In 2014 Weed World brought you the story of fledgling seed company, Mephisto Genetics. The company was founded by two English lads who had swapped the greyness of the north of England for the sunnier weather of northern Spain in order to chase their dream of making it in the cannabis seed game.
Mitch and Tim produce auto-flower genetics and have been growing an army of fans that can’t get enough of their great performing auto-flower varieties. You may know these guys for their big hit strains 3 Bears OG (a collaboration with Karma Genetics), Sour Stomper and Alien Vs Triangle, a pokey little number with a 25.4% THC count, combining two of Mephisto’s limited edition original strains.
Last time we featured Mephisto, Mitch and Tim were working all hours to establish themselves. Money was tight and necessity had forced them to explore a plethora of new DIY skills to make their mountain farmhouse HQ a viable centre of seed production. These included the homemade De-seed-a-tron 3000 v.20 device that knocked days off the process of shucking seeds.
The climate in northern Spain played its part too – with deep snow in the winter and savage mosquito clouds in the summer, with climactic variations bringing problems with mould, mildew and spider mites. Then there was the language barrier, the bureaucracy and the strains of living in isolation halfway up a mountain… We were curious to know how they were getting on two years later, so caught up with them recently at the Prague Cannafest expo for an update on their Spanish adventure.
So, how are things going, we asked? “Really well,” smiles Mitch. “Things are definitely moving in the right direction. Last time we saw you there was just Tim and myself, but now we have five people working for Mephisto which has made things a lot easier. It means we don’t have to work 24/7 anymore. I even took a week off for a holiday this year!”
Mitch is the man behind the distinctive Mephisto graphics that make this seed company stand out amongst a sea of samey imagery. His designs, featuring simple black and white cartoony farm animals, pop out and grab your attention. It’s a very British angle to be coming from and has helped to establish Mephisto as something a bit different. This company also comes up with some fantastically imaginative names – such as Chemdogging, Walter White and Toof Decay – which also adds to the unique feel of the brand.
Their growth as a company is testament to their resourcefulness and their marketing nous which has seen them work ‘free’ channels very effectively, whether this is social media or spreading word of mouth through forums and grow networks. Browse the comments of forum users and you get a real sense of appreciation for what Mephisto are doing and in the past couple of years they have become a more established seed brand in the UK. They are also a growing brand in Europe and have sent Mephisto seeds as far afield as Iraq, Thailand and Pakistan.
However, the game changer was hooking up with a distributor in the USA. “America has been fantastic for us,” says Tim. “We’ve met some great people who are very helpful and as a result it has kind of put Mephisto on the map, and certainly helped the business to grow.”
While the company has a strong brand identity and a successful marketing edge, it would not have grown without a stable of quality strains. From the start it has been this personal passion to grow “really good weed” that has guided their adventure.
Mitch also heads up the ‘project’ side of things at Mephisto, developing new strains, while Tim oversees seed production. “It’s all about turning strains we really love into auto-flower varieties. The pleasure comes from seeing the process and progression of the project through the generations.”
Typically, Mephisto seeds are the product of five generations of breeding and the quality of the lines is all about the selection process. “Typically a new project (variety) takes about two years to work through, so we are always thinking ahead. We have also made our reputation on the fact that we produce limited edition lines. We have never been interested in producing seeds in bulk.”
“Being a small team,” says Tim. “We’ve always just put our emphasis on making the best seeds not the most seeds, and not to overstretch ourselves when it comes to creating the product. In turn our customers notice a difference in quality and so then if we sell out of something we sell out, but that’s fine.”
“It’s like when you go out to eat,” Mitch chips in. “Do you want to eat at the best restaurant that specialises in one cuisine or do you just stop at the place that does pizza, chicken, kebab, Chinese etc all under one roof? I know which I prefer!”
Typical of this approach is their Artisanal Line, so limited that Mephisto pollinates as few as 3 plants for each of these special strains. New releases for 2017 include Auto Livers, Northern Cheese Haze and Creme de la Chem.
Leading cannabis strain database Leafly refers to Livers, also known as Blues, as a “mysterious clone-only strain” with a clear and uplifting effect. Can Mitch shed any light? “Livers is a favourite cut originating from Sheffield and renowned for being a breed unique to the city. It’s a hybrid that’s been around since the 80s and there’s a lot of debate about the origin. Some people say it’s Northern Lights crossed with Blueberry or an old phenotype of Skunk 1, similar to Cheese. However, unlike Cheese Livers has a more fruity flavour.” Auto Livers will bring a new slant to this legendary strain. “We like it because it is strong and has a really big taste, smelly as hell and a fantastic all-rounder when it comes to the grow room. It’s also got Northern roots so always good to rep our area!”
“We are really looking forward to the Creme de la Chem too,” adds Tim. “We have taken our existing strain Chemdogging (based on chemdawg then outcrossed to the chem4d cut) and re-worked it to be autoflowering again to lock down the best traits to the parent photoperiods. The result is a stable, high quality auto.”
Enjoying a beer outside at Cannafest, the evening has brought a drop in temperature and Mitch suddenly shivers. “This is tough,” he says. “Yesterday I was eating ice cream on a balcony in the sunshine!” Ah yes, of course, life in Spain. We ask if they are still enjoying the Spanish experience. “Absolutely. Spain is ideal for what we do. We have the space top work with that we could only dream about in England and the general tolerance of cannabis and the cannabis industry makes it a country that’s very conducive to what we’re doing. In our little area of Spain there are quite a few people involved in the industry and over the past two years we have become part of a little community, making some very good friends.”
These include the Dutch family behind Biotabs, a young company promoting 100% organic growing products. “We were using their products – their Biotabs are excellent – and we met them at Spannabis. We discovered they were based in northern Spain too. They had just moved from Holland and didn’t really know anyone so we started hanging out and have become really good friends. It makes a difference when you have some sense of community. You help each other out and it’s nice. We have good relations with our neighbours on the mountain too, although we keep meaning to learn some more Spanish.”
Do the Mephisto crew have any advice for other small breeders out there? “Work hard,” says Mitch. “Know the market, analyze what your competitors are doing and see what you can do better. Do something different, he something different and you’ll garner attention eventually. I think even since we started that the market has become even tougher and competitive. But if you have enough desire, put in the grind, blood sweat tears (inevitable), then it’s possible to do well. We’ve built our business solely on a great product and great service.”
So, what plans do they have for 2017? They are looking to establish an expo presence in order to reach out to less internet savvy consumers. Of course there will be new strains too, and maybe a book. “People keep saying we should write a book,” says Mitch. “We have so much experience with auto-flowers now that it would be nice to share that knowledge. And stories too. The whole Mephisto journey has been one big adventure and would definitely make for an interesting read!”
Originally published in Weed World Magazine Issue 127
- Mephisto Genetics – The story behind the beginning
- Mephisto Genetics – The next chapter