November 2nd will mark a first for the township. It’s the day a business moves into the township with the plan of becoming a local cannabis producer.
Ivan Lloyd is the founder of Green Grow Farms, and his is a novel plan. Next spring he hopes to break ground for the construction of two 65,000 square foot green houses in the field behind the farmhouse. These buildings are expected to be food-grade, state-of-the-art facilities divided into pods for lease by retail marijuana customers. Each pod, or “green suite” will measure five feet by five feet by eight feet and each greenhouse will incorporate 3,200 of these units.
The legalization of marijuana allows recreational users to grow a limited volume for personal use. It sounds easy but growing marijuana in your home comes with a variety of risks. Property damage due to fire, mold, odour, and vandalism are recognized by home insurers, whose policies sometimes come with exclusions for losses arising from growing marijuana. Some cannabis users would prefer not to expose their children and pets to the plants. Growing the crop outdoors limits production to a single harvest. Green Grow’s model provides an alternative.
Green Grow Farms intends to provide users with premium, craft-quality cannabis at a fraction of the current legal cost. The product will be grown by trained staff in a safe and secure environment avoiding some of the headaches of growing marijuana at home.
The pods are self-contained, sterile and operate with their own ventilation system to prevent cross-contamination. Each one is equipped with a live-feed camera so renters can watch their plants grow from a remote location, but this is a close as they will get to their pod.
In the Green Grow model, customers never see their plants in person. Given the nature of the product, the public would not be allowed on site. Plants would be nurtured by horticultural staff. Lloyd expects to have forty staff for each greenhouse. Canadian cannabis legislation allows no more than four plants to be grown by each individual, so there would be no option to lease more than one pod.
The production cycle for this product takes four months from start to finish. In the Green Grow plan, customers select their strain from sixteen options. The seeds are then planted by a trained horticulturalist and monitored daily for health and yield. The growing cycle takes three months from seed to harvest, which is followed by a three week the curing process. Green Grow plans to have the finished product tested by a third party for quality before it is delivered to the plant owners in discreet packaging through dedicated, track and trace delivery agents. This process can be repeated three times a year, providing pod renters with product from a maximum of twelve plants per year.
Operating greenhouses like this is expensive. Lloyd expects the monthly hydro bill to be in the neighbourhood of $80,000 even with LED lighting. His family operates ten greenhouses in Mitchell’s Corners, so Lloyd knows how these things work.
This model is unique in that Green Grow does not own the product they grow. The company would be acting as a custom producer providing government-compliant horticultural services to recreational cannabis users who don’t want to grow their own crop. Lloyd describes the venture as a real estate play because he is renting “condos” and providing horticultural services. In this model, the firm does not process the cured plant into oils or edibles, but delivers cured plants to their owners.
Before Lloyd gets down to business, a planning process is required. In Cavan-Monaghan, cannabis production is currently allowed only in the M1 Zone Urban Employment designation in the Official Plan. This allows a building or structure where cannabis can be grown, produced, processed, etc. under a federal license. Building permits for the greenhouses will require a change to the Official Plan.
In February, Selwyn Township was one of the first municipalities in the province to open its community to cannabis producers. After receiving no comments from community members through a variety of outreach activities including a Public Meeting which did not draw a single resident, Selwyn Council passed regulations allowing both indoor and outdoor cannabis cultivation hoping to provide new agricultural opportunities, bring new jobs to the area and stimulate the local economy.
Cavan-Monaghan staff are currently examining the Selwyn example which permits cannabis production in the agricultural and rural industrial zones. This is the model most likely to be considered here. KG