Eden Water Tech is an industry leader in water treatment, irrigation and fertigation engineering solutions using their proprietary nutrient delivery system called The Paragon. Eden is also closely aligned with some of the most respected companies in cannabis production, such as FOHSE LED lighting, and Green Bros. Together these companies create ideal infrastructure for some of the most well known commercial grows in the United States.
With three generations of water pedigree, this is where Nik McCalligan is hired to simplify existing piping layouts that put a Catholic pipe organ to shame. If you have ever been in a European Catholic Church, then you know the excess piping I’m talking about here. Eden Water Technologies specializes in sophisticated engineering solutions for irrigation, fertigation, sanitizing, piping and water treatment for new and existing cannabis facilities.
Read on to get to know Nik better, and discover how his Eden Water team is changing the game on the water treatment/fertigation side of cannabis.
There is no set playbook for commercial cannabis and no two gardens will operate the same. Differing environments and plant genetics will require different nutrients and feeding schedules. When building a new cannabis facility, contractors will often use extraneous materials and excess piping to the heavens and back in an attempt to gain versatility from non versatile systems.
Many companies specializing in irrigation enter the cannabis space with experience growing in other fields. The methods they use to irrigate cannabis crops are very limited in the types of feedings that can be done on a daily basis. Most of these systems need batch tanks to adapt to their inability to achieve a lower flow rate needed for indoor applications. This approach leads to overgrown fertigation rooms and a menagerie of confusing piping in your facility. Although their adaptation of outdated equipment is effective, Eden believes there is a better way.
I sat down with Nik McCalligan and Chele Linford to learn how Nik came to specialize in cannabis irrigation/fertigation. Nik is Eden Water Tech’s president and the inventor of The Paragon fertigation system. Chele is the marketing and sales manager, and Nik’s long time girlfriend. They tell me Nik moved to Las Vegas from Wisconsin in 2015 on a whim. He had packed up his things, put his motorcycle on a trailer, brought his dog Marvin and a couple thousand dollars and headed towards Houston. About half way there he said “I’m going to Vegas!”. That split second decision ended up changing his life.
Nik has always been passionate about cannabis and he has a faded “will Wurk 4 Weed” leaf tattoo to prove it! After a couple odd jobs in Las Vegas, he landed a job with a water treatment company which happened to be the same company that sold their business in Wisconsin to his Grandpa in the 70’s. After a couple weeks of work the owner sold the business. As he was cleaning out his office he found old pictures of Nik’s Grandpa from a time that they worked together. With a lifetime of water treatment background Nik found his way up the ladder quickly.
Read on to learn about giving your buds the love they deserve.
What are your favorites?
Water? RO Water Food? Sammiches Cannabis? Not so much a favorite weed, but my favorite smoking device is the HunniBadger. Facility? There are so many! We love every one of our clients. I think the one we tend to talk about the most is Matrix because that is where it all started. Their facility has come a long way with our help. Music/Band? TOOL/Primus
What brought you to Phoenix today?
Lunch with Mikey from Cannabis Cactus! Also, I am here to visit some of our favorite grows in town. We have a few Paragons in town and we like to check in on them. We are also taking a new client to see the Paragon running at one of the biggest facilities in town, AYR. They are doing big things and have some of the best looking plants we have ever seen.
AYR took over that facility after we had already started work there. They had quite a few hurdles to overcome after the owner changed. It’s pretty freaking’ cool to see them running so successfully off the water system we designed for them. Not to mention they’re doing about 100 batches a day, multiple different recipes, on a single piping system and with only 1 Paragon. The results speak for themselves.
Who is Nik McCalligan?
While a lot of the Eden team was born in Vegas, I come from Wisconsin. From a long line of water treatment specialists. I’ve been doing water treatment since I was old enough to carry a toolbox. I was always running away from water as an adult, but when cannabis legalized I knew I found my place in the industry. When I am not working, you can usually find me working on the Tran (my truck/van), playing foosball, enjoying the lake or hanging with my girl and our dogs in my wood shop at home.
How did you and your biz partner Tony Lambright meet?
Tony and I met at our last place of employment. It is where I designed and built the first fertigation system that I brought to bizcon in 2016. I would come up with a challenge, and he would find the parts to make it happen.
Tony does a lot more than that at Eden though. Most days he is the glue of reason that holds this whole thing together. Although our relationship started at parts it has grown to much more than that. He is my best friend on a personal note, and on the business side Eden wouldn’t operate without him. HIs drive to advance water treatment mirrors my drive for better fertigation. As you have seen with the Paragon we make a pretty great team.
What does Eden specialize in?
I am a third generation water treatment specialist. When it comes to water, Eden as a team either has the answers or knows where to find them. We pride ourselves on our approach with our customers. Custom designing water treatment systems to fit the specific needs of the customer. Each facility is completely different from the next, with different needs. But without water you have no plants. We take that responsibility seriously. We can help with water treatment, fertigation piping designs, and we supply all the equipment for your irrigation.
What inspired you to build the Paragon fertigation system?
