Manitoba

New hemp company buys Manitoba's Pineland Forest Nursery, plans to become major cannabidiol producer

A new hemp producer has purchased Manitoba's Pineland Forest Nursery and plans to become the biggest organic hemp cannabidiol producer in the world, the owners and provincial government officials announced Friday.

'We expect to be one of the world's major players in the world's CBD market in the near future,' says CEO

Duncan Gordon, left, and Jeremy Towning are the co-founders of Botanist Organic Growers. (Warren Kay/CBC)

A new hemp producer has purchased Manitoba's Pineland Forest Nursery and plans to become the biggest organic hemp cannabidiol producer in the world, the owners and provincial government officials announced Friday.

Botanist Organic Growers bought the greenhouse facility near Hadashville, Man., about 90 kilometres east of Winnipeg, from the province for $1.43 million. The company will lease the Crown-owned land for $240,000 a year, a government spokesperson said.

The company plans to convert the greenhouses to hemp cannabidiol, or CBD, production this spring. Production in the buildings that don't need repairs will start in the next couple of weeks, its founders said.

"We have an opportunity to build a global leader in CBD right here in Manitoba. Our company is well-financed and is operating [with] a strong management team," said co-founder Duncan Gordon at the announcement, which also served as the company launch.

"We expect to be one of the world's major players in the world's CBD market in the near future.… Our focus will be on producing a premium organic hemp CBD."

Botanist Organic is a new company founded by British Columbians Jeremy Towning, its CEO, and Gordon, a former Winnipegger who is the company's chair. Towning is a commercial real estate developer and Gordon is a financial advisor.

The company said it plans to hire as many as 200 people over the next three years.

Province put nursery up for sale in 2018

The 121-hectare Pineland Forest property, which includes more than 300,000 square feet of greenhouse and research facilities, previously grew seedlings for the province and some for export outside the province. The Progressive Conservative government announced last May that it would shut down Dec. 31 and be put it up for sale.

The nursery was losing $500,000 a year and its accumulated debt of $4 million was written off by the government, a provincial spokesperson said.

At its new facility, Botanist Organic Growers plans to extract cannabidiol by producing hemp that has no THC — the psychoactive component in cannabis.

CBD is a compound derived from hemp or cannabis that unlike THC — a type of cannabinoid — doesn't get users high.

It is prized for its purported health benefits, including pain relief, and is being eyed as an ingredient for everything from CBD-infused pet treats to anti-aging face creams and elixirs that can help an athlete's aching body recover faster.

The former nursery's seed bank will be preserved and the University of Winnipeg will continue to have access to the area as part of a 20-year research agreement with the provincial government, Sustainable Development Minister Rochelle Squires said.

A deal with private nurseries to supply the province with tree seedlings has been reached and will cost less than producing the seedlings at Pineland, she said.

With files from Marianne Klowak and The Canadian Press

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