EXCLUSIVE: A 600-Acres Cannabis Giant 'Hidden' In The Jungle Is On Its Way To Becoming EU GMP Certified, Meet Cannava

EXCLUSIVE: A 600-Acres Cannabis Giant 'Hidden' In The Jungle Is On Its Way To Becoming EU GMP Certified, Meet Cannava

By Nicolas Jose Rodriguez via El Planteo.

For centuries, countries in Latin America have lagged behind the world’s central economies in terms of economic growth and social inclusion. Unequal terms of exchange in imports and exports, low levels of industrialization, political unrest, socioeconomic inequality, and macroeconomic crises, are just some of the factors that sustain high unemployment levels and deepen rural uprooting.

In this context, public policies often aim to stimulate the addition of value to local commodities sustainably and transfer technology to producers to promote innovation. Thus, in the Province of Jujuy, in Northwest Argentina, pharmaceutical-grade cannabis is already public policy.

Cannava Avatar SE is the first state-owned vertically-integrated company in the Americas dedicated to the production at scale of medicinal cannabis. The firm already provides qualified employment opportunities and seeks to export EU GMP-certified medicinal cannabis produced with low costs involved and competitive margins, leaving a carbon footprint of 0.

Cannava: A Trip To The Future

A zig-zagging cornice jungle road leads to El Pongo farm, where Cannava is located. The visit to the internationally certified crop reveals a "hidden" green giant in the Yungas jungle.

The provincial government invested more than USD 25 million in the firms that employ roughly 200 people, 65% of whom are women, and supplies the province with full-spectrum cannabis oil for $12.

“80% of what is invested are capital investments in technology that generate benefits. We invested USD 3 million only in one quality control lab, and in total, we invested USD 10 million in post-harvest control," Gastón Morales, president of the company, explained exclusively to El Planteo.

"Let's keep in mind that we are talking about one of the most sophisticated medical cannabis complexes in South America, unique in the world because it is a state-owned company," added Morales, a Lawyer, and specialist in Environmental Law who graduated from the University of Buenos Aires.

And the investments are noticeable at every step.

Steel-frame structures from top to bottom, white and smooth cement floors, constant AC, vacuum chambers, colored lights, red, and green, caps, slippers, white gloves, switches, ventilation tubes, acrylic windows, measuring instruments embedded in the walls, cameras, “Made in Canada” stainless steel tanks, and, “Made in Italy” drying chambers, professionals looking at screens next to what appears to be a giant printer [“it's a chromatograph”, they say later], everything, condensed in industrial warehouses the size of a decent American Mall.

The firm can produce 80 tons of pharmaceutical-grade cannabis derivatives. Once harvested, cannabis is trimmed inside a 65 feet-tall industrial warehouse where the air is filtered to ensure that there are no particles of soil or fungi floating in the environment.

Cannabis flowers go through a row of 40 machines connected to conveyor belts and, after being dried in chambers, they are placed in quarantine until the laboratory determines that they are suitable for the production of active pharmaceutical ingredients.

Meanwhile, cannabis flowers sit in vacuum-sealed bags in another industrial warehouse at 60 °F. Boxes and boxes of cannabis are stacked up to the ceiling waiting to go through the extraction laboratory and 8 other quality tests in which local technicians analyze the therapeutic components of the plant, and make sure that there are no contaminants.

Next to the warehouse, a row of eucalyptus, cedars, and palms, separates the seedling greenhouses. As we pass, macaws, blackbirds, and magpies announce themselves.

5, 6, 7… greenhouses facing each other, 82 feet wide, contain the cannabis clones that Cannava reproduces at scale in peat moss and flowers in 2 greenhouses that can host up to 6,000 plants and produce 3.6 tons of cannabis every 4 months.

On top of the greenhouses, two perpendicular awnings of more than 170 feet long deprive light and induce the flora in the plants. All this for how much? In total each 26,000 sq. feet greenhouse cost $270,000.

Like Christmas lights, LEDs, sensors, and extractors 3 feet wide ensure a constant airflow. Local technicians, biotechnologists, agronomists, and scientists complete the scene. “90% of our workers are locals” Morales clarifies.

