Nfld. & Labrador

Cannabis grow-op proposed for turkey farm near Carbonear

A former turkey farm near Carbonear on Newfoundland's Avalon Peninsula may soon have a new lease on life — as a marijuana production facility

Local partner hopes to create up to 200 permanent jobs

If government approves, Noel's Turkey Farm in Freshwater will be the site of an indoor cannabis production facility that could create 200 permanent jobs. (Submitted by Robert Giannou)

A former turkey farm near Carbonear may soon have a new lease on life — as a marijuana production facility.

A local businessman has partnered with a mainland company to try to make that happen.

"About two years ago I met some people who came down to see Targa and they approached and asked me would I be interested in get involved in a project. I love projects. That's what I do," said Robert Giannou, who is best known for starting Targa Newfoundland — a 2,200-km rally race through eastern and central parts of the island.

​I'm scared to death about what's happening in the economy ... we cannot afford to turn one job down in this province.- Robert Giannou

Giannou and Targa participant Suman Pushparajah have joined forces with FSD Pharma based in Cobourg, Ont., to set up an indoor cannabis production operation in Freshwater. 

The first phase of their proposal involves building a 45,000-square-foot structure on 34 acres of land recently purchased from Noel's Turkey farm.

"The second [phase] is 300,000 square feet. So the first one will be kind of used as a pilot to get things right, and then we'll expand into the second," said Giannou, CEO of Atlantic Pharma.

Job creation a driving factor

Robert Giannou, who started the Targa Newfoundland road rally, has turned his attention from cars to cannabis for his latest endeavour as CEO of Atlantic Pharma. (Submitted by Robert Giannou)

Once fully operational, the site is expected to produce up to 13,000 kg of cannabis per year.

Giannou said the product will be supplied as raw material to FSD, which already has a license to produce marijuana under the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations.

The Freshwater facility is expected to create 50 to 80 jobs during the construction phase, and 200 permanent positions once it's fully operational.

That's an important piece of the pie for Giannou.

"I'm a dyed in the wool Newfoundlander, extremely proud of it. That's why we created Targa here. I'm scared to death about what's happening in the economy with jobs etc. We cannot afford to turn one job down in this province. We just cannot," he told CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show.

"This is totally private money. There is not a dime of government money in this whatsoever. And between ourselves and [FSD] we'll be putting up something like $55 million in the project, and … will probably go to 60 or 70 million."

Project hinges on government approval

Giannou said the design for the first building is finished and they would like to have it "closed in" by November, and arrangements are being made for an environmental study.

"We're ready to roll, we want to sit down with the government as soon as we can ... and start negotiations for a deal with them much the same as the Canopy deal."

Canopy Growth, headquartered in Smiths Falls, Ont., signed an agreement with the Newfoundland and Labrador government in December to build a cannabis production plant in the White Hills area of St. John's.

Giannou said he has letters of support from communities in the Conception Bay North area.

"I mean, it's really a no-brainer. They need the work, they need the jobs. Two hundred jobs in Carbonear would make a big employer there."

With files from the St. John's Morning Show