MENDOCINO Co,, 4/17/19 — Cannabis distributor Flow Kana will be purchasing the Hopland property containing the Solar Living Institute(or EcoTerra), retail store Real Goods, and dispensary Emerald Pharms, a move first announced by Solar Living Institute founder John Schaeffer in an organizational newsletter on Tuesday. Schaeffer said that the cannabis distributor will bring expanded and revitalized services to the 41 year old solar energy organization. Flow Kana founder Michael Steinmetz said the company will primarily be operating as a landlord, with plans to help the tenants “grow and expand,” and that Shaeffer will stay on in an advisory role to assist with the transition at the site.
The non-profit Solar Living Institute, and the associated Real Goods business, are known for their storied 41 year long history in the solar industry, and Schaeffer is famous for having sold the “first PV [photovoltaic] module in the world” in 1978. In the announcement, Schaeffer explained that the solar organization had been “looking for a like-minded entity” for several years to “pass the baton.” For his part, Steinmetz said the two organizations’ “visions and missions are so aligned,” and noted his excitement about supporting the intersection of the regenerative agriculture, regenerative cannabis, and renewable energy industries, adding that “Mendocino has been a pioneer in these movements for a very long time.” The property currently houses the Solar Living Institute, the Real Goods retail store, and cannabis dispensary Emerald Pharms, all of which will be tenants, and also serves a demonstration center for sustainable building, renewable energy, and as an event rental. Flow Kana raised an additional $125 million in a new funding round in early 2019, but the price of the Hopland acquisition has not been made public.
Flow Kana is a cannabis distributor that offers post-harvest services to small farmers, including processing, packaging, and distribution to about 100 cannabis farms, who are primarily in Mendocino County and southern Humboldt. Since purchasing the 300 acre former Fetzer property in Redwood Valley, Flowkana has also opened facilities in Laytonville and Whitethorn, where farmers drop off cannabis to be graded, weighed, and tested. Cannabis is then taken for centralized processing at the Redwood Valley campus, called the “Flow Cannabis Institute,” which contains about 200,000 square feet of industrial space, including a restored saloon area. The distributor employs about 250 people overall, with about 140 in Mendocino and Humboldt. They have plans to expand into manufactured extracts such as cannabis oil and vape cartridges in the coming year, and claim to be the number one selling brand of cannabis flowers in the state, which includes farmers providing cannabis for Willie Nelson’s brand “Willie’s Reserve.” Flow Kana anticipates that two additional tenants at the Redwood Valley property, an Oregon-based testing lab and a Colorado-based manufacturer, will be operational later this year and provide services to cannabis businesses beyond farmers contracted with Flow Kana.
In an interview, Steinmetz explained the Hopland purchase, saying he had admired Schaeffer as a renewable energy pioneer prior to Flow Kana’s first purchasing the former Fetzer property, and that the two had developed a relationship that includes a shared vision for the site and a way to preserve and expand on Schaeffer’s legacy. He said there are no significant changes planned for this year, and that Flow Kana planned to develop both the Hopland property and their Redwood Valley property together, as well as make the spaces available for additional community use. Steinmetz also added that Flow Kana’s products are primarily sun-grown, sustainably farmed cannabis from small farms, saying, “the Solar Living Institute is an extension of who we are at Flow Kana — our farmers grow sustainably and organically, many live off-the-grid lives — it’s a physical manifestation of our mission, all coming together in one area.”
Currently, there are plans to restore some of the buildings on site in Hopland, continue and expand educational workshops and outreach, and make some of the renewable power demonstrations operational again, as well as highlight the intersection between the rewable energy and cannabis industries. In the newsletter, Shaeffer said future expansion could include a cafe and commercial kitchen, and a cannabis museum — which has long been a plan. Steinmetz demurred from committing to any specific expansions in 2019, although he said the company would work to build on Schaeffer’s vision, and work with the community and county government to explore what additional facilities might be needed. He emphasized that the location was already “a beautiful show garden and educational space,” but that its location was well suited to welcoming cannabis tourism to the county. Steinmetz added that Flow Kana currently has no plans to acquire other properties, but plans to use their recent influx of investment to complete the necessary improvements and renovations at their current sites, particularly the Redwood Valley property.
Investment in Flow Kana total $175 million as of publication, which they have touted as “the nation’s largest private funding round for a private cannabis company to date.” The company has had two rounds of funding, with significant monies from NY private equity firm Gotham Green, along with other individual private investors, which a Marketwatch article about the company’s finances states includes early Facebook investor Elevation Partners’ Roger McNamee. Steinmetz said while he had full autonomy over the company, the individual investors were well-vetted and “very value aligned,” and that he was “here to play the infinite game,” meaning he did not intent to sell but is focused on successful, long-term local investment. Noting his three week old first born had recently been delivered in Ukiah, he emphasized that he was “continuing to invest and support this community and this county…I’m setting my roots here for good, and this community is posed for so many great things.”