Canada: Puslinch growers look to use new technology to increase cannabis production

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It looks like an ordinary business to the casual observer, inconspicuously situated in a Puslinch business park. But inside, thousands of cannabis plants are being grown in a new way.

With legalization of recreational marijuana coming next week, CannTX is one of many new cannabis companies coming online, looking to meet the demand. Inside are the traditional grow rooms — eight of them, in fact — each sitting at about 1,500 square feet, and able to fit 1,350 plants per room.

However, Buck Young, the company’s general manager, says this is just the beginning — and it all comes down to new technology. Aside from the grow rooms, the facility has a 5,000-square-foot micropropagation room. The biosecure room — which means the Mercury Tribune could not peek inside during its visit last month — allows CannTX to produce clones of plants, which can then be sold to other growers in the industry.

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“All these licenced producers that are looking to expand their capacity…we can be a partner with them and provide them with a source of certifiably disease-free plantlets,” Young says. “Those little cuttings turn into new plants. It takes up a tenth of the square footage, and labour and energy is greatly reduced.”

Young adds that this model is already in place in other businesses. “In the greenhouse industry, this is standard practice. If you’ve got a 100-acre greenhouse, a couple of 18-wheel trucks pull up in February, unload, and that’s all your plants for the year,” he said.

“With cannabis, it’s a bit more tricky with the staged production cycle.” With smaller plants, this also means CannTX will be able to grow more cannabis — a lot more cannabis.

Those eight grow rooms that can hold 1,350 plants each? Young said that, with this new technology, that would go up to four plants per square foot, or 6,000 plants per room.

Young, along with Jeff Scanlon, the company’s vice-president of operations, showed off what they dubbed the “Million Dollar Room.” Sitting at 30 by 16 feet, or about 500 square feet, the two said that it would be able to make about $1 million worth of cannabis every year using this new technology once it comes online.

And with recreational cannabis becoming legal next week, being able to grow more marijuana may be in order. A report from the C.D. Howe Institute this month found that, at current production levels, between 30 and 60 per cent of total demand would be met.

The report found that, at the end of the first year of legalization, about 210 tonnes of commercially produced legal cannabis would be available. However, that falls well short of the estimated demand of 610.6 tonnes.

"The important policy conclusion is that there will not be enough legal supply, especially during the first half of the year following legalization, primarily because of the slow rate of licensing producers," wrote University of Waterloo economics professor Anindya Sen and C.D. Howe policy analyst Rosalie Wyonch.

CannTX is the latest cannabis company to set up operations in Puslinch. Another company, Green Relief, also has a grow facility in the area, having set up an underground laboratory that grows about 2,700 kilos of dried cannabis annually. However, Green Relief is looking to expand its operations, building a $50-million, 210,000-square-foot facility in Puslinch capable of producing 45,000 kilograms of dried cannabis every year. In Guelph, another company is looking to set up a medical marijuana grow facility at a vacant unit on Massey Road.

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