For the first time in Canadian history, cannabis will be permitted as an outdoor crop in late 2018. The significance of this cannot be understated, as there are countless outdoor grow operations (illegal) in Canada that would now be eligible for a licence.
Also, for the first time in history the agricultural industry is very interested in growing cannabis crops on a commercial scale. There is a high amount of debate as to whether or not growing cannabis outdoors (on a commercial scale) will hold any value to the Canadian cannabis industry, as there are significant challenges to overcome. However, it has been suggested – and rightly so – that the Canadian wine industry began with similar debates, and today Canadian wine is renowned around the world.
The climate in Canada is arguably the greatest challenge in growing respectable cannabis crops, and there are many different climate regions across the country. Even within British Columbia there are considerable differences in regional climate, with some regions having a humid spring that poses challenges for outdoor cultivation.
Outdoor cannabis production will be permitted for both the Micro and Standard Cultivation Licences. Any variety of cannabis will be permitted, with no THC limitations. As discussed under the Micro Cultivation section, the canopy space is similarly limited to 200 square metres, albeit the canopy would be in an outdoor area. Note that the security requirements would include a physical barrier (e.g., high fencing) but security cameras, vaults and intrusion detection systems are not required for Micro Cultivation(albeit strongly recommended). For Standard Cultivation, visual recording (etc) are a requirement; see section on Standard Cultivation for more information. However, note that with either type of cultivation licence, the curing, packaging and storage of dried flower must be done in an indoor area which would be adjacent to the outdoor crop. All finished product is similarly tested for microbes and contaminants (including a long list of pesticides).
Cultivating cannabis outdoors has always enjoyed some popularity due to the lower production costs. Depending on the variety, outdoor growing will require 75 to 90 frost-free days for a short season. Many of the more desirable genetics, however, require a longer grow period before harvesting, which may be appealing to more temperate climates in western Canada. For example, according to Agriculture Canada most of the Prairie regions suitable for agriculture experience 130-140 days for their growing season. However, some micro-climates such as Calgary have high fluctations in weather (e.g., hail, snowfall, tornadoes). Also, cannabis plants prefer strong sunlight, gentle breezes and great water quality, which should also be factored into planning the ideal location for an outdoor grow. Pest challenges also pose a unique problem for outdoor grows in comparison to indoor grows. Lastly, given that only female plants would be desired for an outdoor crop, starting material would be from seedlings not seeds. There is also a risk of cross-contamination of neighbouring grows should any male plant pollen (from either cannabis or hemp) travel through the air.
For many farmer entreprneurs, however, the prospect of cultivating cannabis at significantly lower production costs via outdoor farming is a “cropportunity” that has tremendous upside. For example, production costs for a very efficient, large-scale indoor operation range from $1/gram to $3/gram, whereas outdoor farming in theory could bring commercial production costs below twenty cents per gram based on our modelling. At this rate, even if significant amounts of the crops were damaged due to weather or pests, it may not matter in the end. Ideally, the operation would cultivate its own seedlings indoors ahead of the growing season, and transplant the seedlings outdoors after the dangers of frost have passed.
Cannabis Compliance Inc is the largest cannabis consulting firm in the world, employing over 60 full time salary employees across the country. CCI can prepare a Micro or Standard Cultivation Licence application package in full and respond to Health Canada on your behalf during the review process. Contact us today to start the conversation.