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This article was published 15/5/2018 (891 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
With a single snip of ceremonial scissors through a bright green ribbon, Winnipeg’s third legal cannabis farm officially opened for business on Tuesday morning.
But Growforce Holdings isn’t ready to start growing marijuana inside its 120,000-square-foot Transcona facility just yet.
Before any crops can sprout, the former meat packing plant will be upgraded with new ventilation equipment, climate sensors and a robotic system that will deliver pallet-loads of plants directly to workers to reduce any risk of microbial contamination.
"Normally we like a purpose-built facility, but in this case it was already built for a manufacturing process," GrowForce’s executive vice-president of operations, James Lowe, told media on a tour of the empty Warman Road plant.
The building was originally built by Schneiders, and sold to Maple Leaf Foods in 2001. Maple Leaf shut the plant down in 2008.
The new interior of the facility will be built out in phases, Lowe said, and will employ more than 150 full-time workers when it’s fully operational.
"It runs the gamut from trimmers and packagers up to cultivation technicians, facility managers, facility engineers, laboratory managers, extraction specialists — I mean, it’s the entire microcosm of cannabis jobs that will be in this facility."
An advanced HVAC system will help mitigate any odour from the facility’s pungent crop, said Lowe.
"People won’t smell anything."
Before any of GrowForce’s Winnipeg crop can be sold to registered medical cannabis users — or recreational cannabis users, after legalization — the operation will have to be inspected by Health Canada and receive both a cultivation license and a sales licence from the federal regulator.
The first test crops could be grown as early as this fall, said GrowForce CEO Rishi Gautam, who told reporters the facility could ultimately produce more than 900 kilograms of cannabis per month and repesents an investment of more than $40 million.
Gautam said GrowForce considered other cities for its facility, including Edmonton and Calgary.
"In terms of the amount of employment available and the types of resources we have available locally to us, it was a resounding yes to put our foot forward here and plant the flag in Winnipeg," he said.
St. Boniface city councillor Matt Allard took part in Tuesday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony, and said the new business is "good news for the city of Winnipeg."
Allard said he expects the new facility and new jobs will receive a "generally positive" reaction from his constituents.
"If we’re transitioning from industrial facilities like meat-packing plants to modern cannabis production, I think it’s a good overall direction for the community."
Winnipeg businessman and Free Press part-owner Bob Silver is an investor in GrowForce and sits on the company’s board of directors.
"The management is first-class, they’re well financed, and this isn’t a fly-by-night operation," Silver told reporters.
"And I thought that if I was going to join anybody, it would be this firm. I was really, really intrigued by what GrowForce is going to do not only for the industry, but also for the city and the province."
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