Atrium Cultivation is a premium, luxury cannabis brand known for its award-winning and exclusive flower varietals. Founded in 2017 in the Emerald Triangle of Northern California, Atrium Cultivation has taken a place in the maturing cannabis industry among the top cultivators of uniquely flavorful marijuana products. The company’s acclaimed breeding program sources from rare and exotic strain libraries around the world to create new varietals like Lemon Love, Juice Z, and their own special take on 92 OG.
SPARC recently sat down with Atrium Cultivation’s Co-Founder Shawn Gardner to talk about how he got started in the business, and what flowers he’s most excited about in the Atrium Cultivation portfolio.
SPARC: How and when did you get into growing marijuana?
Shawn Gardner: I’ve been a student of the plant since the 90s. I fell in love with it then, during my college years, and I’ve been improving my cultivation skills. I grew up in Sonoma County, living in the apple orchards, and everybody had farms, everybody was growing if not cultivating apples, grapes, vegetables, cannabis — so it was there, in front of me. And it really captivated me from the beginning when I grew my first plants.
When did it become a full-time job?
Officially, 2017, when it became fully legalized, was when it became a full-time thing.
What has the Atrium brand come to specialize in, and how did that happen?
Really our primary specialty is indoor cultivation. We definitely love outdoor cultivation, both full-sun, and greenhouse, and we currently have a couple of locations where we do that in Sonoma County, but our specialty is indoor. That all started with one of my first jobs out of college, which was selling fitness equipment. And the company that moved in next door was a hydroponic supply company. I became friends with the manager and got curious about it. It was new technology on the market and I found it really intriguing — a combination of science, technology, and dirt. That’s essentially what indoor cultivation is.
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Specifically when it comes to flowers, what is Atrium’s sweet spot?
Most of our flowers are indica-based right now. We have a few sativa-based varieties. But I think our main strength is focused around breeding. We’ve got, I think, the most amazing genetic library of call it 600 strains, and our breeding program is set up to take the best of that library and sift through thousands of seeds to find that one special phenotype. That’s truly where our skillset is. And in the past three years, we’ve brought six, exclusive, exotic strains to market that we bred in-house.
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What are your favorite parts about this job, growing and cultivating?
My favorite part is that every crop is a new opportunity to fully express the phenotype, to discover that new technique to bring about the maximum yield for that crop, and maximum yield of the terpene profile. When you hear about bumper crops, that means it’s a good year, a good season, and the most exciting thing for us is to really hit that bumper crop that checks all the boxes. It’s got to look amazing, it’s got to smell amazing. I would say the opportunity to do that four or five times a year is what really keeps us going.
The other thing would be the opportunity to create new strains and phenotypes — that’s really the most exciting thing that keeps us going.
What does a grower’s day look like?
A lot of hard work. The plants don’t take time off, and growers rarely do. A misconception is that a lot of people think it’s just a matter of putting it in the ground or put it under the light and it grows itself. It does not.
So my day: Early morning wake-up, grab some coffee, head into the cultivation room, check the moms, check all the babies. Checking temperature, checking humidity, checking CO2 levels. The rest of the day is spending time with the plants. Each plant at Atrium Cultivation gets individual attention, that’s really what we strive for. We’re a small-batch operation, and batches are set up to be managed by just a couple of cultivators at a time. Mass production is not really our ethos.
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What is Atrium’s most popular or unique strain?
It varies. People fall in love with different strains for different reasons. Some of our most exciting strains coming up would be the Juicy Gushy and Juice-Z — a strain that we bred with Juicy Gummy and the Zkittlez strain combined. We went on a pheno hunt with about 100 plants and when the Juice-Z came up it was an obvious winner internally with the cultivators. When you bring that product to market, you know when you’ve got a hit. It’s now slowly coming to market, SPARC’s got some of the newest batches, and it’s a fan favorite across the board.
Another great strain that everyone knows is the 92 OG. Our 92 OG is a special cut in terms of phenotypes. There are a lot of 92 OG strain cuts out there, but we have a special one, we like to say, that truly represents what an OG should be. It’s amazing.
Do you have a particular favorite flower?
I have many favorites. Sometimes it’s whatever I’m working on at the time. But if I had to choose one flower or strain type it would be the 92 OG.
What are you growing right now that you’re most excited about?
I’d say the most exciting strains right now would be the Juicy Gushy, the Juice-Z, the new White Gummy strain that’s out there. And what’s exciting about those is that those are newer strains and newer phenotypes. And so in our breeding cycle we’re still figuring those strain types out. Every strain has a different pattern of growing. OGs grow differently than White Gummies, and Juice-Z plants need different things that others don’t. Really figuring out those strains over time, how to advance the yields to truly bring out the terpene profiles on those strains is the most exciting thing we do on a daily basis.
I’d say the most exciting strains right now would be the Juicy Gushy, the Juice-Z, the new White Gummy strain that’s out there. And what’s exciting about those is that those are newer strains and newer phenotypes. And so in our breeding cycle, we’re still figuring those strain types out. Every strain has a different pattern of growing. OGs grow differently than White Gummies, and Juice-Z plants need different things that others don’t. Really figuring out those strains over time, how to advance the yields to truly bring out the terpene profiles on those strains is the most exciting thing we do on a daily basis.