Ben in Afghanistan in the 1970s, in a field of corn and tiny, barely-visible cannabis seedlings
Ben Dronkers, the founder of Sensi Seeds, has a passion for cannabis which dates back decades. By 1975 he was growing his first plants, and began saving any seeds he found in good quality weed. This soon became a dedicated effort to collect and categorise all cannabis seeds that came into his possession.
By 1978, Ben was working and studying with farmers, botanists and plant researchers in order to expand his knowledge of cannabis. One of his central conclusions was that genetic makeup is the most important part of any crop, even more fundamental than cultivation methods and land-use.
From the end of the Seventies until the mid-Eighties, Ben travelled the world, seeking out the best genetics, focusing on regions famous for their ancient cannabis traditions. His travels took him from Central Asia and the Hindu Kush to the Himalayas, down through the Subcontinent to Southeast Asia and around the tropics. In this period, Ben collected seeds from many superb genotypes – prized cultivars representing the best in Indica and Sativa.
Ben at the Kyber Pass in the mid-Seventies, with Afghan locals and border guards.
It was around 1984 that Ben’s passion for ganja moved from collecting to breeding. Using his extensive collection of Indica and Sativa seeds as a starting point, he began several cross-breeding programs in order to combine the genes of different cultivars into new cannabis hybrids.
In the early Eighties, the first examples of innovative, stabilised hybrids from the US were arriving in Europe. Ben was able to obtain these original genetics – including Haze and Skunk – making Sensi’s founder one of only three Dutch grower-breeders who had access to this first wave of US hybrids. The new genetics further strengthened and expanded the gene-libraries of all three breeders and also served as excellent templates for the cross-breeding process. In many ways, this influx of new genetic material was the final step required for the creation of new, world-class hybrids in Europe.
In 1985, the first incarnation of Sensi Seeds was founded – the Sensi Seed Club, also known as the Sensi Connoisseurs’ Club. The existing breeding programs were expanded and centralised, with enormous effort put into standardising the process of creating hybrids as well as keeping meticulous records of plant genealogy and interrelations.
Making stable hybrids relies on the ability to test-grow as many offspring as possible in each new generation, in order to assess how desired qualities are passed on and decide whether a strain is ready or needs more fine-tuning. Facilities which would allow this kind of testing were a priority and so 1985, when suitable premises were acquired, marks the true beginning of Sensi Seeds