Greener market on the horizon
Alberta is known for its three separate entities: hockey, oil and the cold. But in early 2018, cannabis production will join the ranks.
Yes, the construction of medical marijuana company Aurora Cannabis’ Aurora Sky facility began construction in early December near the Edmonton International Airport and will be the world’s largest cannabis production facility with an area of almost 75,000 square metres. That measures up to be the size of 16 football fields of sweet, sweet green.
“It will be capable of producing in excess of 100,000 kilograms of high quality cannabis per year,” Cam Battley, executive vice president of Aurora, says.
Aurora Sky was already in development to target the medicinal market before the Liberal government’s promise of legislation. Now, with legislation being announced for 2018, the facility will be the strategic mother for Alberta’s recreational use of marijuana.
“We made a bet sometime ago that legalisation would actually pass and now with the tabling of the bill, it only validates our business strategy to be a leader for cannabis production,” Battley says.
Aurora Sky will also be home to possibly the most advanced cannabis production in the world. It takes its design from the Dutch “closed system” greenhouse.
“It will be a hybrid greenhouse system and the first of its kind in cannabis production,” he says. “With this closed system we can control all of the environmental variables including light, temperature, humidity and nutrients.”
The facility will also be highly automated with extensive use of robotic cranes programmed to pick up tables of marijuana plants ready for harvest.
“This ensures that human contact is very minimal in the growing space thereby further reducing the risk of any contamination, but we still have a staff of over 200 to 300 people,” Battley explains.
Aurora has also developed a research partnership with a local company called Radient Technologies to create and validate a technology of radiance to boost “efficient extraction” of cannabinoids. This means lower grade plant material will be immediately trimmed during the growing stage.
Basically, Aurora plans to only produce “super weed” in its facility.
There are more than 75 different strains of mother plants that span from high THC (the compound that gets you high), mid-grade, and high CBD (the non-psychoactive cannabinoid).
Battley also believes Aurora Sky will have monumental economic benefits for Alberta, and has already seen the financial growth gained from its 5,100 square metres sister facility outside of Cremona, AB.
“I think we have really been a ray of sunlight in a difficult Alberta economy,” he says.
Being involved in the cannabis sector for three years with a background in biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, Battley is still astounded about how quickly the attitude towards medical cannabis has changed positively in Canada.
And he should be. Aurora Cannabis now boasts a staggering 160,000 Canadian users of medicinal marijuana. Battley adds that they’ve seen a growth of “10 percent a year.”
With legislation being announced, this an exciting time for Canada. Foreign countries will be keeping us under a magnifying glass to see if national regulation is a viable option in the future.
“We’re establishing a world leadership in the cannabis space,” Battley says. “These next few years are going to be crucial. We are inventing a brand new industry and regime, so we have to get it right from the beginning.”
Thurs., Apr. 20 to Sun., May 7