On the way to see the rest of the campus, a sorghum field mined with light posts over 65 feet high is a must. “We renew the soil between cannabis cultivation cycles, which is why we plant organic sorghum,” said Morales, and explained that the lights prolong the growth stage of the plants in winter when daylight hours are scarce.

On the side of the road, a “cyborg” scene. The natural and the technological mended together. In the middle of the sorghum field, white forged steel tubes protrude from the ground, formed in an arc with testing and filtering chambers on top. "Those tubes carry the water, we have 200 acres of drip-assisted irrigation," Morales clarifies.

Outdoors, Cannava plants generate up to 22% THC and 16% CBD. Although the firm has already cultivated 86 acres, it can expand its production to 600 acres. Once again, this January 15, locals will begin the 2023 campaign. They will plant 120,000 cannabis plants.

"Around us, we have a 5 km buffer zone of native forest, between our crops and the neighboring crops, to prevent contamination from agrochemicals," Morales continues.

Contrary to what the traditional cultivation schemes in the Southern Hemisphere indicate (sow in September to harvest in April), the Argentinians discovered that it is in January when the plants receive the greatest amount of light and it is the seasonal rains that help them stretch.

Cannabis flowers in winter, in June and July, when the north wind dries the environment, preventing the proliferation of mold.

Currently, the company has one of the most important libraries of cannabis genetics in South America.

32 cannabis varieties are tested and reproduced from mother plants grown in greenhouses where wildflowers sweeten the air, and bugs of all colors, essential for organic farming proliferate. These mother plants are the company's gene pool which gives it the flexibility to drill into different markets.

Currently, Cannava can deliver three types of distillates, from isolates for nutraceutical use to pharmaceutical distillates. Management foresees the segmentation of Cannava’s products through the incorporation of advanced technology and knowledge, which comes with the constant training of their staff on international standards and advanced technologies.

Made In Jujuy

Cannava was granted a cannabis cultivation and processing authorization in compliance with GACP and GMP norms, by ANMAT, the National Administration of Drugs, Food and Medical Technology of Argentina. Now, Cannava is on its way to obtaining a European GMP certification that will allow the company to export its cannabis products to the European Union.

WHO’s GACP guidelines for medicinal plants regulate the cultivation and collection of these, including certain post-harvest operations. Meanwhile, GMP certifications (good manufacturing practices) are a guide to basic requirements and protocols for the correct manufacture of medicines for human and veterinary use endorsed by the European Union.

In addition to producing organic pharmaceutical cannabis, Cannava brings forward a sustainable business model.

The provincial government started the construction of a solar park that will supply the company and its region, increasing efficiencies, and reducing costs by up to 30% along with carbon emissions. The objective? Becoming a carbon-neutral company by 2024.

Cannava Incubates

In November, Cannava received more than 120 applied science solutions to streamline the cannabis value chain. Among the projects are alternatives for the industrial use of biomass.

The company seeks to strengthen links between the public and the private sector and foster the creation of spin-offs, and new companies with a social, economic, and environmental perspective. So far, hundreds of local students have had their first encounter with the botany, engineering, and science of pharmaceutical cannabis thanks to the firm's initiative.

Beyond Pharmaceutical Cannabis Oil

Cannava’s management understands that the cannabis market goes far beyond the production of pharmaceutical-grade cannabis oil and has already set its sights on the nutraceutical segment and CPG.

This is possible because CBD is legal now in Argentina.

The company targets the multi-billion USD wellness segment, which includes products such as nutritional supplements, functional beverages, edibles, and topicals, to name a few.

With a strategic lens, Cannava envisions a huge global market. Management seeks to escape from the commoditization of production and add productive diversity to the economy of Jujuy.

To do so, Cannava plans to host more than 60 companies and provide them with infrastructure and Standard Operational Procedures to produce exportable cannabis.

The objective? Transferring its vertical integration model, which contains all the production processes of cannabis, to the locals. The firm will provide internationally certified crop plots for the establishment of companies willing to invest, scale, and employ local workers, and benefit from being located in the first internationally certified cannabis cluster in the region.

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Posted In: BiotechCannabisLatin AmericaNewsCommoditiesManagementGlobalEconomicsExclusivesMarketsGeneralCannabis in ArgentinaCannavaCannava CannabisGaston MoralesMedicinal Cannabis


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