Written by Amy Witt

After numerous sports-related injuries and a few severe car accidents left him with a fused neck, chronic pain and reconstruction surgery on both knees, Nick Boomer was tired of treating himself with pharmaceuticals to get him through his days. He was fascinated when he decided he would transition from prescription pills by using CBD and THC. His chronic pain subsided, his mind was no longer cloudy, and he was happy and motivated. Inspired by the power of the plant, he began growing his own cannabis in his backyard, later updating into indoor bedroom operations and, over time, upgrading to a 2,000-square foot warehouse space. And now for over 15 years, Nick Boomer from Boomspharm has been helping to redefine the way patients medicate and treat themselves.

“I realized, over my lifetime, that I didn’t choose cannabis—cannabis chose me. Cannabis literally saved my life and allowed me to heal others. I’ve dedicated my life to increasing the pool of clean cannabis genetics and making the corresponding product available in a safe-access manner,” Boomer expressed.

In 2002, after California passed Proposition 215 and SB420, Boomspharm began to cultivate on a higher scale on behalf of a non-profit collective. With a focus on providing the cleanest and healthiest cannabis, he strived to offer strains, specifically pure CBD cultivars, that patients were in dire need of. By using strain-specific medicines and collaborating with breeders to create new varieties that matched patients’ needs, he chose to transition from his conventional grow methods to educating and advancing his cultivating methods to organic only, eliminating any and all harmful chemicals or pesticides. The diversity in the soil, along with his studies, allowed him to explore and understand new areas and the symbiotic relationships between soil and plants. Preserving a healthy and clean stock of genetic plants, Boomer began to make clones and offered identical baby plants to other patients to grow for themselves, establishing a nursery collective and branding Boomspharm as a genetic company, incorporating other experts in the field of propagation.

The Southern California grower prefers organic inputs to create a living soil blend and feeds with compost teas, derived from organic elements to enrich the flowers, bringing out their natural colors, aroma and flavor. The cannabis is then flushed for 10 to 14 days prior to harvest. Once dried and cured, the crop is sent to SC Labs to be tested for a potency analysis, as well as comprehensive safety screening (i.e., for bacteria, pesticides and mold) before it’s donated.

As a Dragonfly Earth Medicine (D.E.M.) Pure Certified farm, Boomspharm focuses on soil microbiology, integrated Pest Fungi Management Program, specializing in self-sustaining practices; aquaponic systems, pure soil, cover crop blends, fungi integration, drought tolerant cultivation and tissue culture. Through his journey, he found a lab director with several years in tissue culture propagation to create thousands of new cannabis plants. These plants would be created from cell samples taken from selected cannabis plants, then multiplied in a nursery tissue culture lab. The benefits include preserving the strains in a virus-free, pest-free and pathogen-free lab.

Emerald Magazine: What is tissue culturing, and what is its process?
Boomspharm: Tissue culturing is taking a cell sample cutting with a sterile scalpel and placing it into a glass vial. The glass vial is filled partially with a gel substance called “agar,” along with a proprietary blend of hormones, auxins, sugars and salts. The medium is created from natural inputs and optimized for strain-specific cultivars. The agar gel provides the food and water for the culture to survive long enough to grow roots and new top leaf shoots. The glass vial is sealed and placed on a vertical grow rack in a clean room lab. The lab must be 100% sterile with a double-door entryway, high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters, environmental controls, specialty lighting and other needed equipment to operate successfully. Once the new roots and leaf tips have grown from the culture in glass, it exponentially grows more roots and leaf shoots, which can be cloned further by taking scalpel cuttings carefully separately the shoots. Once the shoots are rooted and large enough, they’re transplanted into a soil-type medium and container to be grown indoors or in a greenhouse.

EM: Why is it better than traditional/conventional cloning?
Boomspharm: Tissue culture propagation supplements and compliments seed production. In the propagation life cycle, male cannabis plants pollinate neighboring female cannabis plants in peak season, thus producing seeds at harvest time. Traditionally, growers using regular seed stock will see a 50% male and 50% female return on sexing plants when grown for next season. Ideally for cannabis production, growers will want only the female plants and remove the male plants before they ever get a chance to pollinate the females, and cause them to seed. If the grower doesn’t grow his own seed, then he needs to buy clone cuttings of a female plant from a nursery like Boomspharm to keep his crop in rotation. So, at the tissue culture lab, we give royalties to breeders with verified seed stock of strains they want to license production out on. We will grow the seed out and then enter the cuttings into tissue culture to allow those proprietary seeds to be preserved in living form and ready to replicate by the thousands in a smaller space than a traditional nursery would when conventionally cloning using larger mother stock plants to take cuttings from. Starting from clones allows the farmer to have an even canopy, resulting in consistent crops in similar size, flavor, color, potency and more, whereas growing from seed promotes variation in crop production. Balancing the hunt for new types of strains grown from seed for mold/pest resistance, terpene profile, resin production and commercial production viability is crucial. Once we identify desirable traits in certain strains grown from seed, that’s when it’s best to preserve and multiple in tissue culture propagation.

EM: Is there a strain that works better than others?
Boomspharm: High-CBD strains, especially hemp varieties, seem to be harder to optimize in tissue culture and grow as easy as THC dominate cannabis cultivars. We have successfully rooted several cannabis- and hemp-based strains in our tissue culture lab and are scaling to see which does better than others accordingly.
EM: What do you believe is in the future for cannabis, and how do you think tissue culturing will advance and expand?
I see a divide between commodity cannabis and craft cannabis. Just like alcohol, I see two different groups of consumers. Cannabusiness will likely follow a similar trend, and I hope to stay more involved with the boutique and craft cannabis side of the sector. I see tissue culture being a solution for small and large farms. As for the craft grower, they rely heavily on preserving their heirloom and vintage genetics that only they possess and want to grow. The large sun-grown and greenhouse farms with acres of canopy will also need a large quantity of consistent clones to fill the production space allotted. Either way, I plan to provide clean lab-tested genetics.

EM: What’s on the horizon for Boomspharm?
Boomspharm: There’s only a handful of licensed tissue culture labs in California, and my team is in the process of applying for a state license pending the final fundraising stage. Once the commercial tissue culture lab is launched, we will have breeder programs to offer elite genetics to wholesale and retail customers alike. Starting with the tissue culture plant stock ensures the plants are sterile of mold, pests and systemic pesticides. The last is a huge concern for state-licensed cultivation facilities due to systemic pesticides staying latent in the plants’ cells for several crops. And those trace pesticides in the crop will fail a lab test when sent out for state compliance analysis. So, most commercial clients will opt to begin with clean plant stock from tissue culture and mitigate the risk of acquiring undesirable genetics from a conventional nursery.

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Emerald contributor since March 2012


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