Licensed pot grow op the size of 10 Canadian football fields coming to Alberta
|calgaryherald.com 24 Aug 2016 at 03:34|
A licensed marijuana grower plans to build a massive greenhouse the size of 10 Canadian football fields in Alberta to produce a cash crop already in high demand among medical patients, with its market only expected to grow.
Vancouver-based Aurora Cannabis Inc. said the 600,000-square-foot facility will have the capacity to produce up to an estimated 70,000 kilograms of cannabis once it begins production, expected by the summer of 2018.
It could become the country’s largest producer, though Ontario-based Aphria Inc. recently bought a swath of land, capable of holding one million square feet of production space, for $6.5 million.
Aurora, currently Alberta’s only licensed producer of medical marijuana, already operates a sprawling, 55,200-square-foot facility in Cremona, northwest of Calgary.
But Aurora estimates demand for medical pot alone is growing by 10 per cent each month. The market for licensed marijuana is only expected to blossom under Ottawa’s plans to legalize recreational use, with legislation expected next spring.
“We’re inventing a new industry in real time,” said Cam Battley, the company’s senior vice-president.
Aurora said Tuesday it had finished the design, engineering and tender process for the first of three construction phases. Once fully built, the massive automated greenhouse will employ machines to irrigate, monitor, harvest and package the crops.
“It’s going to be a hybrid greenhouse that will have four-season growing, with extremely high technology and highly automated,” Battley said.
“This will give us the ability to produce massive amounts of cannabis for medical purposes and, ultimately, once legislation has been implemented by the federal government, to serve the consumer market as well.”
Health Canada has estimated revenues from medical marijuana will hit $1.3 billion with 450,000 patients by 2024, though an analyst at Dundee Capital Markets is far more bullish.
Based on licensed marijuana markets in the United States, Dundee analyst Daniel Pearlstein estimates Canada’s medical market will be worth $2 billion to $3 billion in the same time frame, with 800,000 projected patients.
Pearlstein forecasts Canadian revenue from recreational sales would reach between $3 billion and $5 billion by 2024, should the Liberal government move ahead with its legalization agenda.
Aurora has not yet received approvals from Mountainview County for its expansion project, which has already attracted some local opposition.
Area residents are worried about the effect on traffic and storm water drainage, among other issues, according to Reeve Bruce Beattie, who believes medical pot production brings economic benefits.
“We’re looking at a province with a heavy reliance on one industry, and we’re seeing the results of that,” Beattie said. “We need to look for alternative economic activity.”
Aurora’s existing facility is among 34 licensed medical marijuana growers in Canada, with most of them based in Ontario and British Columbia. After launching sales in early January, it had attracted 6,500 patients within seven months.
The facility can produce upwards of 7,000 kilograms of medical pot a year, about the weight of a full-grown African bull elephant, but it’s just a fraction of what the company’s next greenhouse project is expected to be capable of growing.
Aurora estimates the maximum annual output of its proposed facility would weigh as much as five city buses.
“This investment will pay for itself very quickly,” said Battley, who declined to disclose construction costs.
Aurora’s stock closed Tuesday at 67 cents, up three cents from a day earlier.