminalize that?The real experts in growing cannabis are the seed producers, seed breeders, and the fertilizer producers. Click To Tweet
It’s a couple of grams, let’s say two joints. It’s not great because the law is not as specific as it should be. If you’re in a group of ten people and you don’t even have weed and somebody has, you may get caught either way.
They’ll allow you a little bit for personal use but they’re pretty tight on that regimen. It sounds pretty small.
Some are being allowed. There is no penalty for it. Though it’s not legal, it’s decriminalized.
We had that happen in Denver and then once that started happening, the market started going into discussions of the medical and the recreational licensing. You brought up the two black markets. We’re having an issue right now and I’m not sure if you’re aware of it, but there was a lot of people having illnesses from vape pens. Some people think there are different ingredients in these vape pens that’s making them sick. Is there any discussion down there of any products? I’ve always assumed mostly flower where you’re at, but do you hear about people getting sick from products that people smoke in Buenos Aires or no?
The media reflect that because vaping is not only limited to cannabis. Over here, there is an active community of vaping for tobacco and stuff. We read about it. We’re far from experts and from what I read, it’s not directly correlated yet to cannabis. Some media decided to make the relation themselves. From what I read from the CBC, around 80% of the people who were having issues have consumed cannabis or had cannabis in their possession. They also said that they were mostly males of an average of nineteen years old. I’m wondering how many males of nineteen years old have tried or have cannabis in their possession perhaps which is no relationship there.
Are the health officials scared of the potential of legalization of cannabis? Is it even on their radar yet? We have a lot of that back in the United States given the current state of the industry. Are you starting to see any of that yet?
The doctors who are here and scientists are helping the industry a little bit. They are pushing towards research, because if you don’t research something legally, how can you determine if it’s good or bad? In the States, you have a similar conundrum. Over here, the community of doctors are a little bit more active. They were working with an organization called Mama Cultiva. It’s an organization that helps people in their journey towards medicinal cannabis. They have a huge focus on refractory epilepsy. They are doing great work. We’re having the first legal Cannabis Expo in Buenos Aires. The main focus is the medicinal part.
Have you had many events starting to pop up? Is this the first one or first relevant in Buenos Aires?
This is the first mainstream one. It’s being organized by a magazine called THC. It’s a big publication around cannabis. I believe it’s monthly. It’s the first legal. We have Cannabis Cups who are legal. You can always find them in social media. We’re excited. We’re going to attend.
For our audience out there, this should tip you off on how new things are happening especially in South America. Nico, what opportunities do you find that are in the entrepreneurial industry in cannabis in Buenos Aires or South America? Is it all of the above? Do you have certain ones that you think will become more prosperous or what do you see in the future?
Argentina is a special place. While we don’t have a law allowing either growing hemp even, we have been receiving news of Cannabis Growth buying a lot of fields and opening their office of Latin America in Buenos Aires which gives you the a sense that something’s going to happen. Many companies, especially from Canada are buying a lot of lands and planting some grows. Even though the law is not there and the conversations have not yet been published, something is going to happen. What could happen here? Let’s ask the Cannabis Growth and all those companies of what they know. I believe that something around hemp is going to happen probably in the next few years.
In the rest of the Southern America, you have a lot of opportunities. There is an expo in Colombia which is mainly focused on hemp and the production of oils and of THC as well. GOA has a great rate cannabis community and it’s pretty big. Uruguay, it’s legal to grow in their house. You have clubs where you can grow cannabis as well. You can buy your cannabis legally. Things are moving here and things are happening and opportunities. Imagine Colorado or Denver a couple of years ago and that’s where it’s at. A lot of those companies are working with dispenser use or stocking products, packaging. All those products could work here, no problem. It’s just a different culture.
Is it cash-intensive to start a farm, buy land and hire people in Argentina?
I’m far from an expert but it’s going to be different from the States. The tax part is very different. The cost of labor is going to be very different as well. It’s much lower. You might have some troubles getting the money out or getting the profits outside, but if you can wait a little bit, you might strike gold.
You would have to keep your money in the country there until you could figure out a solution. It sounds like it’s one of the road bumps along the way. We’re in the cannabis industry and that’s far for the course when you decide to start working in it.
It’s just another bump. If it’s an investment, it should be for the long-term, especially with growing operations. Argentina is also the entrance to the rest of Latin America. We have a big influence on the rest of Latin America and there’s a huge opportunity.
Why do you believe that it’s the opening to Latin America?
