As a brand name, Amsterdam Genetics is about as accurate as it gets. Operating from Amsterdam, the Dutch capital and epicentre of global cannabis, AG have been cherishing and improving exquisite local genetics since 1985. Established by an alliance of the city’s illustrious coffeeshop legends, the AG team have unmatched experience and a keen sense for new genetics. This gives rise to world renowned strains such as White Choco, Super Silver Haze and Amazing Haze. We sat down with ‘Professor Harvest’ to discuss what they have seen and learned over three decades of cannabis breeding.
How did you get into breeding cannabis? Can you tell us a bit about your personal journey into the cannabis world…
Amsterdam Genetics has always been into breeding; or at least, for as long as anyone here can remember. It started back in 1985, when an elite team of Amsterdam coffeeshop gurus decided to make their cannabis wares available to the public as seeds. Over the years, our breeding expertise was compounded by experiences using strains and powerful new hybrids from around the world. That is how we ended up where we are today: at the heart of the Dutch breeding scene, with some of the most widely appreciated genetics in the world to our name.
How have you seen things change in this domain over time?
For one, there has been a shift away from breeding purely for higher THC content. Terpenes and flavour profiles became prominent factors for cannabis lovers, vendors, and growers alike. On top of that, recent developments in North America have unlocked an avalanche of exciting new genetics. These are great additions to our existing Dutch repertoire, enabling us to breed delicious new strains – a two-way process really, with winners on both sides of the Atlantic.
What are the best improvements that you have seen in cannabis breeding over the years?
We’re particularly pleased to see how autoflower strains have come along over the past decade or so. When they first started entering the market, yields were pretty poor and flavours were incomparable to photoperiod genetics. These days, autoflowers can be just as bountiful and tasty as their regular counterparts. That’s really helped beginners flock to the grower community.
What are the major challenges you have encountered along the way?
Many of the big challenges we’ve faced from square one are legal in nature. Sadly, the Netherlands has surrendered its guiding role in the global legalisation process. Progress has been slow here, so we are still dealing with a reality in which sale of cannabis and seeds is allowed in coffeeshops, while their production is still illegal. It’s a schizophrenic situation to be honest, but we’ve grown used to it. Nevertheless, we are still advocates of full legalisation and we keep fighting to get there someday soon.
What have been your major successes?
The sincere appreciation received from growers and smokers has always been our main measure of success. It’s just great to see how some of our classic strains like Super Silver Haze are still grown, smoked, and loved by a huge fanbase in Amsterdam and abroad. The same applies to super smash hits like White Choco; these are all ongoing success stories that keep adding to our latest innovations. I suppose an extra little ‘thank you’ to our dedicated fans is in place here!
What is your vision for the next ten years of breeding? What do you hope to see and what are you excited by?
As mentioned, we very much hope to see a move towards legalisation of home growing and professional breeding; not just in the Netherlands, but on a global level, too. It can be saddening to see other countries pass us by. But on the other hand, it is heartening to see like-minded cannabis quality enthusiasts carry on the struggle across the border. All the great new strains that keep popping up everywhere should be accessible to breeders and growers, no matter where they live. If that happens, I’m sure we’ll see an even bigger boom in exciting new genetics than what we’re witnessing today.
Everyone talks about the importance of good seed genetics – what do you consider the principle markers for good genetics? What traits are you breeding for?
Of course, yield matters to all growers. Still, the temptation of sacrificing quality to improve quantity is something we want to avoid. I personally don’t mind waiting for another six months or a year before perfecting a new breed. Fast results just don’t measure up to getting negative feedback from growers who are looking forward to our latest innovations. It’s tempting to just keep flooding the market with new crazes, but in the end, it’s our reputation for prime quality that makes us who we are.
Have yours and other people’s definition of what makes good cannabis genetics changed since you began breeding, and if so how?
This is a question we can answer in two ways. There’s just more connoisseurs out there these days, and so we see more growers looking for specific genetic backgrounds, terpene profiles and high-CBD strains. So basically, the definition of good genetics has broadened far beyond “maximum yield & maximum THC content”. On the other hand, there’s so many more breeders and vendors now than there were thirty years ago. Online purchasing and shared reviews have made it easier for just about anyone to figure out what genetics they want, and why. Basically, growers are more sophisticated and knowledgeable these days. We think that’s a good thing – we’ve done our share to help people grow their knowledge as well as our plants!
How do you know when you have hit upon a winner?
