Article by: Hari Yellina
Harvesting has begun at a “first-of-its-kind” medicinal cannabis facility in north-west Victoria, according to Cann Group. The plant near Mildura, which was developed in a disused fruit juice factory, has harvested a “smaller than average” first batch. Shane Duncan, the company’s chief operating officer, said he was “very satisfied” with the initial batch’s health despite some obstacles. “The next stage is to dry it out and test it for cannabinoid levels,” he explained. “For the next few months, we’ll probably take lesser crops than usual just to make sure we’ve got everything dialled in properly: fertigation, lighting, temperature controls, and humidity controls.
“However, by July or August, we’ll be in a position to begin ramping up production.” Every two weeks, a new crop is expected to be collected. Mr Duncan said that the crop would be dried for several days to remove moisture before being transported away for manufacture, which entails extracting cannabinoids from the plant and turning them into oil, tincture, or capsules for medical use. Mr Duncan anticipates that, in addition to cultivation, processing will soon be done on site, with TGA approval of a manufacturing licence likely later this month. “We’ve been commissioning and operating pilot batches [producing medicinal capsules] for a few months now, so manufacturing on a small scale has been going on at the facility for a while,” he stated.
“However, we need the licence before we can really release any of that stuff onto the market.” Mr Duncan said there are already 33 full-time employees on site, with that number likely to rise to “somewhere between 50 and 60” by the end of the year. The $115 million facility, according to the Victorian government, will be the “first-of-its-kind” in Australia, with the potential to cultivate up to 70,000 kg of dried cannabis flowers each year. They predict that the project will provide $191 million to the Mildura economy, including the development of the 13.5-hectare complex.