Scaling up: Small scale cannabis takes on a big greenhouse project

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Courtesy of Lift Magazine

As the Canadian cannabis industry expands to meet growing demand, finding new production space can be a challenge for any licensed producer or applicant.

But just finding space, by either using existing infrastructure or building a new facility, is only one part of the more complex challenge of learning how to scale up cannabis production from what has traditionally been a relatively small scale and largely indoor industry in Canada to a size more comparable with other agricultural products.

A large component of scaling up is preserving the quality of small-scale growing with the efficiencies of large, commercial scale production methods—ideally marrying the knowledge of those who have been growing quality cannabis for medical purposes for years with those who possess an understanding of growing high-quality crops on a commercial scale and managing the people and systems required to do so.

One example of this process is Victoria, BC-based Emerald Health Therapeutics’ agreement with Village Farms International, a large scale vegetable producer and distributor with nearly 5 million sq ft of greenhouse space in Delta, BC.

Emerald Health Therapeutics’ operating subsidiary, Emerald Health Botanicals (formerly Thunderbird), was licensed for production and sale of medical cannabis in early 2014, and obtained the first license on Vancouver Island, running a small-scale operation of a few thousand square feet in Victoria. Their lead grower and VP of production, Traviss Graham, has been growing medical cannabis since the introduction of Health Canada’s MMAR (Medical Marijuana Access Regulations) in 2001 and has experience with indoor, outdoor and greenhouse facilities on a relatively small scale.

Village Farms, on the other hand, has over 100+ acres of greenhouse facilities on the BC mainland, about an hour south of Vancouver, with decades of experience producing high-quality produce as well as managing employees and systems, but with no experience growing cannabis.

These two companies can very well impact the direction of the future of the cannabis industry, not only in Canada, but around the world. Moving cannabis from small scale, largely indoor production to large-scale greenhouse production will allow cannabis producers to meet a growing demand as Canada’s medical cannabis program continues to grow, not to mention the expected demand for non-medical users as Canada passes regulations to legalize its sale.

Part of this increased need in the medical cannabis market is not just for the traditional dried flowers or buds, but also the increase in demand for cannabis oils. Large scale production of cannabis can allow for the large scale production of cannabis oils at the greatest efficiency, and greenhouse production offers the potential to drive down costs by taking out the need for expensive lighting and cooling systems found in indoor growing systems.

By bringing together a leading grower with nearly two decades of experience growing and breeding high-quality cannabis with a grower with an understanding of operating and managing large-scale commercial growing facilities, companies like Village Farms and Emerald Health have an opportunity to bring cannabis not only out of the basement and into the light,

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