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AgMedica touts 'world class' cannabis cultivation facility in Chatham-Kent

This Chatham-Kent company hopes to be a global player in the medical marijuana market.

Auto plant was converted into a medical cannabis cultivation facility in 12 months

CEO Trevor Henry notes how evenly the plants are growing height wise under the controlled conditions at AgMedica. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

A team of former mushroom farmers and pharmacists lead by a veterinarian has built what they believe is one of the quickest-constructed, fully-licensed medicinal cannabis facilities in the country.

They've built what they call a world-class facility inside of a former automotive plant along the Thames River in Chatham, Ont.

Take a tour of AgMedica's Riverview Cultivation facility in Chatham-Kent.

AgMedica Bioscience Inc. wants to be a major player in the billion dollar medical cannabis market. 2:06

"Our founders actually were able to grow large scale indoor grow of mushrooms which is a crop that is very hard to grow," said former veterinarian and current AgMedica Bioscience Inc. CEO Trevor Henry. 

"We think that made perfect sense to transition that technology from the mushroom grow into the cannabis grow."

From construction to cannabis in 12 months

Henry said the group came together with a goal to produce medicinal cannabis locally in 2015.

The movement from the seeds of an idea to flowering marijuana plants was quick:

  • June 2017: Construction begins on Riverview Cultivation facility
  • December 2017: Health Canada approves production of cannabis
  • June 2018: Health Canada approves sale of medicinal cannabis
  • August 2018: AgMedica selected as a supplier for Ontario Cannabis Stores

"That's the fastest that we know about that has ever gone from cultivation to sales," said Henry.

CEO Trevor Henry stands inside of one of the grow rooms at the AgMedica Riverview Cultivation facility. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

Initially, the company hoped to grow 6,000 kilograms of cannabis annually with expansion plans for more growth inside their Riverview Drive facility and at other locations in Chatham, after government approval. 

AgMedica will be part of the launch of recreational marijuana sales on October 17 as a supplier for Ontario Cannabis Stores — but they have their sights set on the medical side. 

Focused on medical option

Henry said both the facility and company are designed to become major players in the global medical marijuana industry, which experts put in the $180-billion dollar range. 

"We are a company with very strong medical bones and that will be our focus," said Henry, describing each room in the facility as individually controlled with separate heating, ventilation, and air conditioning​ systems. 

Canadians consumed 60,000 kilograms of marijuana per year for medical purposes, according to the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.

If AgMedica completes proposed expansions with approvals from Health Canada, they will be able produce 66,500 kilograms a year. 

The CEO of AgMedica said the indoor facility is unlike most places in that they stack the plants on top of each other. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

With multiple companies competing for those customers, AgMedica has been looking across the globe for potential customers, and bringing them through the site. 

"It's approximately a $2.5-billion business in Canada. Globally they suspect that market is worth $50-billion, five years they're talking $175-billion, so the world is certainly opening up right now."

'Pharma-grade' production, product

The company also brought local health care professionals through the facility to let them see first hand how the product they will be pitching doctors to prescribe to patients is being grown. 

"We showed them the facility, we showed them the quality, the pharma-grade nature of the operation that we were running and I think that really inspired a lot of confidence," said Bruce MacEachern, Vice President, Sales & Marketing for AgMedica. 

Some of the plants growing at AgMedica, a medicinally focused cannabis producer in Chatham-Kent. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

The company currently offers dried-cannabis products but have recently been licensed to produce cannabidiol​ (CBD). 

"Our goal is to produce oil in various formats for the general public, hopefully toward the end of this year," said MacEachern. 

Cannabidoil prescription of choice: Sarnia doctor

Dr. Blake Pearson closed his medical practise to fully focus on his work with patients at the Rapids Family Health Team in Sarnia, where he treats patients across southwestern Ontario. 

"There's been a complete change in direction as far as medical cannabis goes," said Dr. Pearson, who prescribes soft gells and cannabidoil for his patients, products AgMedica anticipates offering. 

This is the stage in the cannabis growing process when AgMedica dries out what they grow. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

"Rarely do we use the dried-cannabis that someone would inhale and I prefer this route because I can dose to the exact milligram just like any other medication," said Pearson. 

He believes that while the recreational side of cannabis will be big, it's the medicinal side that has a "large upside for growth."

As far as predictions toward the future for the recreational side, Henry, standing inside a facility that could potentially grow 26,000 kilograms of cannabis a year, sees a shortage.

"I think at the end of the day it will still be based in strong medical roots, for our company."