Grower Day highlights trends in cannabis production
By Mari-Len De Guzman
Building new, massive greenhouse and indoor cannabis cultivation facilities could become a thing of the past as new outdoor cultivation sites become increasingly popular. It’s a trend that cannabis security expert David Hyde is seeing in the current Canadian cannabis industry landscape.
In his keynote presentation at Grower Day in St. Catharines, Ont., Hyde said while greenhouses and indoor production facilities will continue to be built to increase production capacities, size will scale down, but processor, research and testing facilities will increase in number across the country.
“The tendency will be toward larger, multi-licence sites,” the president of 3 Sixty Secure said, adding that micro-cultivation, micro-processor and nursery sites will also ramp up across the country and, “in some cases, may be vulnerable to crime than standard licensed sites.”
Nearly 250 professionals in the commercial growing and cultivation industry attended this year’s Grower Day event, which featured education sessions on ornamental and vegetable growing as well as cannabis production and business operations.
Day two of Grower Day, which focused on topics relevant to cannabis production, featured presentations on cannabis security, outdoor cultivation, the opportunities for industrial hemp, organic growing as well as the importance of having standard operating procedures (SOP) in cannabis production facilities.
“The biggest failure in facilities is record keeping,” said Georges Routhier, CEO of consulting firm PipeDreemz Inc. “SOPs can transform your business if they are used daily as part of the management structure.”
SOPs are set methods to be followed routinely to perform operations or designated activities, and are submitted to Health Canada to define regular business protocols, Routhier said. A cultivation SOP, for example, should outline strategies for pest prevention and management, facility design features, daily routines, including production processes, workflow, and change management strategies.
Case for organic
David Perron, vice-president of growing operations for The Green Organic Dutchman (TGOD), provided attendees with an overview of organic cannabis cultivation. TGOD is a fully certified organic cannabis producer, under EcoCert and ProCert, using end-to-end organic processes. With a combined 1.6-million sq.ft. of cultivation and processing facilities across Ontario, Quebec, Jamaica and Denmark, the company plans to grow its annual production capacity to 219,000 kilograms.
Perron said certification is important for companies to be able to give credence to its organic growing processes, which provides opportunities for value-add and price products at a premium.
He said some of the product benefits of growing organic cannabis include: richer terpene profiles, cleaner burn, better taste, fresher aroma, and offers peace of mind for the eco-conscious consumer.
“Through the certification we get the recognition for the extra work that we’re doing,” Perron told Grow Opportunity. “I like to think about organic in terms not of the stuff that we’re not allowed to do but all the little extra steps that we’re doing along the way that adds value to the product.”
In his presentation, Jayson Goodale, senior cultivation consultant for Cannabis Compliance Inc., outlined some of the challenges and opportunities for the commercial cultivation of cannabis outdoor.
“With outdoor grow, I see a lot more supply agreements being signed with extraction companies,” Goodale said of some of the opportunities he sees with outdoor cannabis cultivation.
Most cannabis crops grown outdoors are destined for extracted products such as edibles and topicals, which are expected to become legal in the market by October this year.
One of the advantages of growing cannabis outdoors is the significantly lower operational costs associated with growing outdoors, Goodale said. The typical production cost associated such as electricity and HVAC are almost non-existent as outdoor farms rely on the natural environment to grow the plants.
But with opportunities come some challenges as well, and they are typically associated with the outdoors. “There are a lot of unknowns with what happens with Mother Nature,” said Goodale, citing the risk of cannabis pollen drifting to nearby agriculture operations, as well as the potential for pesticides in adjacent farms drifting and contaminating the cannabis crops.
Pest and disease management in outdoor grow may also be a challenge, he added. Currently, there is no approved pesticides for cannabis that are labelled for use on commercial cannabis crops produced outdoors. Using beneficial insects for pest control can be a challenge as well as there is no way to prevent these insects from flying away from the crops in an outdoor grow.
Future of hemp
Patricia Korosi, sector specialist for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, was also a speaker at Grower Day, outlining the current state of Canada’s industrial hemp industry and the opportunities for growth.
Hemp is a multi-purpose, sustainable crop, Korosi said in her presentation. As a rotation crop, hemp can break diseases and pest cycles, improve soil conditions and produce high value products.
The global demand for plant-based protein and source for omega-3 fatty acids, as well as the increasing number of countries that are legalizing hemp and cannabis are creating market opportunities for hemp production, Korosi said.
As an emerging industry, there are also industry challenges that need to be addressed. For starters, there is a lack of industry standards for the hemp industry – although one is currently under development, the government official said.
Grower Day 2019, held June 18 and 19 in St. Catharines, Ont., was an opportunity for growers to share best practices and be informed of the latest trends, not only on growing cannabis but also ensuring operational efficiencies in managing your cannabis enterprise.
“It’s been great. As soon as we walk in there are suppliers, friends, students from Niagara College, some businesses that are producing bio control insects, and suppliers that we’re using for soil and equipment,” commented TGOD’s Perron when asked about his impression of Grower Day. “The good people are here, it’s a cozy and friendly vibe, and it’s nice to be able to shake hands with everybody, exchange growing tricks and see where everybody is at. It’s been a pleasure to be here.”