From our history, we had a great cultural influence in the rest of Southern America. It happened for many reasons. It happens because of our agro culture. We have a lot of land. We have a lot of culture of producing different food products and meats that made us a huge influence. At the same time, our culture and the influx of Italians, Germans, French and Spanish. They came to Argentina and made it a rich culture that even the music industry is one of the most influential in Latin America. With the companies that works like that as well. At the same time, our economic problems made it to not work as they should. Other countries are having more success economically but still Argentina is a huge influence.
What’s the main ag production happening in Argentina right now? Do you know what the main agricultural product being created?
Yes, soy. We struck a deal with China to export an insane amount of soy. That’s taken over everything.
I’m wondering if that has anything to do with the trade embargoes that are starting to happen with or they are being potentially created right now with the US and China.
It didn’t hurt.
Yeah, I bet. For you farmers out there, especially you soy farmers, pay attention to this. US is not the only country growing agricultural products. Keep that in mind. Let’s talk a little bit about Grow With Jane. You started this product a few years ago now.
The idea started happening already in 2015 but we didn’t launch anything up until 2017. My friends and I decided to work together. We met in high school when we were 12, 13. We had different professional backgrounds and we decided, “Let’s do something together and let’s do something that we love. Let’s have our own company, our own business.” In that ambition, we decided either crypto or cannabis. We wanted something emerging, something we liked, something that could have great success and not do something boring. Because we were growing cannabis and our love for it, we decided to go for it and help people grow their own. They say that you should do what you know and that’s what we knew.Cannabis is a beautiful plant. The more you learn from it, the more you fall in love with it. Click To Tweet
After a couple of years of failing, of not releasing the product and being too perfectionist, if you make a list of the top ten mistakes of a startup, we made all of them a couple of times. Through hard work and dedication and having two jobs, we finally launch our software. It’s a journal and we help people go from seed to harvest no matter how much they know about plants or even cannabis. We say that growing cannabis is not hard, but it could be. In that effort, we launched it. Even though we didn’t have any money or budget for marketing or anything like that. The first month, we had a couple of downloads on the Android Playstore and then a couple of hundred, a couple of thousand. It started to grow. In that growth, we had thousands of emails from growers asking us questions of how to grow. We connected with thousands of people. We’re almost in 24,000 active users. We still haven’t got any budget for digital marketing but we’re still working that out.
Working with the growers, what do you think are the top three problems that growers have when they come to you? I’m sure they have top 3 to 5 different questions that you hear all the time every time you get a new user. Can you share some of those with me?
One of the biggest problems they have is they feel lonely when they do what they’re doing. There was no validation. You’re doing something that is not cool to be talked about in your house or maybe with your parents or your friends sometimes. The companionship and checking, “Is what I’m doing good? Is this going to kill the plants?” That is a huge thing for them. Another thing is sometimes people don’t know how to take care of a basic house plant. They think they could water it every day and it’s going to grow better. The basic tips like how to water your plant, how much fertilizer to apply to it, that is enough. How much light does it need? The basics of it are already a huge boost for people, especially when they’re starting. People don’t know a lot about the culture of doing it. The culture of doing it includes not only taking care of it every other day but it also includes thinking about the long run and already buying the soil before you have to use it or transplanting the plant. All those small little things that make the difference between being able to harvest a decent amount and just having a joint after three months. Teaching them how to water and apply fertilizer should do a lot.
Are you self-taught? Did you teach yourself by books? How did you learn how to grow?
I wouldn’t call it self-taught. There’s a lot of material out there. Sometimes the problem is there’s too much. You have 200 different opinions on the same matter because everybody wants to be an expert. Sometimes it’s simpler than that. Sometimes you’ve got to teach the basics and people develop their own opinions. You have a lot of media, a lot of websites where you can learn how to do the basics and self-taught, but at the same time, all this guidance helped us out a lot. One of the key challenges when we first thought about this was, can we simplify it so anybody, anywhere, all over the world can understand it? We think we managed to do that.
For the newbie that’s going through all this information that’s online, in books, through opinions, through other growers, how do they decide who to listen to and who not to listen to?
You should find a voice that is represented by a lot of people who are using it. They are having success and that’s a problem with the internet as well. There’s a huge conversation on the internet about fake news. The same can happen about information. If somebody seems like they’re saying they have all the answers to every question, doubt it a little bit. Pull back a little bit and try to see the big picture and what’s happening. Usually, if somebody says something extremely precise, it’s not open to suggestions and it’s rigid, that person is wrong.
We have growers all over the world. Some people are growing in Colorado, in Boulder. Boulder has low oxygen because it’s a high place, the altitude. Buenos Aires is not the same. Buenos Aires is humid and Colorado is not. All those differences make the world of difference to the plant. At the same time, imagine the water content. You can have water in Buenos Aires which was good to the plants and has no problems. You change the CD of the country and it has a lot of chloride or it has different pH and that is not going to be beneficial to the plant. You got to be open to all the variables. It’s not an absolute thing when you’re giving advice. It’s more about listening to them and understand the real problems and then trying to help them out.
