Field and greenhouse production methods have advantages and challenges, a cannabis expert says
By Diego Flammini
A Toronto, Ont. cannabis company hopes to be the first grower in Canada to produce the crop in a field.
48North Cannabis Corp. has asked for Health Canada’s approval to plant 100 acres (40 hectares) of cannabis near Brantford beginning in May or June.
“The application is still pending,” Jeannette VanderMarel, co-CEO of 48North Cannabis Corp., told Farms.com. “We’ll be submitting a video demonstrating our security systems to them by the end of the month to show our intrusion control and access control systems.”
Jeannette VanderMarel/CBC photo
The company plans to germinate the plants indoors and transfer them outdoors in the spring. Staff will harvest the crop in September and October.
The first outdoor crop would also help the company build on a successful 2018.
In September, the company received a Health Canada license to extract and produce cannabis oils and, in October, 48North Cannabis Corp. closed an acquisition transaction worth about $18 million.
Receiving Health Canada’s approval for the outdoor operation would “demonstrate our vision and leadership within the industry as a progressive and disruptive company,” VanderMarel said. “I hope more companies follow soon, and for Canadian farmers, cannabis represents a resurgence for agricultural technology.”
Producing the crop outside also has environmental and cost benefits, she said.
“Growing cannabis indoors is hard on the environment and energy intensive,” she said. “I think, for premium dried flowers, you need indoor facilities because they produce the best quality. But for anything used for extraction, edibles or beverages, outdoor quality is exceptionally good, especially in Southern Ontario.
Outdoor production “also helps Canada compete on an international scale so other companies can import our cannabis.”
Outdoor cannabis production also has natural advantages.
Aside from the cost of land compared to building a greenhouse, perhaps the biggest benefits of producing the plant outdoors are the sun and the soil, said Youbin Zheng, a cannabis expert and greenhouse researcher from the University of Guelph.
Youbin Zheng/University of Guelph photo
“You’ve got free light,” he said to Farms.com. “And also you get the benefits from all the nutrients in the soil. Mother Nature holds water better than inside a greenhouse, where you always have to manage the plants. If it doesn’t rain for a while, you can still get a nice crop (outdoors), but if there’s a power failure then you can’t supply your (indoor) plants with light or water.”
Ideal indoor production environments inside a greenhouse could offset the additional investment costs.
“A greenhouse can provide a year-round environment that can be controlled so the plants can grow,” he said. “In a greenhouse, we use soil as media, so you can provide each plant with the same root zone environments, lighting, heat and temperature.”
Growing cannabis inside a greenhouse also provides shelter from fluctuating Canadian weather.
“Someone could produce five or six crops a year in a greenhouse setting,” Zheng said. “The plants like to have 12 hours of sunlight and 12 hours of darkness. In a field setting, you only get one growing season, and you wouldn’t get that even distribution of sunlight and daylight until the fall.”
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