Australian Medicinal Cannabis Company Cannatrek has just received approval from the Greater Shepparton City Council to build one of the largest medical cannabis facilities in the world.
Cannatrek Limited has just received approval from the Greater Shepparton City Council to build a $160 million medical cannabis facility in Greater Shepparton, Victoria, which the company says will be the "largest scaled smart glasshouse project in the southern hemisphere."
Tommy Huppert, the CEO of Cannatrek has stated that the company's aim was "to cultivate, process and manufacture affordable medicinal cannabis as a clean, green, therapeutic product of choice for hundreds of thousands of patients in Australia and overseas."
Cannatrek is one of Australia's first cannabis companies to have been awarded licenses for the research, cultivation, manufacturing, sales, and import of cannabis, as granted by federal and state governments.
The Victoria-based facility will accompany Cannatrek's existing Queensland facility, which sits at 16,000 sqm, a fiftieth of the size of their Victorian purchase.
The company had purchased the 178-acre mammoth-sized property in Greater Shepparton a year ago, says Mr. Huppert, and has since been eagerly waiting to receive all of the necessary planning permissions from Greater Shepparton City Council.
"Getting local planning approval has been a huge step for us; with the development assistance that we are getting from the Victorian Government, we are confident that we can be a major low-cost producer of medicinal cannabis for Australian patients, as well as for world markets."
The move to Shepparton was no act of chance either, the company's CEO states, who attributes the location choice to it's proximity to an abundant water supply, long hours of daily sunlight and knowledgeable community. The budding cannabis site is estimated to generate 400 jobs a year for the Greater Shepparton area.
"We believe that the region will become a major center for the production of medicinal cannabis. We are delighted that the local council is so enthusiastic about our project."Tommy Huppert, CEO of Cannatrek
"We will be a major employer and there will be significant and positive knock-on effects in the region. We are now preparing the development to build a scalable project and we have received planning permission for the entire project."
The property is set to include a 160,000m growing area in a giant, high-tech glasshouse, with plants watered using a combination of recycled water, water collected from the roof of the glasshouse and channel water.
At full production, the company aims to produce 160 tonnes of medicinal cannabis per year, which could be absolutely massive.
The project's Phase 1, is expected to be finished before the end of 2020, which will then open the gates for Cannatrek to become a major player in the medicinal cannabis cultivation space.
With all the planning permits in place, Cannatrek will now
be focusing on the
building phase of their operation. The building of the new facility will place Cannatrek well on their way to enacting their "seed-to-patient" model.
The approval of Cannatrek's facility couldn't have come at a better time for the company, as cannabis prescriptions in Australia are really beginning to ramp up, with Cannatrek's imports, distribution channels and wholesale partners taking up Cannatrek's low cost supply in the Australian market.
As of July 2019, Australian authorities had granted approximately 11,500 approvals for medicinal cannabis under the Special Access Scheme, and according to FreshLeaf Analytics' research, the patient market in Australia is expected to grow at 9% per month, set to increase to roughly 20,000 patients by the end of this year.
Based on this rate of growth, FreshLeaf expects the annual product revenue of the Australian legal medicinal cannabis market to reach $43 million by 2020.
It's no surprise either, as Australia has one of the highest rates of cannabis smokers per capita.
And, according to a psychopharmacologist at Sydney University, Iain McGregor, there may be more than 100,000 people in Australia who are still turning to cannabis sold on the black market to treat persistent medical problems.
"They're self-medicating with cannabis that they get from friends or grow themselves," McGregor said.
"There's this massive discrepancy between what Australians are doing covertly and the overt approved system which, so far, I would say, is probably not delivering."
"This prohibition that we have over the years is really stymieing progress in terms of learning the therapeutic effects of the plant."
Some believe this is largely due to health professionals being unaware of the benefits which come with cannabis and therefore being less likely to prescribe cannabis-based medicines to patients.
This lack of professional knowledge surrounding cannabis is something Cannatrek seeks to address, and the company is doing so by hosting their Cannahealth events.
The events are focused on medical professionals as well as patients, providing documentaries and Q and A's on cannabis, as well as a free "find a doctor" service to assist patients in navigating through the current prescription process.
The Cannahealth events are a wise move on behalf of Cannatrek, who only stand to gain from increased public awareness around medicinal cannabis.
Though it isn't just a lack of awareness that's stopping Australians from getting medicinal cannabis; it's also due to price.
For many Australians, it's much cheaper to simply buy a bag of weed from their dealer than it is to buy cannabis medicines from their doctor. According to the Victorian Government, medicinal cannabis can cost a patient up to $1,000 a week or $52,000 a year depending on their illness or condition.
For some, that's an entire year's salary – a price that few would be willing to pay.
Cannatrek hopes that their onshore mass-production of cannabis will assist in lowering the costs for patients and incentivize Australians to go through the appropriate legal channels for medical cannabis rather than turn to the black market.
On top of this, as more countries loosen legislation around cannabis and marijuana, Cannatrek hopes to export their product abroad.
Cannatrek has positioned itself as a leading stakeholder in the development of innovative business and service platforms for medical research, cultivating and manufacturing new cannabis medicines in Australia.