Nfld. & Labrador

St. John's, B.C. and Israeli companies collaborate to breed new pot strains

A entrepreneur is working with two other companies to begin an operation in St. John's focused on developing different strains of cannabis and hemp.

Project to focus on growing strains tailored to specific recreational, medical and commercial purposes

Three companies are working together to launch a facility in St. John's that would breed new strains of marijuana leaf tissue that could then be sold as intellectual property to licensed producers. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

A St. John's entrepreneur is working with two other companies to launch an operation in Newfoundland that will focus on developing different strains of cannabis and hemp.

Chris Snellen is the founder of CEPG Systems, which designs controlled-environment plant-growth systems and currently operates a hydroponic grow operation in the city's east end that cultivates lettuce, mushrooms and other plants.

They've enabled this project of Israelis and Canadians coming together in a bunker to grow marijuana.- Chris Snellen, founder of CEPG Systems

He's now partnering with Future Farm Technologies of B.C. and Rahan Meristem, an Israeli company, to start a hemp breeding program in St. John's.

The project will focus on growing new cannabis strains specifically tailored for specific medical and commercial uses.

"There are so many cannabinoids that the science is a little behind," Snellen told CBC Radio's On The Go.

"So what we're hoping to do is work with the people who are breaking down exactly which cannabinoids are performing which benefits, and then breeding plants that have more of that cannabinoid in it."

Snellen said that revolutionary processes developed for hydroponically grown fruits and vegetables can be applied to growing cannabis. (Frank Fox/Flickr)

The collaboration between the three companies will go ahead once they get a dealer license from Health Canada, which will  allow them to start doing research and development on new cannabis strains.

The plan isn't to start producing large quantities of smokeable pot, but to develop the strains themselves as small amounts of cannabis leaf tissue, which will ideally be sold as intellectual property to licensed producers around the world.

3 companies, 3 specializations

Snellen will be providing the land and building for the operation. Beyond that, his role will be facilitator — overseeing the hydroponic and related systems that make the project happen.

Rahan Meristem will bring more than 30 years' experience breeding plants to the table. The company has previously worked with fruit companies like Chiquita and Dole and most recently had success with stevia sweeteners.

The companies plan to develop cannabis that can be used for recreational, medical and commercial applications. (The Canadian Press/Graeme Roy)

Snellen said Rahan Meristem's revolutionary methods could work wonders when it comes to developing new strains for cannabis producers.

"Their process is about five times faster than regular flower breeding," he said.

Future Farm Technologies is in the business of extraction, and already a Florida facility for growing THC-free hemp (that's the kind that doesn't get you high), which has many different uses.

Snellen said the plan is to eventually produce new strains that can be used for both medical, industrial and recreational use. He hopes to have some ready by this time next year.

As the self-described "boots on the ground" for the project in St. John's, Snellen has been busy meeting with municipal, provincial and federal officials to get the proper permits to move ahead. He says the province has been more than co-operative, especially when it comes to helping his company finally get ownership of their land and buildings.

"They've enabled this project of Israelis and Canadians and Americans coming together in a bunker to grow marijuana," he said.

With files from On The Go


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