We spoke with DryGair's Hadar Fuchs-Rubal to learn more about the company's equipment, origin story, and mission to eliminate Botrytis and other contagions from growing areas, as well as the changing legal status of cannabis in Israel.
By Dave Kaplan
What is DryGair's origin story?
DryGair was co-developed by DryGair Energies in collaboration with the Israeli Agricultural Research Organization (The Volcani Center). DryGair equipment was derived from advances in the scientific field—namely, thermodynamics principles research. These concepts serve as the foundation of our equipment. Our technology was created to ease and help facilitate cultivate operations around the world. Humidity isn’t an issue that solely affects cannabis; it’s a problem for all crops. Too much humidity can ruin whatever you are growing and that can be very costly, even ruinous, for cultivators. Humidity solutions and controls have existed for years, prior to the formation of DryGair. However, most of these solutions are not effective or environmentally friendly. They often consist of venting cold air into the growing room from an outside source. With DryGair dehumidifiers, growers are able to effectively automate their growing room humidities and temperatures, both individually and together, without wasting energy or racking up significant expenses in the process.
Why did the Volcani Center want to partner with DryGair Energies?
Both DryGair and The Volcani Center were concerned with reducing energy costs, so it was a natural fit. Energy costs are a major issue for cultivators and farmers alike. If you can separate treating the humidity from treating the temperature in a growing room, you can save more than 50% of your energy costs. This was something we wanted to achieve from the onset with our equipment. The Volcani Center recognized that we had the same goal and wanted to create technology that would affect this change. We were successful. When placed in a growing room, DryGair has been proven to reduce these energy costs drastically. Our other goal was to increase yields with our technology and that also appealed to The Volcani Center. With our dehumidifiers, cultivators don’t have to throw away diseased crops or plants infested with mold and mildew. That means more product. And because the growing conditions are constant, cultivators are able to produce the same high-caliber crops every harvest.
Can you break down how DryGair’s dehumidifiers work?
Our dehumidifiers take the air from the center and the bottom of a growing space and then condenses it. For every 1 kilowatt of energy invested in the operation, more than one gallon of water is removed from the air. That water is funneled out of the facility. That less-humid air is then circulated over the canopy layer of the plants in an umbrella shape. The result is a uniform, optimal climate everywhere inside the growing space.
Are most of the medical cultivators you work with in Israel or in North America?
When we first entered the sector in 2012, we worked exclusively with Israeli cannabis cultivators. We started working in Israel and Europe and it wasn’t until somewhat recently—2016, I believe—that we started approaching the North American market. That’s when we attended our first U.S. trade show. Soon after, an Oregon medical cannabis cultivator put our machines in their greenhouse and within a short period of time, our dehumidifiers were being used by more American and Canadian grow ops.
Does DryGair have a considerable amount of dehumidifier competition?
Not really. We see more and more competitors as the cannabis industry grows, but most of them produce industrial units, which tend to not be very compatible with most cannabis cultivation facilities. These units are mostly meant for homes, shopping centers, etc. Ours is designed specifically to be used in greenhouses for agricultural purposes. They also tend to be quite expensive compared to our units. Those factors give us a gigantic advantage over our competition. It’s why our units are so highly sought after. DryGair sells several different dehumidifiers.
What are the differences between the units?
The main difference is the dehumidification capacities for each unit. The ratio of energy used to water removed from the air is always the same, as is the air circulation. The only difference is the amount of water that each unit can remove from the air. The growers operating out of smaller facilities don’t need our standard units; their uses are better suited to our smaller units. The same concept applies to cultivators operating out of commercial growing facilities. They will need our standard unit or several units. Companies can consult our unit comparison guide to identify which of our dehumidifiers would best suit their needs but if they contact us, we will send them a questionnaire to complete. From that data, we can estimate which unit would work best for each grower.
What type of product support does DryGair offer?
We offer to teach growers how to use our equipment in the most efficient way when they first purchase it. We help them create their climate operation protocol, integrating DryGair with other tools. That service is free.
What are the benefits of controlled humidity in a greenhouse?
There are so many. Firstly, controlled humidity prevents several crop diseases, such as botrytis, downy mildew, and Alternaria. These diseases don’t only affect crops. When ingested, they can do serious harm to consumers, especially those who are consuming cannabis for medical reasons. Secondly, controlled humidity prevents yield losses, which means more product—and ultimately, more profit—for growers. Additionally, it eliminates the need for fungicides and boosts energy savings.
What is botrytis and how do DryGair’s dehumidifiers help to prevent it?
Botrytis, AKA grey mold, is a super contagious type of fungus that damages and ruins crops. Once it hits one section of your plants, it can spread everywhere in your growing area in a matter of hours. With cannabis, you have leaves and very dense flowers, and within these flowers, there are more leaves that create moisture. That moisture gets stuck inside the buds, creating the type of very humid area that breeds botrytis. When the botrytis mixes with spores in the air, it spreads everywhere like wildfire.
What has your impression been of the cannabis trade show and conference attendees you have come across?
It’s truly amazing. When we first started attending the shows in 2016, it was mainly the cannabis growers who grew illegally for the black market that were in attendance. Those people really know the plant. They understand how to get the most out of the cultivation aspect, but not necessarily how to commercialize it on a grand scale. We still see those types of growers today, but we now also see a lot of growers that have switched from growing produce and flowers to cannabis. We also see a lot more professionals: lawyers, investors, insurance salespersons, medical professionals, entrepreneurs, etc.
What was your journey from university to the position you currently hold?
I studied at the Hebrew University, where I got my Masters degree in agriculture and environmental economics. After school, I worked for a consultant company that focused on solving government environmental issues and agricultural problems that private companies were encountering. About six years ago, DryGair hired me as their economics and marketing manager. I did that for a few years. When the company grew and expanded its sales into North America, we needed someone to oversee all aspects of that market: business development, marketing, technical issues, sales, etc. I was chosen for that role and I’m glad I was because I truly enjoy the job and everything that comes with it.
What’s your favorite place you’ve traveled to in North America so far?
Usually, I spend at least 1-2 weeks in North America every two months so I’ve seen a good portion of the continent, and I enjoy so many of the places I’ve traveled to. My favorite is probably any of the places I’ve traveled that have mountains, such as Oregon, California, or British Columbia.
What are the general and political attitudes toward recreational cannabis in Israel?
We’re getting there. I don’t know if you’re up to date with the political situation here but we’re now in election time and surprisingly, in our small country of Israel, the main subject being discussed is not national security or energy or even the environment. The main issue is cannabis legalization! It’s amazing! The idea has overwhelming support among Israel’s citizens and all of the main parties here are pro-legalization—even the prime minister! Cannabis is no longer taboo here; it’s a very exciting time.
If you could eat one type of food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
That’s easy. I would eat pasta for every meal. It doesn’t matter what type of pasta, as long as the sauce is good! I’m getting hungry just thinking about it!