Meet Luke Riddell, A.M.A.’s newest team member
Luke Riddell has a serious passion for experimenting with plants and propagation. In his own words, he loves “anything with leaves.”
Now he is bringing that passion to A.M.A. and our customers, supporting our propagation and pre-fill programs, including Ellepots by A.M.A. and RootSmartTM. With a greenhouse technician degree and experience working with a wide variety of crops, he has got the know-how to support customer needs and that kind of tinkering curiosity that all growers seem to share.
“Propagation comes with important life lessons. You learn that everything has a purpose and that how we treat living things impacts their behaviour and development. You come to appreciate plants as the foundation of life on our planet and that there is so much about them we do not understand yet.”
As far as we are concerned, the more plant geeks the better. Welcome to the team, Luke! Get to know him a little more in this Q&A interview.
How did you get your start in horticulture?
Gardening with my father in the yard. I grew up in Pickering, Ontario, and we used to grow our own pumpkins in the back garden. When I was older, I started mucking about with houseplants and creating my own garden beds. Horticulture and cannabis cultivation became a focal point in my life and in 2014, I enrolled in the Greenhouse Technician program at Niagara College to be able to develop a systematic approach to cultivation on scale.
I really cut my teeth in horticulture when I landed position with Bedrocan Canada in 2016. Canada’s cannabis industry was just starting to boom at that time. Under the guidance of growers, I gained experience in everything from scheduling to fertigation to regulatory to propagation to consistency in crop cycling. And it was there that I really became fascinated with propagation and getting a healthy beginning.
What is it that fascinates you about propagation?
I love seed germination. Phenohunting new cultivars is like a form of prospecting. You can have one hundred seeds of the same variety, but there might be one in the pack that turns out to be something special.
The more you play around with seeds, you learn just how unique they can be. There are so many ways to start them and to nurture their unique traits. The possibilities of improving propagation processes and leveraging technology are exciting, too.
On top of that, propagation comes with important life lessons. You learn that everything has a purpose and that how we treat living things impacts their behaviour and development. You come to appreciate plants as the foundation of life on our planet and that there is so much about them we do not understand yet.
What do you do at A.M.A.?
I get to know the needs of our customers and connect them with our pre-fill and propagation programs. I find out what and how they are growing to help customize those programs and make sure they are well suited to their crop or their system. So for example, with Ellepots by A.M.A., I help growers pick the right plug size, paper and mix for their crop.
I also help manage the quality control. Checking soil and nutrient balance in our mixes to make sure we’re always delivering the best quality product to growers. Even small changes can impact plant growth so it’s important to pay attention and test regularly.
You’re the go-to guy for Ellepots by A.M.A. What do you like about this medium?
There is an Ellepot for every plant! They are incredibly versatile and I have not been stumped yet. For example, I have grown poppies in the past and they can be temperamental and tricky during transplant. But trying it with Ellepots, it is so much easier because you have the perfect size and conditions to improve mortality rates.
Plus, they are more sustainable than the alternative. They degrade, they reduce plastic use, and they reduce our carbon footprint because we produce them here in-house so they are locally sourced.
We know you like to experiment with Ellepots at home. Aside from poppies, what varieties have you been experimenting with lately?
Lately I’ve been focused on experimenting with plants that are native to southwestern Ontario. Anything native to Windsor area, I will be working to propagate and get planted around the city to encourage biodiversity and butterfly conservation.
|Variety||Ellepot by A.M.A.|
|American Lotus||60mm AirTray in Pond Mix|
|Kentucky Coffee Tree||RootSmart|
|Butterfly Weed and Common Milkweed||72 Deep Ellepots|
|Jack-in-the-Pulpit||72 Ellepot tray|
|Willow and New England Asters||50 Ellepot Tray|
And your favourite so far?
Sassafras. Love the smell!