Medical marijuana producers are spreading like, well, weeds in Canada since the federal government changed regulations last year to allow private companies to grow and sell cannabis. Tantalus Labs out of Vancouver is taking a different approach to stand out in a crowded field.
While most medical marijuana is grown indoors in retrofitted warehouses, Tantalus is building a greenhouse in Maple Ridge, B.C. Managing director Dan Sutton argues greenhouse growing is less expensive and better for the environment. The 115,00 square foot facility is nearly complete, and provided Tantalus receives the go-ahead from Health Canada, Sutton hopes to enter production early next year.
PROFITGuide.com: Why haven’t more medical marijuana producers used greenhouses?
Dan Sutton: Over 90% is grown indoors in North America today, largely because cannabis has been illegal for so long. The primary rationale for cultivating indoors is that it’s a lot easier to keep anybody’s prying eyes out of your environment when it’s in a bunker or basement. But there’s no agricultural or scientific reason, especially when it’s a crop that requires a lot of sunlight, such as cannabis. When we first started engineering our greenhouse, we looked to the B.C. hothouse industry, the peppers industry, the horticultural industries, and they all use greenhouse technology.
What are the benefits?
When you cultivate cannabis indoors, you require an array of very intense lamps or LEDs, but ultimately there’s no lamp that we have engineered that can hold a candle to the power of sunlight. Not only that, but sunlight is free. It’s also not a carbon intensive way of providing light. So we pay substantially less to power our facility, roughly 70% less, and there’s an environmental benefit, which is a core tenet of our philosophy.
Will there be a part of the year when you don’t have product, though?
We only cultivate between mid-February and mid-October. Nonetheless, per square meter, per year, we anticipate our productivity to be about 30% higher than the equivalent indoor facility. We will have to store product so there is no time in the year when we are out of inventory. Cannabis has a potential shelf life of 1218 months if it’s stored effectively. It also hangs on not signing up more members than we can afford to service.
Are producers elsewhere in the world using greenhouses?
We’ve got a couple of other greenhouse producers on-line here in the next six-to-eight months. Israel has been a driver of greenhouses since they have had legal medical cannabis there for decades, and we’re starting to see greenhouses crop up more and more in Colorado and Washington. I think indoor cultivation, aside from very specialized production, will be obsolete in the next five years.
Why would medical marijuana users care about any of this?
The general population wants to tell a story about the things they buy, or the things they acquire become part of their storylines. So we want to find a subset of the population who believe the same things that we believe: in advancing agricultural technology, and a low carbon footprint. I really encourage people to understand the products they buy. Every time you spend a dollar, you’re voting. You’re making choice. We’re hoping to find a community who will choose a sun-grown future for medical cannabis.
What do you think of Sutton’s plans for Tantalus Labs? Share your (constructive) thoughts and feedback in the comments below.
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