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mike rosati

Going on a Pheno Hunt with Compound Genetics

Chris Lynch of Compound Genetics breaks down the epic pheno hunts that allow him to create his celebrated strains.

After a monster 2021 where Compound Genetics picked up more steam than arguably anybody in Cannabis, 2022 looks to be even crazier. 

Last December saw one of its biggest seed drops at The Emerald Cup with the Apples and Bananas line, as well as the premiere of the flowers they’d been working to get to market after years of development. 

The star of the show for the flower launch was Jokerz #31. With all the heat they’ve found over the years and dynamic varying flavor profiles, the White Runtz x Jet Fuel Gelato pairing reigned supreme. It was first hunted down at one of the grows Compound works with to do big propagations they don’t have room for in San Francisco. In the two years since the pheno hunt that found Jokerz #31, it has been tested and retested–always continuing to be wildly exotic Cannabis. 

The work currently going into 2022 started long before the calendar hit January. Compound Genetics’ Founder Chris Lynch noted he has a lot of strains that are doing well in the market right now and he’s planning to work those Jokerz, Pave, and Apples and Bananas lines even further. “[We’re] incorporating new tricks, new profiles,” Lynch told Leaf Mag. “And then having the collaboration with Berner will help get those out there. He sees strength in the building blocks we’re working with too.”

These efforts will require large-scale pheno hunts to find the best versions of whatever Lynch comes up with. But what is a pheno hunt? Not all plants are the same, and a pheno hunt is about finding the best expressions of the seeds from the particular pairing of genetics. First, Compound will pop the seeds at a larger partner facility. In the process, they’ll take cuttings so they’ll have whatever ends up winning at the end. The second round will feature all the ones that are still in the running. In some cases, that number could be a few… in other instances, it might be 80 plants from 10 strains. That will whittle the number down further and they’ll run them again to make sure the first two weren’t a mistake. Maybe a little bit under a year from when the first seeds were popped, just how commercially viable the end results are should be evident.  

Just like parents can have a child that can slam dunk and one that can’t walk straight, not all the seeds are going to be a home run. The ultimate hope is finding a true outlier of the plant’s expression. Most of the seeds in the pheno hunt will lean towards one of the parents, but in the middle where it’s harder to decipher the characteristics, you can find the real magic and flavors you’ve never seen before. Outliers have the most differentiation from the expressions of the parents people are most familiar with. 

Compound Genetics works with a few partners to try and hunt down that magic–to the extent that Lynch’s title is Chief Executive Wizard. As for what he’s looking for, Lynch noted advice he received from MAC breeder, Capulator: “He told me, ‘Just do what you think is going to be hot and just follow your taste. And if people like it, they like it. And if they don’t, they don’t.’”

Compound Genetics Chris Lynch
Photo by Mike Rosati

One plan for the breeding work of 2022 is to move away from Gelatos. It’s not that it isn’t timeless, Lynch just wants to offer consumers new flavor profiles. When asked if he was ever concerned about the way hype moves certain strains, and how it could lead to narrowing down the genome, Lynch agreed. “We need to open it up,” he said. 

One thing new for 2022 and the Compound Genetics team is their exposure to a higher level of scrutiny. The seeds have been heat for years and many have had success with the line, but with the flower they’ll have access to a much larger consumer base. “Where we’re at, we’re trying to move methodically, strategically,” Lynch said. “Make sure everything is tested thoroughly in multiple runs and checks all the boxes. I anticipate the scrutiny, it comes with the game… take it slow, as long as you stay true to your core values and the things that got you where you are… don’t forget those things.”

With the new flower line dropping, we mentioned that Lynch might have to tell some of the A-list rappers he’s been collaborating with like Berner from Cookies, Wiz Khalifa, and Quavo from Migos that he’s keeping the new family jewels. Lynch laughed at the sentiment, but didn’t deny it.

Lynch currently has a few major projects in the works, on top of three planned seed drops this year. The first is California’s Wine Country–where one of the farms Compound works with is hunting down new males to help Lynch freshen things up. Solid studs are a critical part of any genetics company and plenty have been built off of one good male over the years. Lynch hopes to collect a few rockstars with the traits he’s wanting to carry on into future generations of heaters. 

Back in San Francisco, the pollen is flying right now. This includes some Zkittlez crosses sure to get the universe excited. Lynch also plans on tapping into the genetics he fell in love with during his adventures in Amsterdam. This effort will feature a variety of Cheese crosses to keep an eye out for. 

2022 will also see the Compound show hit the road. While people are already growing Lynch’s gear in every legal market, the plan is to personally bring the Jokerz #31 into a few new states – the first two markets being Florida and Michigan.

mike rosati

compound-genetics.com | @compound_genetics

Photos by @rosatiphotos

This article was originally published in the March 2022 issue of All Magazines.

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