CannArava is a medical cannabis company situated in a very peculiar location: right in the Arava desert, between the Red and the Dead Sea. The company holds a nursery license and a grow license. “Fortunately, the application process is not very complicated,” Eyal Policar with CannArava points out. “You have to literally fill in a form and then go through a very strict and careful checking. Mor, Eyal’s son in law who is also a lawyer specializing in regulatory actions was successful in getting the licenses. These things take time, as the Israeli cannabis unit who is the regulatory body and takes care of these matters is not very large, and they have a lot of due diligence they need to check.
From flowers to cannabis
Eyal has been a farmer for more than 30 years, and before he started off his medical cannabis project, he used to grow flowers. “This means that I know what growing in a greenhouse entails,” he says. And that is exactly the reason why he decided to build a fully indoor facility to grow his cannabis. “I see this as a medicine, and people that take a medicine should get the highest standard possible, which is not achievable in a greenhouse, because there are a number of elements that you cannot control, the environment above all.”
His experience in growing flowers allowed Eyal to understand the differences between growing medical cannabis and any other crops. “The rationale of growing a medicine is different,” says he. “You need a very strict protocol to follow, something that you don’t really have if you grow vegetables or flowers. Here, you have to abide by a very tough procedure, for your workers and for yourself. It takes time to come up with a standard plan as this is a very complex matter. With the help of Tal our CEO we succeeded, and we have already sold all of our flowers for 2020: potential buyers came here to see how we work and they were immediately convinced. Needless to say that it was really nice to see your job appreciated at such a high level.”
A wealth of knowledge
Part of the reason why CannArava is able to grow at such a high quality is because its head grower, Eyal’s son Gahl who spent a substantial amount of time in the US, studying cannabis and growing. “When he came back here in Israel, he had a wealth of knowledge that proved to be of great help to get things started on the right foot. On top of that, he brought with him another great expert Lior that helped us sort things out properly. The sum of their knowledge allows us to have more than 15 years of experience in growing cannabis within our company,” Eyal points out.
CannArava’s high tech indoor facility does not require much labor, as everything is semi automated and computerized. “This also allows us to support the local farming community and give a job to those veteran growers that cannot carry out particularly intensive work,” Eyal explains. “Thus, they can work for, say, 4 hours and take care of their job, and then the young ones can take over and finish what the elders have difficulty with. On the one hand, these old-age growers boast a high-level of skill, which is truly beneficial to us; on the other hand, we take in high regard social responsibility, and providing jobs for our local farming community is part of our efforts towards that.”
Growing in the desert
There are many advantages to growing cannabis in the desert. “First of all, there is a lot of sun,” Eyal points out. “We are now installing solar panels that will give us some of the energy we use. As of now, we don’t fully rely on them. But our plan is to entirely harness the power of the sun to supply our facility with electricity.” Not only that though, as the very dry and clean air in the area helps CannArava to fight pathogens more efficiently. “Generally speaking, there are way less diseases and humidity in this area,” he explains. “Our main concern indoors is the heat. But thanks to the power of the sun, and our hvac system we can cool down the environment with no issue.”
Also, the water is not a big problem, Eyal explains, as they grow in pots and the water does not evaporate as much, thus maximizing every drop they use. “We decided to grow in substrates instead of, say, hydroponics, because if roots get a disease, then you have to throw most of the cannabis away. If something happens in one of the pots, we just take that out and continue growing the rest.”
Since CannArava’s facility boasts a lot of technology and automation inside, Eyal points out that one of the biggest challenges in setting it up was indeed the technology. “We are at the forefront of tech,” says he. “When you have to implement and integrate so many different pieces of equipment, there are many challenges to overcome, and that takes time. But we got a lot of support from different companies: for instance, the company providing us with the HVAC system specializes in clean rooms and operating rooms; needless to say, you cannot afford to have any issues in those, and therefore they knew what needed to be done and addressed, and they helped us with that.”
CannArava plans to export its product to Europe, and especially Germany. “We are working towards getting the EU-GMP license for our processing procedures. As of now, we are focused on growing the highest quality cannabis for Israel. But when the time will come, we hope to get the EU-GMP certification relatively easy.”
Eyal continues to explain that since its inception, CannArava’s mission has been to provide people with healthy medicines, and this will always be the path that the company will follow. “I think that in the future cannabis will be more regulated and more legalized, especially with regards to the recreational side. However, we are focused on the medical. We want to optimize the medicines that people will take: that is why I want to carry out medical trials and see what are the best cannabis varieties that can treat peoples conditions.”