Medcan Australia, a fully integrated producer of medicinal cannabis, has bolstered its capacity to produce dried cannabis flowers with the official opening of a $12 million vertical farming facility in Brisbane’s outer south-west.
The company says the 3,000sqm Heathwood facility, which has been two years in the making, is the most technologically advanced medicinal cannabis facility in the southern hemisphere with capacity to produce 6,000kg of dried cannabis flower worth about $60 million, significantly boosting the company’s ability to meet demand.
There was a larger Canadian-owned medicinal cannabis operation called Boreal in Uruguay which was much larger than the Medcan site, but closed in July according to local press in the South American country.
“Up until now, we have been selling more medicinal cannabis than we can produce,” says Medcan Australia CEO and co-founder Craig Cochran.
Medcan describes itself as a market leader in the field, supplying more than 10 per cent of the dried flower market in Australia.
The new facility is said to be able to produce twice the volume of dried cannabis flower than the company is currently selling. Vertical farming offers advantages to greenhouse operations by producing smaller plants, structured plants that leave behind less biomass waste.
Medcan, which was founded in 2016 by Cochran and Gareth Ball, is a full-service company with operations stretching from cultivation to the manufacture and distribution of medicinal cannabis products.
The company says the new vertical farming facility is fully automated to deliver consistent quality growth of cannabis plants.
“The Heathwood facility, which has been purpose-built and uses a heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, allows us to perpetually harvest our crop in an environment that is totally controlled by our cultivation team,” Cochran says.
“It’s a massive software system that uses algorithmic logic to calculate the environment and acquires feedback from hundreds of probes and different measuring equipment across the plant.”
The company has revealed that it has six cultivation rooms ready for operation, with the crop comprised of 16 plants per square metre, positioned on top of 16 plants per square metre vertically across the growing and propagation areas.
“To put this into perspective, a greenhouse set-up generally produces big plants with plenty of leaves and excessive biomass,” Cochran says.
“Where they might grow one plant per square metre, a vertical farming set-up like ours produces smaller, condensed, structured plants which don’t produce as much wastage and provide more cannabinoids per square metre as a result.”
Cochran describes the new facility as one of Australia’s biggest indoor cultivation centres with the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system similar in scale to those used by an airport.
The facility uses LED lighting, which Cochran says offers greater light intensity than high-pressure sodium lights typically used at about 60 per cent of the energy output.
“LEDs also offer a more natural spectrum of light which is more closely simulates the sun,” Cochran says.
The fully automated system incorporates a reverse osmosis irrigation system that is sanitised by UV filtration, as well as automatic pH balancing and customised fertilisation.
Medcan’s new cultivation facility is expected to create up to 100 jobs when fully operational.
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