Dark Heart Nursery Is a Pioneer in Genetics and Soon To Be Biotech Giant

10% of the weed legally grown in California is Dark Heart.

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Morgan Lieberman

Morgan is an experienced photographer and cannabis product expert living in Los Angeles where she gets to research and test the most popular cannabis products in the country. Whether she's...

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After trying Dark Heart’s Headstash “Magic Melon” strain that was packaged in a velvety red cigarette style box with five delicious pre-rolls, I was intrigued by the brand and reached out to Dark Heart Nursery to pick their brains on all things cannabis. 

I interviewed Chief Revenue Officer Dakota Sullivan on the growth of Dark Heart Nursery since its inception in 2007 and how he left the tech industry to bring innovation into cannabis. Between their three main product lines and providing world class genetics to farmers nationally, I learned a lot about the roots of Dark Heart Nursery, how they set the standard of excellence for their cloning system, as well as why they are looking to dip their toes into biotechnology.

Dark Heart Nursery employees
Dark Heart Nursery team. Photo courtesy of Dark Heart.

This company is a household name for growers and dispensaries across California, especially since they helped develop some of the most popular strains of all time. I am thrilled that Dark Heart has expanded to consumer products in recent years and is utilizing their expertise in cloning to raise the bar for more efficient production as the industry continues to skyrocket.

What sets Dark Heart Nursery apart from other companies? 

Dark Heart employee inspecting the roots of a clone transplant
Dark Heart checks clone transplants every day, looking for thick, solid, white roots stemming from rockwool cubes. Photo courtesy of Dark Heart Nursery

Dakota Sullivan: Dark Heart has a unique place in the history of cannabis. They have been cloning since 2007 and they were the very first large scale clone producer. Today, they are the largest clone producer in the world. We are the largest in the state of CA. The future of Dark Heart really is as an innovator and leader in cannabis biotech and helping growers develop entirely new ways of growing cannabis. Its place is in cannabis history but also in the future of cannabis.

What is Dark Heart Nursery? What products and services do you offer? Who is your typical customer?

Dark Heart is a consumer products business. We have three different lines of products; it is all made with flower that we buy from farmers that grow Dark Heart Genetics. The growers that grow our clones becomes a full circle when we buy back some of their flower and we turn that into three different consumer brands.

This includes Dark Heart Legends, an everyday driver that includes strains that Dark Heart helped make famous. These are blue dream, blackjack, and Fire OG. Dark Heart was the first to sell large amounts of those because they were the largest producer of clones in CA.

Dark Heart Legends strains
Dark Heart Legends cannabis flower. Photo courtesy of Dark Heart.

The second brand is called Headstash, which is more current/future legends. Right now we have mac 1, white runts, gelato ice cream cake, and other sweeter strains people are looking for.

Dark Heart Headstash strain
Dark Heart Headstash premium cannabis flower. Photo courtesy of Dark Heart.

The third brand launching this fall is Breeder’s Choice, which is grown through partnerships with legendary breeders. Kyle Kushman has won more Emerald Cups in general than any other breeder in history. He has more centerfolds in High Times Magazine than any other breeder. Breeder’s Choice is going to be a small batch grown – around 10 pounds – with all strains that are new or novel or totally exotic that nobody has ever seen before. They have had seeds in their basements that they have never grown or they have only grown privately so we are going to be introducing breeder’s choice through a wine club model, where people will sign up and they will get a shipment. It won’t be sold in dispensaries. 

Dark Heart Breeder's Choice
Dark Heart Breeder’s Choice cannabis. Photo courtesy of Dark Heart.

Our second business is that we provide clones; over a million to be exact! 10% of the weed legally grown in California is Dark Heart. We provide genetics to farmers. Most weed in California that is professionally grown is not from seed. It is grown from clones. It comes from the mother plant when you want an exact genetic reproduction. 

What is Dark Heart’s involvement in biotechnology?

Dark Heart Nursery operations lab
Photo courtesy of Dark Heart Nursery

Our third business is biotech, specifically in cannabis growing. Cannabis is a $20 billion industry and will be a $40 billion industry by 2025. Corn and soy are a $40 billion industry. They grow corn outdoors, where when it is a field crop, it is grown from seed. The thing about corn and same with soy beans is that they use these massive systems and they are not planted by hand. You are using this massive machine to plant the corn, to till the soil, it all grows completely evenly. When they harvest it, it is all the same size, all the same height, all produce the same amount of corn, because it is uniform and when it becomes time to harvest, they can use these giant machines and harvest a tremendous amount. They have a storage amount that can store huge amounts. Weed is in 10K square foot indoor grows out in the valley, in tiny little patches.

You literally cannot scale where we are today to a $40 billion industry unless we fundamentally change the foundation of genetics. Dark Heart has a biotechnology program, with a lab in Davis, and that is where all our investment is going today. That is where we think the future of cannabis lies. Helping cannabis farmers be more efficient.

What are some trends in the cannabis industry that Dark Heart Nursery is looking to follow?

Trending towards root strains has been surprising to us and one that we are looking to follow and listen to. Customers want root strains but a lot of growers are not brave enough to grow them.

Some flavors that are popular right now include apple fritter, apple strains, mint, and we are hearing that guava is an up and coming flavor for next season

There is a sativa shortage right now since it takes longer to grow and as a grower, you are always looking at cycles and how many you can get in a year. With indica you can do five cycles, but with sativa, you can only do three. Indicas tend to be higher yielding and make more money. Cotton candy, ice cream cake, gelato 33 are the trendier indica strains at the moment. More and more people are hearing they want original stuff, where a lot of the strains are a double or triple cross. We are seeing the return of Dosido, sour G soul, and OG kush. 

What are the top strains of 2021?

Cannabis breed cross by Dark Heart Nursery
Photo courtesy of Dark Heart Nursery

We get data from Google, Weedmaps, and Leafly on what the most searched strains are. We produce a retail demand forecast for growers that identifies the current top strains and what we believe will be the top strains six months from now. We think about what can they plant today that will earn them the most money when they harvest.

They harvest strains that are sweet strains, such as sweeties, Mac 1, runts, ice cream cake, gelato, and also anything purple. A couple of years ago, diesel and skunk were huge and and now it is sweet strains that are popular. Due to COVID, nobody was allowed to go into a store and smell flower so people were buying flower on how it looked. “Purps” died off and came back in a new way.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, Dark Heart will be on your grocery list the next time you go to your local dispensary. Even though Breeder’s Choice will only be available via delivery services, Legends and Headstash are prominent and successful products for their quality, their flavor, and unique packaging. The growth of this company is outstanding and it is admirable that Dark Heart Nursery has built such a strong bridge between their growers and buyers, having heavy involvement and impact on both ends.