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A family matter: from flowers to cannabis

The combination of pharma and horticulture that makes up the cannabis industry has left a number of growers unprepared for the challenges that such an endeavor poses. The medical cannabis industry has had a rather slow start, back in the beginning of 2000, and it only experienced a major boom when Canada was the first Western country to create a legal framework for the establishment of a legal cannabis industry. Since then, we have witnessed and are still witnessing the classic snowball effect, with an increasing number of countries jumping into this profitable new market. Not many countries have a long history of horticulture knowledge like Canada or the Netherlands. Yet, there is one country that not only has a long tradition in horticulture, but is also renowned as the world capital of cannabis research. It does not come as a surprise that Israel is indeed one of the spearheads of this young and exciting industry.

Exactly because Israel has a legacy of growing and researching, there are companies like Seach Medical Group, that are active along the full extent of the industry’s offering. “Seach is a family business with over 75 years of experience in growing,” Shay Avraham Sarid with Seach says. “We started our cannabis operation back in 2002, when we were the first company to apply for a commercial license from the Israeli Ministry of Health. Then, in 2005 we eventually received it, and in 2008 we started supplying patients in Israel. Nowadays, we have clients worldwide: we indeed export even to Australia and Germany.”

Everything cannabis
Just like Israel, Seach is not specialized in only one aspect of horticulture. “We grow cannabis, we breed strains for specific conditions, plus we conduct clinical trials and design and develop cannabis growing and consumption-related machineries and products,” Shay Avraham points out. But before doing clinical trials, Seach could gather data on the strains’ performance thanks to the old regulatory framework in Israel. “Within the old reform, growers, and therefore we, had a direct connection with patients,” he continues. “We supplied a lot of patients directly at their doors per month, and for each of them we had an indication of which strains they were taking, and which effects they were experiencing. Based on this data, we bred some strains to specifically treat certain health conditions. Therefore we know which sets of genetics are good for pain, for Parkinson disease, and so on. With the new reform, we supply patients through pharmacies, and we focus more on the growing and clinical research side.”

A family tradition
Indeed, the Sarid family has a long tradition in horticulture. “We have been living in this village growing flowers in greenhouses for over 70 years,” Shay Avraham says. “My parents used to export flowers to the Netherlands and Germany.” And when Shay Avraham together with his brother Yogev decided to go into cannabis, they retrofitted the old flower greenhouse to make it suitable for cannabis cultivation. “Generally speaking, it wasn’t the ideal base,” Shay Avraham says. “We converted the greenhouse slowly. Then, we started demolishing the old greenhouse and building one specifically for cannabis growing: air control, climate control, lights & shadowing, and especially security. In Israel, extreme security is one of the most important requirements for cannabis cultivation businesses. Our facility is highly secured with fences, patrolling dogs, sensors, cameras and many more. Beside land mines, we got it all!” Shay Avraham jokingly claims.

Seach grows its cannabis in what they call a ‘controlled environment greenhouse’. “It’s a greenhouse, but it is way more sophisticated than the ones you are used to in traditional horticulture,” Shay Avraham explains. This is partly because, along with the most common things that factor into cannabis cultivation, Seach uses proprietary technology, which renders them a substantial margin over the competition. “Technological development is the second most important aspect of our company,” Shay Avraham continues. “We develop much cannabis related technology: genetics, agro-machinery, feeding systems, and terpene technology. We have many patented solutions, some of which we also supply other companies with, while we keep other solutions for ourselves as this gives us an advantage over our competitors. Most of the machines we have developed were created out of a necessity that arose here in our farm. The airflow device we are using, for instance, is a proprietary and patented technology that only we possess.”

Cultivation follows patient demands
Allowing the patients’ needs to shape the cultivation has paid off both in terms of revenue and understanding how genetics treat specific conditions. “That is why we have a vast inventory of genetics that are proven to work against a specific disease,” Shay Avraham explains. “We have affiliate farms here in Israel to which we supply the genetics and guidance on how to grow them. We wanted to do this in order to prevent the worst case scenario: if patients cannot find that cannabis variety that they have been using because of supply issues with a provider, then our affiliate farms located all over Israel will be able to take over and send them the cure. In this way, we can keep the supply of our genetics and products steady, even in the event of a literal catastrophe.”

Given all the activities that Seach carries out, Yogev, CEO of Seach, believes that the company is very well positioned to become the biggest Israeli cannabis company. “We already export to a few countries in Europe, and in Australia,” he says. “But we are planning on expanding our export capabilities. Not to mention that we have also secured a license in Greece, where we have started building a state of the art facility.”

Shay Avraham agrees with his brother, adding: “We will also conduct more clinical trials, so that our products will also receive that recognition that all other pharma products have. We have started a big project where we are scanning our over 300 genetics to get their DNA sequencing and full chemical profile. It will allow us to further understand their ability to fight specific diseases using in-vitro methods. Then, we will go one step forward, to in-vivo trials, which will allow us to go on the “official” pharma route to register our strains and formulation as a real Pharma product for specific indications, and will place us in the next following years as one of the leaders in the medical (pharma grade) Cannabis market around the world.”

For more information:
Seach Medical Group