In a move that’s generating intense alarm among hydroponics retailers and the cannabis grower community, Scotts Miracle-Gro is in the process of buying Sunlight Supply, the hydroponics distributor with a majority North American control of wholesale-supply grow lights, hydroponics nutrients, and gardening supplies.
Scotts is reportedly shelling out $450 million for the acquisition of Sunlight Supply, who in 2017 sold nearly half a billion dollars’ worth of gardening supplies, while Scotts front company Hawthorne Gardening claimed close to $300 million in sales last year.
Scotts’ acquisition of Sunlight Supply on behalf of Hawthorne Gardening is part of its ongoing corporate takeover of the hydroponics industry, an attempted monopoly that started in 2015, when Scotts purchased General Hydroponics.
Since then, Scotts has spent hundreds of millions of dollars buying up hydroponics manufacturers and other segments of the grow shop and grow supplies industry.
Scotts and Hawthorne currently own big-name brands including General Hydroponics, Botanicare, Gavita, Can-Filters, Black Magic, Whitney Farms, Vermicrop Organics, Root Farm and Ecoscraps.
And there are credible reports suggesting that Scotts and Hawthorne are buying hydroponics grow shops in the most lucrative cannabis-growing regions of North America.
Scotts Miracle-Gro And Hawthorne: Bad For Grow Shops & Growers
Grow shop owners, hydroponics manufacturers, hydroponics distributors, environmentalists, social justice activists and anti-monopoly advocates have long warned about Scotts and Hawthorne, in part due to Scotts Miracle-Gro chairman and CEO Jim Hagedorn, who has explicitly stated that he wants total control over the hydroponics industry in the most aggressive way possible.
In a 2016 story published by Forbes, Hagedorn likened the gardening business to warfare and sexual assault, readily admitting, “Today the way wars happen, you don’t get to keep all the stuff. To me this is one where in commercial combat you kind of rape and pillage, and you keep all of the stuff.”
When one company controls major hydroponics nutrients and equipment manufacturers while also controlling hydroponics distribution channels, it greatly impacts and harms rival hydroponics distributors, grow shop owners and growers.
Indeed, Scotts and Hawthorne are now in a position where they can control which hydroponics nutrients and equipment brands are available to grow shops, thus limiting buyers’ choices, which causes prices to rise and forces growers to purchase inferior products that decrease crop yields and quality.
Grow shop owners are also concerned that Scotts, Hawthorne and now Sunlight Supply will expand the sales of grow supplies at discount stores such as Home Depot and Walmart. There are already reports of price wars, undercutting, and independent hydro stores going out of business because they can’t compete with corporate chains like Home Depot.
An Early Warning About Monopoly Hydroponics Takeover
BigMike Straumietis, founder and owner of Advanced Nutrients, predicted the Scotts corporate monopoly takeover seven years ago, some three years before Scotts had created Hawthorne.
As the originator of the only hydroponics nutrients company that makes nutrients and supplements specifically designed to boost cannabis productivity and potency, BigMike was hearing whispers that Scotts Miracle-Gro intended to bring its ruthless business practices to the hydroponics industry.
In 2011, BigMike publicly stated that Hagedorn, a former military fighter pilot, had likened business to warfare and economic violence.
And as Hagedorn made good on his threat to invade the hydroponics industry, BigMike urged the grow shop, grower and hydroponics manufacturing communities to come together to resist corporate takeovers.
BigMike’s concerns about Scotts Miracle-Gro aren’t based just on the fact that Scotts and Hawthorne can take away freedom of choice, punish retailers, and force its inferior brands upon growers.
He also expressed concern that the Scotts Miracle-Gro Company is a federally convicted corporate criminal engaged in a long-term major business relationship with GMO and chemical giant Monsanto.
Certainly, Scotts and Monsanto have a well-documented history of nefarious activity that includes harming the environment and human health, colluding with the Drug Enforcement Administration, selling the controversial herbicide Roundup — and worse.
Hydroponics Retailer Provides Insider Facts About Scotts’ Strong-Arm Tactics
Hydroponics store owners were already complaining about coercive tactics used by Scotts and Hawthorne, and are now growing increasingly concerned about Scotts’ purchase of Sunlight Supply.
