The cannabis peak: growing at altitude in Lesotho

Many countries in Africa have set up or are in the process of setting up a regulatory framework for the cannabis industry. Among the different countries, Lesotho surely represents a good case study of what the African cannabis industry could look like. The company WeGrow has recently broken ground for the construction of its high-tech greenhouse facility for medical cannabis. “This is a very complex project,” says Shay Lhermann with Top Greenhouses. “The facility is being set up at altitude, specifically 1,500 meters above the sea level, so there were a few things that we had to address.”

Firstly, the climate during winter had to be taken into consideration. “It gets very cold here in winter,” says Amit Rodoy, project manager at Top Greenhouses. “So, we couldn’t use regular polyethylene greenhouse as we needed an infrastructure capable of withstanding the snow. That’s why we chose polycarbonate. Yet, because of the altitude, summers are dry with very little humidity.” Because of this, they selected HPS lights. “Artificial lights give that additional light necessary during a cloudy day or during winter times,” Amit continues. “We went for HPS on the one hand because the environment can use that additional heat produced by HPS; on the other hand, we wanted to go for something that is proven to work. LED technology has advanced a lot recently, and it’s becoming more and more common in the industry. However, if you look at, say, one year ago, you could still see that HPS lights were the go-to lights for cannabis growers. This is because cannabis historically has been grown under HPS lights, and thus it’s easier to set something up with these rather than LED.”

Top Greenhouse has been selected by WeGrow because of its experience in building greenhouses all around the world. “We have projects in 52 countries all around the world,” Shay points out. “We have done a lot of cannabis projects in Israel, but also in Jamaica and Argentina. When WeGrow looked at that, they gave us the lead for their greenhouse.”

EU-GMP facility 
When a grower selects Top Greenhouses, they know they will get an EU-GMP facility. “EU-GMP is something we implement in most of our projects that are going for export,” Amit says. “So, for instance, we normally use a cement floor for greenhouses: you want to keep the environment clean and to not get any pathogen or issues from the ground. When you install a cement floor, the cultivation becomes more suitable for pharma than for recreational. Another thing about this project is that the greenhouse is kept as close as possible: the entrances have double doors with negative pressure. This means that, when you open the door, the air comes out rather than getting sucked in. The secret for successful cultivation is in the small details.” And when it comes to EU-GMP projects, Amit and Shay say that they have a requirement for the cultivation method. “When we are requested to supply an EU-GMP greenhouse, we request that the cultivation method is going to be hydroponic,” they say. “That’s because we cannot commit to EU-GMP if plants are grown in soil; if you want to obtain the certification, you need at least hydroponics.”

Having soilless cultivation is indeed something that would ensure a proven long-term success, according to Amit and Shay. “One of the best ways to stay long-term in EU-GMP conditions is that plants need to be disconnected from the soil. This is one of our basic requirements to supply GMP standards.”

For more information:
Top Greenhouses

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