I’m glad you pointed that out. It’s a challenge. People tend to think, “I was successful here so I can move to another state and start growing here. It’ll be fine. I know I can have some success.” What you’re talking about is all these properties that play into your form of success. Like you said, with the watering altitude, nutrients, along with strain specific for the altitude of the climate you’re in as well. That can have a major effect to how your plants finishing on it before harvest.
One of the conversations we’re having with seed producers, seed breeders is they are testing their seeds and they are shipping them. They are selling seed. Europe is selling seeds. It’s something that happens every day and there is no problem. The thing is they are testing the seeds maybe in the vicinity of Barcelona but it’s not the same in Buenos Aires and Colorado. If they’re shipping it into both places and they have the same instructions, you’re having a problem. That’s not going to work. One of them is going to fail. How are you helping your customers when you’re doing this?
Do you pick up on that right away with the customers?
They see a problem but they don’t understand it. The same is happening with the fertilizer producers. They are shipping it overseas and they don’t understand that they are mixing the fertilizer with water. They have some different pH and you’re running into problems. Their sending instructions with five different types of measurements. They’re doing teaspoons, millimeters and gallons. These are human beings, give them plain instructions and help them.
There’s a lot of confusion that can happen on the way from the delivery of the seeds to the customer with nutrients.
It’s insane. This industry has a lot of path to walk yet and learn a lot about how people are growing in their houses and hopefully, we can help in that connection. We strongly believe that the real experts in this growing are these seed producers, seed breeders and the fertilizer producers. They are having huge grow operations, testing, trial and error. They know a lot but they can do better in understanding their customers.
Knowing what you know now, if you were to start to grow in Argentina, what would be the number one thing you would tell your customer or your patient on the other end, if they decided they wanted to start growing their own product in their house or outdoors, wherever they have space for it? What would you suggest they do?
It’s not to tell anybody that would be the first one. Order a good strain online from unknown breeder. Have a couple of seeds. Germinate them and select the best ones. Don’t just use them because you have the seed. Your space is precious and you got to make the most of it. Take it slow and watch it grow. The less you do to it, the more chances of success you have. After your second grow, you can start fooling around and playing around, but play it safe. Part of the journey is learning and having fun while you’re doing it, then share it with whoever you love in your house or in your life. That’s precious and you’ve got to enjoy it. The connection to the plant is valuable.
I want to touch on that. You said to leave it alone. Explain exactly what you mean. People take that differently and they can tend to overdo it.
The plant is going to show what it needs all the time. It’s a beautiful plant and the more you learn from it, the more you fall in love with it. It’s going to tell you. If it needs water, it’s going to show. If it needs fertilizer, it’s going to show. It’s not extremely complicated. It’s like a relationship. You need to cool it down. You need to leave it the space that it needs to show what it means.
You’re 100% correct there, Nico. A lot of the new growers will get into this mindset that they always have to be doing something to their plant. You tend to overdo it and you cause a lot more pain towards the process instead of, “I like to ‘Keep it simple, stupid’ is what was taught to me.” Try to keep it as simple as possible when you’re starting along with information you’re taking, all that stuff. The other thing too, I’ve noticed is that people try to change too many things at once. They either try to add in more nutrients. They try to add different nutrients and they’re doing all this, not watching the plant.
It’s like that contour culture of bonsai. It’s doing little every once in a while and people want to attack this plant.
I appreciate you joining us, Nico. Can you share your contact info if people want to reach out to you and talk to you about Grow With Jane?
They can find us at GroWithJane.com and on Instagram, @GroWithJane. If they are using Android devices or iOS devices, they can look us up and at the same time, they can look for Cannabis Grow, either in the App Store or the Playstore. We’re going to be top three all the time. They can contact us through Yelp, emails, Instagram. We will respond in everywhere. We strongly believe on contact with people. They help us where we are right now.
I appreciate what you are working on. It’s not easy to build a system like you are doing. Nico Botti, I appreciate you being on the show and thank you so much. I look forward to seeing future success with you.
Thank you very much.
- Grow With Jane
- Mama Cultiva
- Cannabis Cups
- @GroWithJane Instagram
About Nicolas Botti
He is the CEO and Co-Founder of Grow With Jane(Formerly Jane). Grow With Jane is a platform for Cannabis home growers from seed to harvest.
They help growers all over the world reach harvest no matter how much they know about cannabis or plants. We currently have over 23,000 active users all over the world and we are from Buenos Aires, Argentina.