Situated in Langley not far from the Canada-U.S. border, three 400,000-square-foot greenhouses make up one of two production sites operated by BC Tweed, Canopy Growth’s first enterprise in British Columbia.
In October, Canopy, Canada’s largest licensed producer of cannabis, announced it had partnered with a local large-scale greenhouse operator to form the joint venture that will see nearly 3 million square feet of greenhouse space in Langley and Delta converted to grow cannabis.
“You are standing in the world’s largest cannabis greenhouse,” Andrew MacCorquodale, regional general manager of Canopy’s Western Canada operations told the Straight as we stepped into the 10-acre area filled with thousands of fragrant cannabis plants.
Currently, it’s the only one of BC Tweed’s seven similarly sized greenhouses set up for production, but MacCorquodale says the others should be up and running as soon as Canopy receives appropriate licensing from Health Canada.
At capacity, the 1.3 million-square-foot site in Langley will house as many as 350,000 plants.
For Canopy, seeking out partners like the longtime greenhouse operators involved in BC Tweed has everything to do with tackling the issue of scale with experience.
“At this scale, you need very good operators who have been through the trials and tribulations, and who have come out the other end with a rock-solid business,” MacCorquodale said.
“So it was a great platform for us to be able to expand our greenhouse footprint out into B.C., so that we can get to the scale of production that we feel is going to be necessary to satisfy the domestic and export markets.”
For longtime greenhouse operator Len Krahn, making the switch from vegetables to cannabis is “just the evolution of the greenhouse industry.”
“We saw an opportunity to partner with a strong company like Canopy, to use our greenhouse expertise to help them advance the commercial production of cannabis,” said Krahn, whose family has been the in the greenhouse business for several decades.
“We’ve been growing for 30 years, and we’re growers, so it’s just another plant.”
Krahn said while there haven’t been a whole lot of surprises or unknowns for his team, the regulatory environment around the new crop is certainly something to get used to.
“The biggest change has been going from a vegetable producer to basically a medical producer, and taking that view point from a produce production facility to a medical production facility, as cleanliness, procedures, and regulations are a lot more strict,” he said.
Once fully converted, both the Langley and Delta sites will also see an increase in the number of employees. While the combined 70 acres has typically employed around 150 people, the switch to cannabis production will bring that number up to 350.
As the federal government pushes forward with legalization, MacCorquodale said partnering with operators like Krahn gives Canopy an upper hand in the fight against time.
“Really, the primary challenges to get something like this up and running are timelines. We’re fighting against definitive timelines where rules will change in Canada, where rules are changing internationally,” he said.
“We are the largest cannabis player in the world, and we would like it to stay that way, so that means being aggressive with these sorts of expansions, making sure that we meet those timelines, and having facilities up and running that can supply the demand.”
Among the plants growing at the Langley site, MacCorquodale says Canopy has flown in a wide variety of genetics that thrive in greenhouse environments and are also in high demand from customers, including staples from its Tweed line, a few from Canopy’s Leafs by Snoop brand, and others from its Spectrum subsidiary.
Upon completion and assuming there are no further changes made to the Cannabis Act, BC Tweed will supply Canada’s medical and recreational markets. (To date, Canopy Growth has signed provincial distribution deals with Manitoba, Quebec, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, and P.E.I.)
The site will see its first harvest in late spring.