By Anna Guy
2018 will be noted in the history books as the year Canada did away with draconian laws surrounding marijuana and passed Bill-45, otherwise now as the Cannabis Act, which will amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts to allow Canadians to legally use marijuana.
It’s an exciting time for the cannabis market and its investors: the industry is expected to be worth close to $8 billion by 2021 and demand is growing for innovative technology and consulting firms focused on cannabis.
RavenQuest Biomed is already emerging as a leader in Canada’s marijuana industry. Few companies in the country have an established track record and experience in the production, management services and consulting, and specialized R&D as BC-based RavenQuest. Established in 2013, RavenQuest is a diversified, publicly-traded cannabis company whose mission is to build a leading diversified cannabis products and services company built on proprietary equipment and technology solutions.
A licensed producer with facilities located in Markham, Ontario and Edmonton, Alberta, RavenQuest’s combined annual production will total 11,000 kg beginning in late 2018. Strategic expansion is underway. RavenQuest has also recently announced an LOI to acquire Western Agripharma Ltd., a late stage application with a 125,000 square foot facility under construction on British Columbia’s sunshine coast, a short ferry ride from Vancouver, BC. Upon completion, the facility will produce 25,000 kg of cannabis annually.
RavenQuest has focused on partnerships with Indigenous communities. Approximately 20 percent of canopy in Canada will be allocated to Indigenous Peoples’ lands. RavenQuest has developed an Indigenous-centered, end-to-end offering for cannabis production and sale on sovereign land.
Whereas traditional marijuana growing has been in greenhouses on flat tables, RavenQuest has taken a different approach called Orbital Gardening. Through integrated design of its facilities, RavenQuest looks at two metrics: the largest yield on the smallest footprint. As an alternative to flat tables, RavenQuest uses Orbital Gardens, which are essentially drums or circle gardens, which allows for maximum yield in the least amount of space.
“We decided to apply science to cannabis cultivation and reimage it,” says George Robinson, CEO. “The answer is Orbital Gardening, which uses the cubic footage of a space instead of the square footage. Where as the average producer grows 120 to 130 grams per square foot, RavenQuest boasts total production of over 300 grams per square foot, more than doubling the industry averages. To put it succinctly, RavenQuest has industry-leading grams per square foot.
“This is Cannabis 2.0,” says George Robinson, CEO. “[The product] is all going to look and feel to patients and genetic management systems very similar. The integrated design system will allow Health Canada the ability to come and conduct inspection much easier because there are going to be many that look exactly or very near the same, whereas today everyone approaches cultivation facilities differently, and Health Canada needs to look at that from an audit and inspection process. We think some of our approaches offer the industry a new approach for regulators and auditors to make sure this industry can grow. And these designs are a real leader in this area.”
While square footage is a critical ingredient for production growth, it is only the tip of the iceberg. Growing more in less space also means a 70 to 80 per cent reduction in electrical costs, 25 percent reduction in nutrient costs, and close to zero water wastage. “We wanted to make sure there was an environmental sustainability component to our company and applied science to growing our plants and managing processes around the plant,” says Robinson. “With less power usage and not wasting water and nutrients, we are not harming the great earth we are on.”
The technology is repeatable, so the product is going to express the same way every time, meaning patients, users, and researchers can have predictable results, even when grown in different facilities. This also allows for a properly priced gram every time, which is good for clients and investors alike.
As the medical and adult recreational markets evolve, new scientific knowledge needs to be developed.
RavenQuest maintains a commitment to product excellence and maximizing shareholder value. To this end, RavenQuest has entered into a research partnership with Canada’s top-ranked McGill University, prioritizing plant stabilization and the maximization of flower production in cannabis plants. Through a landmark research partnership with Montreal’s McGill University focussed upon cultivar (strain) recognition, plant stabilization and yield maximization of the cannabis plant.
Robinson has travelled to Ottawa every eight to 10 weeks in the past few years, working on federal mandates to make sure everything we are doing has an environmental and sustainability process built into marijuana growing. “It really became interesting when we decided to apply science to growing and managing processes around the plant.”
Robinson is a recognized specialist in the cannabis sector and has worked directly with the CL2G Group’s clients and Health Canada in all stages of the application and licensing phases, as well as Extensive experience regulated industries over 20 years. “What that does to help me is when you’ve worked with regulators you start to understand wants and needs,” says Robinson. “We specialize in the development of output documents and how to apply them. It’s the same with oil and gas, finance, banking, health care, you start to understand specification documents. Being in this space since 2013 allows us to read current regulations and adapt to, understand, and deploy them in such a manner they are simple to follow and remain compliant.”
The Cannabis Act is perfectly pitted for RavenQuest, says Robinson, because allows the company to continue to grow under the standard processor cultivator while allowing their R&D and nursery sides to flourish—three distinct licenses. “What I think is also very valuable are the craft producers, smaller growers looking for ways to enter the legal market,” he continues. “We partner with smaller operations to help them on legal side by assisting them with regulation. This way they have the opportunity to focus on what they love to do and we focus on the regulatory and compliance side, documents they need to keep, they can offload work to us as a partner, making sure they get great value and pricing for their product, and visibility to all the provinces so they have an opportunity to get their brand out there without costs a small operator can’t afford.”
The marijuana industry will have economic impact beyond just the primary growers and researchers, says Robinson. “We now think of it this way, cannabis is benefiting not just consumer, but is helping out engineers, architects, construction companies, electrician, pipefitters, I look at all the economic impacts and am excited this growth industry can really help out more than just the cannabis user.”