Aside from the chain link fence that surrounds it, Greg Martin’s Brooke-Alvinston farm looks like just any other.
But Martin and his partner, Brad Boyd, will be breaking new ground in Canada’s cannabis industry. They’re preparing a 31-acre plot of land at the corner of Oil Springs Line and Forest Road for one of the few outdoor cannabis operations in the country.
Health Canada began licencing outdoor production earlier this year. A company in BC and two in southern Ontario have been given licences to grow outdoors. The Brooke-Alvinston growers say they’re likely 60 days away from getting final approval to plant in 2020.
Lambton County is an ideal location for outdoor cannabis farming. Outdoor growing requires between 75 and 90 frost-free days; Lambton County has between 160 and 170 a year.
Martin, a military veteran and businessman, has been farming with his father for a number of years. He met Boyd, an experienced cannabis cultivator, through friends. After talking, they decided to apply for an outdoor licence to grow cannabis.
But it isn’t as easy as plopping a few plants in a cornfield. Boyd says there is a 650-page application for a cannabis licence from Health Canada that took months to fill out. The pair will have to meet the standards the federal government set for indoor and greenhouse operations including fencing around the property, security cameras, secured storage areas and the quality standards.
Martin and Boyd have made it through the first round of approvals and expect to receive Health Canada’s final blessing by the fall.
Right now, they’re readying the property for what will be the second-largest outdoor operation in Ontario.
A micro producer can have a 200 square-foot building to grow cannabis. It will likely cost $700,000 to construct. Boyd says it likely will take about the same amount of cash to set up the entire 31-acre Brooke-Alvinston property.
And the payback is huge.
Outdoor grow operations can produce a lot more cannabis at a lot lower prices, says Boyd. Greenhouses and commercial operations typically spend up to $2 per gram to grow their crop. Boyd says the cost to grow outdoors is about 25 cents a gram.
And outdoor yield is higher. “Greenhouses typically get four to six ounces of product per plant. Outdoor growers get four to seven pounds,” says Boyd. That is a selling point for people gearing up to produce edibles when they become legal in October.
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