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Australia to get million-square-foot cannabis greenhouse

23 Oct 17 A partnership of two Canadian businesses has announced plans to build a million-square-foot greenhouse for growing medical cannabis in Australia.

PUF Ventures has entered a partnership with MYM Nutraceuticals to build the production facility, called the Northern Rivers Project, in northern New South Wales. The developers aim to make the town of Casino the medical cannabis capital of Australia.

The construction of the facility will be completed in stages at an estimated total cost of CA$50m (£30m).  The first phase of the project is to cover approximately 300,000 square feet, which upon completion will be the largest medical cannabis greenhouse in Australia.  Based on current construction timelines, permitting and various Australian approvals, the first crop is expected to be planted in the fourth quarter of 2018.   

"The Northern Rivers Project is the largest project of its kind in the southern hemisphere and we have been extremely pleased with the positive reception we have received form the Richmond Valley Council,” said Derek Ivany, president and CEO of PUF. “We expect to file the formal cultivation application with the Australian Office of Drug Control within two weeks and look forward to working with our commercial and governmental partners as we look to break ground on this historic project."

MYM chief executive Rob Gietl added: “Getting in on the ground level of a market as large as Australia represents a massive opportunity for MYM. Our experience in dealing with all levels of government will certainly pay off, as there are many similarities between the Weedon, Québec project and the Northern Rivers Project in New South Wales."

The Northern Rivers Project is a partnership with the Richmond Valley Council, the local government in New South Wales, and PUF Ventures Australia, a recently formed majority-owned subsidiary of PUF.

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The one-million-square-foot greenhouse operation will include manufacturing, processing and office facilities for the cultivation, production and manufacture of medical cannabis and associated products.

The plant will have the capacity to produce 100,000kg of cannabis per year, worth between CC$800m and CC$1.1bn. The current market price for high quality medical cannabis in Australia is between CA$227 and CA$315 per ounce or CA$8,000 and CA$11,000 per kilogram.  

The Northern Rivers Project includes a land purchase option agreement with the Richmond Valley Council for a 27ha parcel of land near the town. The council will provide the land for five years at no cost, with an option for Northern Rivers Project to purchase the parcel on favourable terms after the fifth year.    

Australia has introduced progressive medical cannabis laws in the past few years, and is essentially where Canada was four years ago, said PUF. It said. “Assuming recreational cannabis becomes legal and, with a population of more than 24 million people, it is estimated that the cannabis market in Australia will grow to C$9 billion over the next seven years, making it a very attractive market.”

A partnership between a government and corporation partnering in a cannabis operation is familiar to MYM, as it is very similar to the first-of-its-kind Canadian partnership MYM formed with the city of Weedon earlier this year to build a 1.5-million-square-foot greenhouse facility in Weedon, Québec (link opens in new tab).

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