Custom Cannabis is building an over 60,000-square-foot state-of-the art cultivating plant in Claresholm. It will have the capacity to grow about 20,000 pounds of the product on an annual basis.
Jeff Nielsen, co-founder and CEO of Custom Cannabis, said the facility controls the quality of cannabis from seed to processing to clients and the cannabis is being produced solely for medical use.
The first phase of the facility is about 45,000 square feet, comprising about 20,000 square feet of greenhouse flowering space and about 25,000 square feet for processing of the plant and administration. Phase 2 will be another 20,000 square feet of greenhouse which is expected to begin construction in the new year.
The first phase is expected to be completed in December. Plants will be moved in during the first quarter of 2019 and the first crop of medicinal cannabis is expected in the spring of 2019.
Nielsen says the decision to focus on medical cannabis use is based on his journey with cannabis.
“I was diagnosed with cancer back in 2013. I was using a lot of booze, taking a lot of pills. Had 11 operations. I was in a really disastrous situation. Being a completely square southern Alberta guy, I did exactly what my doctor told me,” said Nielsen.
“In a moment of complete desperation I tried cannabis for the first time in my life and it completely changed my life. I was able to get off all the booze, all the pills. I’ve lost 80 pounds. My appetite’s back. I’m sleeping better and three weeks after I started using high amounts of cannabis oil I went in to get a bunch of tumours removed . . . two of them that they had marked up of the three to take out that day they could not find in the ultrasound and the one they cut out of me was necrotic and already dead inside. This whole project is really fuelled out of watching a hundred of our friends and family watching me and my wife and four kids kind of go through this four-year horrible experience and see cannabis medicine kind of come to the rescue.”
The hydroponic crop production facility in Claresholm will use supplemental lighting, computer-controlled HVAC and irrigation, without the use of pesticides and fungicides, to produce consistent, high quality medicine.
“When we designed the greenhouse, we wanted to maximize the sunlight, so we made the roof a white, reflective material which allows the sunlight that hits the roof to bounce back into the greenhouse and the plants. In this kind of environment, how you water the plant, how you feed it, the temperature and what kind of sunlight you provide it access to, all affects the plant’s ability to create quality cannabinoid compounds, which is what cannabis patients want,” said Nielsen.
Mario Toneguzzi is a veteran Calgary-based journalist who worked for 35 years for the Calgary Herald, including 12 years as a senior business writer.