Basic Info

Robert Flannery
Contributor Status:
Native AdVice
Initial Contribution Date:
Primary Location:
San Ramon, CA, USA

Career Info

Primary Industry:
Health, Wellness and Fitness
Personal Career Headline:
Founder, Dr. Robb Farms
Business Description (One-Liner):

The mission of Dr. Robb Farms is to provide quality, pesticide-free medicine to the California market. At our core, we believe that this plant and our product can help enhance the quality of life and health of our customers. We believe in using science to produce consistent quality medicine, and that by applying sound scientific methods we can create clean medicine that is measured and safe for the public to benefit from. Above all we believe using science allows us to be transparent, and to trust that we have created the safest quality product for our customers.

This is a product made with care, for the people we care about.

My Native AdVert

Career Snapshot:

I have a PhD in plant biology with an emphasis in environmental horticulture and a specific expertise in hydroponic crop optimization for cut-flower production in controlled environment agriculture from UC Davis, which I am very proud was recently voted as the #1 plant science school on the planet by US News & World Report. As the former Production Director of SPARC in San Francisco, I oversaw every single aspect of cannabis production for what was at the time the largest vertically integrated dispensary in the state of California.

I launched Dr. Robb Farms because of my mom. Plain and simple. After she was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer (she’s currently cancer-free), she wanted access to clean cannabis that was free of compounds like plant growth regulators and pesticides. Everything I had grown and I knew was clean was meant for smokable or vaping. This meant I was going to need to source clean edibles for her. Since I had seen what cultivators at the time were putting on their plants, I thought to myself, “Am I about to poison my mom?” That was the birth of Dr. Robb Farms. I knew that I had the expertise and experience to help others grow better, cleaner cannabis. I wanted to help others and spread some knowledge as well.

My Native AdVice

How did you get into the industry?:

I was working at a great company that was doing some very interesting work. The team I worked with was fantastic, my boss was great, the pay was decent; however, it wasn’t directly in my field of interest and expertise. My expertise really is around marrying quality and quantity in horticulture. One of my friends forwarded a job opening at SPARC in San Francisco for a Production Manager position. I decided to apply and very quickly received a callback to determine a time for an interview. It was the easiest interview I’ve ever had, but that’s not because the questions being asked were not excellent and pertinent questions for the job. It was because what the job entailed was exactly what my PhD was about. I knew more about this job than your average person. There is something truly satisfying when you are able to apply your education and expertise to a career so completely. Cannabis cultivation is nothing more than cut-flower floriculture (my PhD research was primarily paid for by the International Cut-Flower Growers Association). My work at SPARC was greatly appreciated, and I greatly appreciated them. It’s a great spot with lots of innovative thinkers. Could not appreciate them more.

Emerging industry trends?:

Right now, more than half of the states in the US have some type of legalization for cannabis. A recent poll suggests that 61% of Americans want to see cannabis legalization; however, if we ask “Would you like to see cannabis legalized for medical purposes?” vs. asking “Would you like to see cannabis legalized for recreational purposes?” we see very different results. We are still looking at cannabis in an antiquated way by bifurcating it into either medical cannabis or adult-use/recreational cannabis. Having said that, I am noticing a shift in way some people in the industry are looking at cannabis that I believe will spread into the general public in time.

As a cultivator, I do nothing different by growing “medical” vs. “recreational” cannabis. It is the same flower. The difference is that medical cannabis is typically associated with a diagnosed symptom (e.g. symptoms related to multiple sclerosis, cancer treatment, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, IBS, the list goes on and on). If you were to ask a “recreational” cannabis user why they use cannabis, the answers tend to be similar to the following: helps with going to sleep at night, need to destress after a long day, helps me cope with life’s hardships, it makes me feel good, it improves my relationship with my loved ones, etc. Ultimately, these are also medical reasons; however, they are not diagnosed medical reasons. These reasons are mostly addressing mental health issues, which is still a medical reason to consume cannabis.

The trend that I’m seeing is that people are beginning to accept that all cannabis consumption is medical regardless of whether or not it was purchased as “medical” or “recreational”.

Industry opportunities and challenges?:

The ideal reaction that I absolutely love hearing from our customers is that our products at Dr. Robb Farms really helped them with something that they’re suffering through. Nothing is nobler in my mind than providing some type of relief from anguish.

The perfect example of this ideal experience for me was around someone who reached out to me personally to learn more about our microdosing CBD tablet, Mom’s Formula. This individual informed me that they had never used cannabis before; however, they were very interested in trying Mom’s Formula to them with PTSD from surviving the Las Vegas mass shooting that occurred on Oct. 1st a couple of years back. That PTSD had manifested in increased anxiety and insomnia. This individual needed something to get their life back to as much normalcy as they could get. I decided to give them 2 months’ worth of Mom’s Formula for a trial run. I did not hear from them for a little over 2 months. I received an email that read as follows (paraphrased): “I did not think that Mom’s Formula was working for me until I ran out. I did as you instructed and took one tablet every morning. Each day after I ran out, my anxiety creeped back, and each night, I slept less. Where do I get more?”