“Sunlight Supply has long had its own near-total monopoly that hurts grow shop owners,” says one California grow store owner, who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to his fears of corporate retaliation. “Hawthorne is also a problem and it’s going to be a lot worse now.”
The grow retailer explained that Hawthorne has been known to pressure grow shop owners to disproportionately promote Hawthorne brands including General Hydroponics, Botanicare and Gavita.
“They threaten to cut off your ability to buy Hawthorne brands unless you push Hawthorne brands,” he says. They kind of demanded that I stop carrying Advanced Nutrients if I wanted continued access to Hawthorne brands. Now, Sunlight Supply will act as an enforcer for Hawthorne, threatening to cut off grow shops that carry rival brands.”
The hydro store owner adds that in every product niche that Hawthorne and Scotts compete in, he can suggest far better products that aren’t made by Hawthorne or Scotts.
“There are superior grow lights and grow bulbs [to] Gavita, better grow-room air filtration than Can-Filters, and better hydroponics nutrients than General Hydroponics and Botanicare,” he continues. “I don’t want Sunlight Supply telling me what I can sell, or demanding, as Hawthorne has already done, that I give premier shelf space and store promotions to Hawthorne products, or else I’ll be cut off.”
Sunlight Supply wholesale distributes the majority of grow shop supplies, the retailer explains. If he’s forced to choose between getting rid of product diversity and grower choice versus being exiled from purchasing supplies from Sunlight Supply, he would likely choose to close his shop instead of operating in a “hostile corporate environment being extorted by Sunlight Supply to sell schwaggy Hawthorne products to growers.”
Sunlight Supply: A Long History Of Dissing Cannabis Growers
Hydroponics nutrients pioneer BigMike notes that Sunlight Supply has a long history of hostility toward the cannabis community, despite the fact it has always made the vast majority of its profits from cannabis growers.
“Twenty years ago, when I was a hydroponics grow shop owner and hadn’t yet founded Advanced Nutrients, Sunlight Supply was hard to work with and extremely disrespectful of the marijuana grower community,” BigMike recalls. “When I told them and nutrients companies that they needed to upgrade their products to make them better for pot growers, they scoffed at me and my customers.”
Over the years, Sunlight Supply and its industry allies continued to disrespect cannabis growers. When BigMike created Advanced Nutrients and became the only hydroponics manufacturer who publicly stated that his company’s products were for cannabis growing, Sunlight Supply refused to distribute Advanced Nutrients.
“They tried to put my company out of business. And it wasn’t just that they refused to distribute our products,” BigMike says. “They also tried to pressure storeowners not to sell our products, and used many dirty tricks attempting to put us out of business. Like Scotts, economic violence has been their corporate model.”
BigMike points out that Scotts’ owner Hagedorn, Sunlight Supply founder and CEO Craig Hargreaves, and other industry profiteers have no experience growing cannabis and that their only goal is to exploit growers for profit.
“They’ve never been an authentic part of the cannabis community,” he insists. “They’re vultures who swoop in to profit from us.”
The California grow retailer agrees with BigMike that Scotts, Hawthorne and Sunlight Supply are interested in profits at the expense of grow shops and growers.
“Hagedorn said he made sure not to disrupt the hydroponics industry as he created and expanded Hawthorne. But disruption is exactly what he’s deliberately created, and it’s solely for the benefit of his greedy motives,” the store owner says. “The way a lot of us see it, Hagedorn wants to be the McDonald’s of the hydroponics industry. It’s a junk-food approach.”
For his part, BigMike is sad that his prophecy about an attempted corporate takeover is coming true. He says he’s hopeful that grow shop owners, cannabis cultivators, hydroponics manufacturers, and independent hydroponics distributors can resist Scotts and Hawthorne — and keep the industry both dynamic and diverse, rather than an oligopoly controlled by one outsider mega-corporation.
“Boycott all Hawthorne and Scotts brands, across all product spectrums,’ BigMike suggests. “Encourage grow stores to resist corporate pressure, and be loyal to your local grow store. Buy hydroponics supplies made and marketed by people who care about putting a smile on your face every harvest.”