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Khurram Malik, Biome Grow CEO:

"You need to build everything around healthy, high quality plants"

“We have to legitimize our product, we have to build stories around it,” says Khurram Malik, CEO of Biome Grow. Biome Grow is a Canadian medicinal cannabis producer that is looking at opportunities in the international market. “The biggest challenge for medical cannabis is convincing doctors that certain strains work for certain medical conditions. That is why we are doing a lot of research.”

Khurram says you cannot look at cannabis like other medicines, you cannot focus on its medicinal properties as a whole. “We have to look at very specific issues and how cannabis can help with that particular issue. Think of drug resistant epilepsy, the effects of cannabis are immediate and it’s easy to recognize its effects. If you have a child with epilepsy and you start administering CBD, the effects are immediately noticeable. It's easy to prove the effects in this particular instance, but this is more difficult with some other things.”

A little push is needed
According to Khurram, the recreational cannabis market can help this process. “Perhaps people try cannabis and find out that it alleviates their pain. They go to the doctor saying: I tried this and my pain went away. This pressures the doctor into taking the cannabis into consideration as possibly helpful and they might start medical trials. The doctors themselves don't have to suggest it because their patients have already tried it.”

Legitimizing itself is merely one of the many issues that the medicinal cannabis market faces currently. According to Khurram, legislation – specifically in Canada – is another hurdle. Since what you are growing is essentially medicine, being a grower in the medicinal cannabis sector comes with a lot of extra responsibilities. “The regulations in Canada are very difficult to operate under. There are lots of regulations, which makes it very expensive to grow. But, because of this added legislative pressure, we grow at a very high-quality pharmaceutical grade. Plus, there is another advantage: if you can grow cannabis in compliance with all regulations in Canada, you can do it pretty much anywhere else, so it's easier to move into a new market.”

Growing medicinal-grade cannabis
“The most important things to take into consideration when it comes to growing medicinal-grade cannabis are healthy plants,” says Khurram. “Your plants need to be healthy and grow quickly at a high quality. You need to build everything around that. Take stock of the strains you are growing and adapt if necessary. If you have a particular strain that came from a particular climate you have to try to imitate that climate, otherwise they won't grow properly. It's a combination of what growing medium is used, what lights, air pressure, CO2, and how all of this works in combination.”

The role of automation
This also means that it is important for medicinal cannabis to be grown indoors. “By growing indoors, you can control all the factors that are important to a healthy plant. In the sequence of: indoors, greenhouse, and outdoors, each step represents a loss in quality.”

Khurram mentions another important factor to keep in mind when going for healthy and high-quality crops: automation. “In Canada and generally everywhere else most cannabis growing facilities are not automated. This is not good because of two reasons. Number one: workers are the biggest possible source of pollutants, so they increase the chance of your plants getting sick. And two: Variability. If you have too much human interaction with your plants, you're going to have a lot of variation from month to month.”

Khurram continues: “If you look at other parts of agriculture where your profit margins are a lot thinner – let's say you're growing tomatoes in a greenhouse environment or something – you want to automate significantly because you want to earn a living. If you've got a 100,000sqft greenhouse and it's fully automated and you're growing tomatoes you can probably run that with five people. If you have a similar sized cannabis facility you probably have about fifty people in it.”

This is why Biome Grow is building facilities with automation, for a better product and a cheaper production cycle. “We’re not inventing automation for cannabis,” says Khurram. “We’re just recognizing that it works in other parts of horticulture, so let’s use it in cannabis as well.”

Being eco-friendly
The new facilities that Biome Grow are building will also feature a lot of more environmentally friendly features, such as LED lighting and an efficient watering and feeding system that reduces waste. “Being environmentally friendly is important to us,” said Khurram. “Lowering the environmental impact of our facilities, on top of being good for the earth, is also good for us. Our power bill at the end of the day is probably lower than it is for most American growers.”

Biome Grow has their eyes towards the future, Khurram sees the industry becoming more accepted. “Five years from now, more doctors will be prescribing medicinal cannabis. Perhaps there will also be over the counter dietary supplements. Most certainly the medicinal cannabis market will keep growing.”

For more information:
Biome Grow

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