I can narrow that down to a moment. It was after months of a “fertigation” startup that never ended up working. The owner of the facility, recognizing my frustration, did a locker room pep talk encouraging me to get excited about this industry. He saw the drive and potential in me, and knew that I could make a system that actually worked. So I got excited. Matrix is the facility, and we have since blown that original system to bits and replaced it with a Paragon. It is fantastic what a journey we have all been on. Learning and growing together. It has always been these relationships that have driven me to develop new systems to help improve their lives.
When Tony and I were at our past employer, cannabis was still just weed. People would ask for a pump but not tell you what it was for. This led to systems that although functional were terribly inefficient. We started asking questions. “What fertigation do you have?” “What do you like about it?” “What don’t you like about it?” “What do you wish it did?”
We built the Paragon because the industry was lacking the precision needed to learn the best practice for growing cannabis. After building a $250,000 system that someone else designed it was clear that there was room for development. Massive price tags on systems that don’t have flow meters, whose injection systems aim for a 15% margin of error, which don’t have flexibility to change the watering dynamics during the day and don’t forget the endless footprint of batch tanks.
The Paragon system only takes up about 8 ft² which allows the grower more room for plants. It feeds based on water volume not minutes. It can functionally achieve 300 unique combinations of 18 different nutrients in a day. And a completely different 300 recipes the next day. Don’t worry, it’s not mandatory, we can also send one recipe a day really accurately.
The difference of The Paragon is that every other fertigation system, unless customized, can only run six or eight nutrients. A typical line like Athena, Front Row AG, or General Hydro require around six nutrients. So if you’re running a six part Athena recipe, but you want to try a six part Front Row, you have to flip your whole facility or hand mix for a subzone. The Paragon allows you to run multiple lines at the same time. You’re able to batch Front Row for zone one, and Athena for zone two, sequentially. It’s pretty cool.
Why “#!@% batch tanks”?
We did a podcast with the Fohse team recently. We wanted to grab people’s attention with that as the title. The truth is, some applications need tanks. We can design a water and piping system for that as well. Eden has walked and worked in a ton of facilities. There isn’t a method or system we haven’t seen. If your facility needs tanks we can design the most efficient system to use them. My first few systems required tanks, and there is a tank or two out there being fed by the Paragon.
With a majority of cultivations using 6-8 recipes, using batch tanks can really add up. Taking away a lot of cultivation space, and costing you a lot more too. Each tank needs a pump and its own dedicated piping. The costs add up really quick, and don’t stop there. I always say that batch tanks are never going to be as good as they are on the first day. It starts getting worse from there. With the Paragon, it just keeps getting better every day.
Really though, who the hell likes cleaning batch tanks?
What is your favorite part of your job?
I like to see new grows. Walking around a facility with a customer to see what they have come up with for fertigation. Most times we can find a way to optimize their existing system. The conversations while getting to know a new facility are the best. Many times it is their first time talking about water with anyone that knows what their needs are. That is what we are here for.
Although I am proud of them and their accomplishments and engineering. It is sad to me that my industry forces them into that corner. Why can’t my industry provide systems that work and suit the needs of the clients? Some of these companies sell pumps for batch tanks that are “for clean water only” and don’t get me started on pump curves and cast iron. It really makes my day being able to have an intelligent conversation with someone and sometimes educate them about the hows and whys of their system. More times than I care to remember I have had the conversation to discard a massive four million dollar fert system because 10 gpm in miles of 4” pipe is a really bad idea for cannabis. Someone got paid those dollars, why doesn’t the system work? I try to live by “if I can do better I should” it would be great to see more competitors take that approach. As a side note. If you have to walk down the hall to change a manual valve to select a different recipe for the zone, it isn’t automation. All those stagnant lines are doing a disservice to your plants.
In your off time, what do you and your team like to do?
The Eden team is really the best. It is funny to think of off time. We would just talk about work more. Our work day typically ends at 4:20pm, we smoke a joint, and everyone tends to stay late. Foosball games, shenanigans and laughs. We all really get along and often see each other on weekends too. I enjoy woodworking. Thom is a great mechanic with endless projects, Chele likes lake days and taking pretty pictures, Maui D does hockey with his boys, Thim enjoys bumping his stereo. Tony and I set out to be the bosses that we would want to work with, the Eden family we have reflects that.
What is the biggest challenge you face
It’s challenging to convince people to try new things. A lot of people want to hang on to the methods they have always used, change can be hard. When you are scrolling through instagram and see all these pipes and pumps, while the piping may look pretty, it’s not necessary. I see so many new facilities going up, with clearly no water treatment specialists helping guide them. Educating people is the only way to get past that. Grandma’s old pool pump and schedule 40 piping do not have any business feeding plants in a commercial grow. We can help anyone find the right equipment to get their facility running smoothly and automated.
What is next for Eden?
Just like every other day, try to take over the world.
It’s our goal at Cannabis Cactus to give growers information and ask the questions needed to produce the highest yields and the happiest plants. If you’re ready to learn more about The Paragon, and water treatment, contact the Eden Water Technologies team today. If you have a small home grow and want to ask about automation on a smaller scale, reach out to Eden Water Technologies. Nik and Chele are some of the nicest folks I have met in the cannabis industry and that seems to be a running theme among our sponsor companies.
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