We have only one crucial indicator for determining true winners: customer feedback. Before any AG genetics are sold online, they are tried and tested by the clientele of the top Amsterdam dispensaries using our genetics. That’s a QC panel most seed banks can only dream of, so we always take their feedback seriously. You can bet these connoisseurs won’t lie or hold back in their opinions – we’ve known each other for quite some time, and our live field testers know that frank feedback benefits all parties concerned.
What do you not want to do when breeding? Can you tell us about a significant mistake you have made, or something you regret doing.
Of course, we’ve been making mistakes all along, if you want to call them mistakes. We’re working with nature here, so there’s always the chance things don’t head off in the intended direction. The point is that we take immediate and drastic action the moment we notice results are sub-awesome. That means pulling out the entire batch and going back to the drawing board for improvement. So in a sense, we make significant mistakes on a regular basis, but we don’t regret them. They’re our best chance at improving our game even further. It’s much like Bob Ross puts it: we don’t make mistakes; we just have happy accidents.
What are your favourite three strains that you have produced and why?
The first strain to come to mind is definitely White Choco. It’s just a classic in terms of customer demand at dispensaries. More importantly, growers just keep on asking for White Choco seeds. They’re robust, they get great results and they keep resonating with the Dutch and international growers. We’re all White Choco fans at heart here, to be honest.
Super Silver Haze is an evergreen in every sense of the word. It’s been a favourite in all Dutch coffeeshop for as long as we can remember and it just stays on top. It’s also a very forgiving plant, so it can take a few mistakes made by growers without losing its great yield or potency. Let’s just call it an all round champion.
Thirdly, we have to nominate Fatkid’s Cake, one of our latest strains. It’s not been around for long, but we knew we had a winner as soon as the first smoker feedback came in. Once the growers got their hands on these genetics, they were just as fired up about the initial results. We can’t predict the future, but we may well be looking at our new White Choc here…
What would you consider a good entry level strain for someone to try, and why?
For someone entirely new to the grower’s world, one of our autoflower strains would be a perfect start. We indicate growing difficulty on our website, so anyone can decide on the best match for their personal expertise. Autoflowering cannabis can really take the stress out of that first grow. Once people get that first harvest in, they’re usually hungry enough for more to try something more challenging for their next project.
Can you explain genetic stability, how you achieve it and why it matters?
Genetic stability will always be a factor, if only because we are all working with nature here. Stable genetics are ideal from a business viewpoint, but only in the short term. In the end, we have to appreciate that genetic diversity and a natural tendency towards change and mutation are what gave us the cannabis plant in all the diversity and robustness we see today. That said, we have arrived at a point in the Netherlands where we can finally employ enterprises licensed to perform tissue breeding. That’s a real game changer for people like us who have been all about quality genetics from square one.
We have also established close ties with one of the major players in the California scene. Incidentally, this partner has a strong a Dutch family background – talk about genetic stability, eh?
There has been a discussion on our blog about genetic instability contributing towards the more negative or unwanted effects of cannabis such as anxiety and paranoia. What do you think about this?
This is certainly a real factor in the industry. Fortunately, we are in a unique position to tackle these issues. All of our strains undergo extensive testing before they hit local markets. Once they do, we have four dispensary outlets around Amsterdam. If you know Amsterdam, you’ll see that we have one of the best panels of local connoisseurs at hand to ensure everything is tuned to perfection before our genetics go online for commercial purposes.
If you were to start breeding all over again knowing what you know now, how would you do things differently?
That’s a bit of a tricky one to answer, but we’ll give it a shot. It’s not so much about knowing more now than we did back then; we had a treasure trove of expertise in our team right from the start, even though we keep learning of course. Looking back, the main thing that comes to mind is how much fun it was getting to where we are today. It used to be trial and error all the way, which is extremely educational I can tell you. If we started over now, everything would be much less hush-hush and behind closed doors. That’s mainly because the sector and the local playing field changed over time. These days, everything is just easier to arrange. We are free to team up with legal businesses domestically and abroad. Starting over in present conditions might have saved us years of hard-won development. Then again, the opposition we overcame taught us so much more than smooth sailing could ever have done.
Everything we’ve learned along the way is now a treasure trove of valuable knowledge that we can share around. In the end, that’s one of the great things about the Dutch cannabis industry. Here, people just love to exchange their knowledge with fellow experts. It’s easy to trace that open-minded spirit of sharing back to the Dutch floral and horticultural sectors. I guess our national tradition of cultivating the finest crops on earth germinated a seed of cooperativeness that is still flourishing today!