How does an airline pilot become the top specialist in the field of medical cannabis? A few years ago, Codema took its first steps in the new market for medical cannabis and looked for an account manager who would quickly make this market their own.
Lars Meijer has now worked at Codema for 4 years. He started at the Service department but was soon appointed as an account manager in the fast-growing market for medical cannabis. He had a remarkable journey before he found his place as an account manager at Codema:
“Ever since I can remember, it was my dream to become an airline pilot. The only thing was that after successfully completing the pilot training, I couldn’t find a seat and was really faced with a black hole. When I applied at Codema, my manager at the time, Maurice, wanted to give me the chance but the commercial director had his doubts. He came around, and I was invited to a second interview. I got the call that I could start while I was still in my car on my way back. It is fantastic that I got the opportunity and have been able to prove myself since then.”
Born in Westland
In retrospect, it isn’t such a stretch that Lars found his niche at Codema. He was born in The Westland (Wateringen), worked in a bell pepper greenhouse during the holidays, and plays soccer with greenhouse builders and growers. But when he started at Codema, he didn't know anything about greenhouses or the logistical systems which are paramount for these greenhouses. Fortunately, the market for medical cannabis was just as new as he was: a perfect combination.
Investing in medical cannabis
“The traditional Codema customer is the grower. Experienced ladies and gentlemen who’ve been in this trade their whole lives and know exactly how they want their greenhouse to be set up and which technology should be applied. Customers for medical cannabis greenhouses don’t resemble these traditional growers at all; mainly they are investors who see an opportunity in this market. What we ultimately deliver might be the same, but the information and knowledge requirement is completely different. The sales process has a different structure. Because I only just started in this role, I didn’t know any better and I could serve this group very well. I can now proudly say that Codema is known in the market for being the specialist in the field of medical cannabis,” says Lars.
Cultivation systems for medical cannabis
In particular, the innovativeness and complexity of these projects appeal to Lars. In a cannabis greenhouse, Codema can use all its knowledge and expertise:
“A cannabis investor is not hindered by any knowledge - in a good way. Where the conventional grower takes cautious steps off the trodden path, a cannabis investor has all kinds of exotic ideas, the budget and the revenue model to make it happen. A good example is the automated movement of large, heavy plant boxes. A Dutch grower would know: ‘it’s way too heavy I’ll better leave it where it is,’ but a cannabis cultivator wants to automate as much as possible from the start. It also fits the revenue model, because the yield of a cannabis greenhouse is so much higher.
The medicinal aspect also has a major influence on the complexity of a cannabis project. For instance, the growth needs to be tracked from 'seed to product' by means of a track and trace system. This goes from location and climate to the watering. Because cannabis is for medical use, the product must meet exceptionally stringent quality and health requirements. Of course, it is not a problem for us to set all this up, but it does involve costs that for example a food grower wouldn’t be able to justify. In this market, everything is possible.”
Business case for medical cannabis greenhouse
Where the conventional grower requests specifications, Codema helps medical cannabis investors with the development of a turnkey business case. This process is special, since it still is such a new market. The following steps need to be taken before the customer can begin building the cannabis greenhouse:
- Building up the business case (4-6 weeks)
- Applying for a permit
- Compiling final specifications
- Drawing up order confirmation
- Project team kick-off meeting
- Project planning
Cannabis permit application to harvest
Lars explains the process as follows: “The first milestone is often the permit application. The customer needs a ton of information for this, which we can provide in a short time and according to their specific desires. All in all, that takes about a month and then the permit application can be submitted. Of course, the duration of the permit application process depends on the customer and the scale, but as soon as the permit is received Codema really gets to work. Together with the customer, we determine the final specifications that fit the business case and the order confirmation can be signed. Then we organize a kick-off meeting and the project schedule is drawn up. The realization phase can start.”
Cannabis: from seed to product
“I’m very proud of the role that Codema plays in this process. We can take care of everything for the customer in the most important project phases. During the preparation phase we share our knowledge and expertise freely and in the realization phase we make ensure that there is actual production in the new greenhouse. Customers appreciating this is evident in the new orders we have received from customers for whom we recently built a greenhouse for medicinal cannabis. What more do we want?"