These are the types of customer interactions that make me happier than anything. Here is an individual who suffered through a horrendous tragedy that had then manifested in anxiety and insomnia. I know that cannabis or Mom’s Formula is not going to eliminate that tragedy in that person’s life, but the fact that we could bring some relief to their life through what we’re doing at Dr. Robb Farms is about as amazing of an experience one can receive in this industry.

How do you motivate others?:

There’s a book by Liz Wiseman called Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter that really resonates with me. In her book, Ms. Wiseman refers to two basic ways managers manage people. You’re either a multiplier or a diminisher. If you take a meeting with a diminisher, you might walk out of the meeting and think to yourself, “Wow, he/she is the smartest person in the world.” When you walk out of a meeting with a multiplier, you may think, “I am the smartest person in the world.” I want and choose to empower people who I work with. I want them to take ownership in what they are working towards. I want them to make decisions. Yes, at any point, I could be unhappy with the result of a decision a team member made, but it doesn’t make sense to punish. Rather, let’s together discuss a better opportunity or outcome that we should come to together. Empowering your co-workers to work with you as opposed to for you makes a big difference to the types of people I want to work with.

Career advice to those in your industry?:

Cannabis is nicknamed “weed” for a reason. It grows like a weed; however, if you want to grow high-quality cannabis, it requires a lot more control and attention to details than people think. We at Dr. Robb Farms like to say that the difference between good cannabis and great cannabis are 1,000 tiny details. Also, cultivation regardless of the plant that’s being cultivated has inherent problems that are going to arise. The goal of the cultivator is to be able to mitigate those problems as quickly as possible.

Additionally, before I got into the cannabis industry, I had never heard of the term “Master Grower”. That’s not a term used in the horticultural/agricultural world. If you are coming into the industry on a larger scale and trying to impress someone whose background hails from a typical horticultural environment, claiming to be a “Master Grower” will have no effect on them because they likely have never heard of it.

What Else To Know

My Goal of the Day:

By the time I lay my head down on my pillow tonight, I want to have learned at minimum one thing that I did not know when I woke up this morning.

My Thought of the Day:

I want to be the dumbest person in the room. In other words, I want to surround myself by people who complement my weaknesses. There’s no point in me hiring smart people and telling them what to do. Hire smart people and have them tell me what to do.

My Action of the Day:

I say “I love you” to my family members every night before bed. I want their last interaction with me day to day to be a positive one and for them to understand that they are loved.

My Tip of the Day:

Every morning when I drop my daughter off at school, I say the same thing: “Work hard. Learn lots. Be silly, but always be kind.” That’s more of a reminder for me than it is for her.

My Pic of the Day:
Tell Us More:

My Pic of the Day:

Figure: Here’s a picture of me being a fanboy of some fairly amazing women in the cannabis industry at SXSW in Austin, TX. I had the sincere pleasure to speak at SXSW for a 2nd year in a row. Truly honored and humbled by the entire experience.


A Day in My Life:

What do you love most about Your City?

I currently live in San Ramon, CA. I very much enjoy it, but what I especially like about it is that it has a country feel while not being to far from an urban center. I’ve noticed that I like to live in a suburban or rural area with quick access to the city.

Favorite breakfast meal & restaurant?

I typically skip breakfast, but drink water or tea. This is not because I’m too busy to eat or anything along those lines. I like to make evidence-based decisions. There is a good amount of evidence that suggests that increased time between meals has a significant health benefit. I’m always interested in this type of science.

What are you doing at:

6:00 AMI usually wake up around this time, even if it’s not due to our little one waking us up.

10:00 AM I’m either in the gym or on a phone call or both.

12:00 PM – Favorite Lunch spot/meal? I don’t always eat lunch, but if I do, I enjoy a good Ph, this is especially so if I can order it with extra beef tendon.

7:00 PM – Helping the missus with putting our little ones to bed.

11:00 PM I’m usually asleep at this point. If I’m not, I’m likely watching science shows on YouTube.

What drink do you need to get through the day and at the end (and how many)?

I’ve always been a water or tea drinker. So, definitely water (since tea is primarily water anyway). Although I was told while visiting Germany to present on my PhD research that beer is 95% water, so…

Most used App/Favorite Instagram Account?

Duh. The Dr. Robb Farms Instagram account, of course.

What should everyone try at least once?

Bone Marrow! It’s delectable! Definitely my death row meal.

Where do you enjoy getting lost?

Probably my favorite place on the planet is the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains. Big McGee Lake is a very special place for me.

What Else to Know?

I was quite honored to be introduced to Dr. Drew Pinsky through a friend from high school and was asked to join him on his podcast. Dr. Drew interviewed me, and we had a great conversation about the cannabis industry and cannabis in general. That was a lot of fun, and I very much look forward to our next discussion…

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