The medical cannabis market in Denmark is growing very quickly, so growers are looking for ways to differentiate themselves. OC Care ApS is looking to be the first organic grower of medical cannabis in Denmark. Christian O. Hollensen: “There are a lot of big players in the market, many Canadian companies have invested in companies in Denmark. It is very important for us to differentiate ourselves in this increasingly competitive market.”
The first steps into an unknown area are never easy, and the same is true for Christian and OC Care ApS when venturing into organic medical cannabis growing. “One of the biggest problems, challenges we face with getting certification for growing organic crop is bureaucracy, existing rules and regulations,” he says. “When we started out and told the Danish Medicines agency we wanted to produce organic cannabis they told us we couldn’t because there is no certification for organic pharmaceutics.” But this doesn't make Christian stop dreaming about having organically certified medical cannabis on the shelves one day. “Being organic is a part of our DNA and for now we can only get our production certified as organic, but we will do what we can in order to one day be able to label our endproducts as organic.
Certified organic production
Modern problems require modern solutions, so Christian looked for different avenues of success. “We are now getting our production ready for being certified as organic,” he says. “We are in talks with the agricultural agency so that we will be compliant. Right now, we are making sure that we are GMP compliant. We are aiming to obtain a Cleanroom certification too. This is the ISO certification for lab and cleanrooms, used in very controlled environments with minimum contamination.”
Christian continues: “We are trying to get these certificates to make sure we can export. We believe that in the future it will be necessary for companies in the US and Canada to comply to FDA guidelines. By us having GMP certification and hopefully in the future Cleanroom certification we will be able to tap into that market without issues if we see a profitable opportunity to do so.”
Being able to sell the produce is important, of course, but the main focus for OC Care ApS is on creating the best growing environment for their produce. “We put a lot of focus on caring for the plant and making sure the environment is perfect for them,” says Christian. “My father is a farmer and has been growing organic crops, and he was my inspiration to start growing organically. He has also inspired me to have an environmentally friendly mind, and be as natural as possible.”
But growing organically does come with its challenges. “Media is one of the biggest challenges, because we have to grow in the right ratio to be certified organic,” says Christian. “We are not allowed to mix too much. Less coco and less perlite in our soil since the media then would be considered as an inactive media., We haven’t decided if it’s going to be hemp fibers or coco fibers. Coco fibers and hemp fibers almost have the same water holding capabilities, they can hold a bit more water, but the obvious advantage of hemp fibers is that we can produce them ourselves; this means that we will also have no waste product.”
Indoor / Controlled environment
Some would say organic growing would have to take place in actual sunlight, but Christian disagrees. “The only thing that isn’t typically organic about our production is that it takes place in closed facilities,” he says. “We grow only with LED light, and try to handle all the environmental factors that can have an impact on the growth of cannabis.” This is the main reason why Christian and OC Care ApS prefer growing indoor over in a greenhouse. “Growing indoor allows for full control of environmental factors and minimizes the contamination from pathogens, pests and molds, and insects.”
Christian continues: “We can upgrade the growth in the plant by adding more CO2, and controlling the lighting per square meters. It’s important to find the best method of cultivation for different strains, and focusing on having a great product for extractors to make something of. So, the focus right now is 100% on getting the best possible product.”
Optimizing cultivation methods
A lot of the elements of the OC Care ApS growing operation are Senmatic products. “We are using FL100 grow light from Senmatic, and all our control systems and data are supplied by Senmatic,” says Christian. “Senmatic products give us a lot of possibilities because we can adjust the different parameters and keep track of how the plant is growing and use all the collected data to improve our growing methods. I can go into the program and read the CO2 level and adjust it if necessary. We can always go back and see what we did that affected the yields.”
Like many parties in the industry, OC Care ApS too see the need for standardization, especially when taking into account the recent incidents with vape pens. “It is a major problem that there are not strict enough control and regulations on the US market limitations,” says Christian.
OC Care ApS is looking to help with the process towards standardization, by trying to develop best practices through the use of the data they collect through Senmatic equipment. “We believe that data is king, in cannabis as well,” says Christian. “The most difficult element of working with cannabis over other types of medicine is that you are working with a living plant, so the smallest variable can change the end product. This is why we need to collect a lot of data to be one step ahead. It is important to get to the right method in all possible ways.”
Christian continues: “A lot of people in the business, in horticulture in general, think they have it all figured out, that they know how it should be done. We like to constantly question their and our own methods and test further and always be searching for a potential better way to do things. Because cannabis is a great opportunity, and we believe it is going to develop the future of agriculture. We want to be a part of that and we are currently developing our “Envision”- concept together with various partners, which we believe is going to help shape modern agriculture.
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OC Care ApS