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Dr. Max Edgley on Tasmanian Botanics and the Australian market

AU: An 11,000 square meter expansion to increase the domestic supply

As one of the first companies in Australia to get their license, Tasmanian Botanics knows the challenging process it takes to start cultivating GMP-certified medicinal cannabis in the country. Yet local production is important, explains Dr. Max Edgley, cultivation manager of the company. “It is important to ensure high quality as well as consistent access for the patients.” In order to better meet the high demand, the company is currently working on an 11,000 square meter greenhouse expansion.

Strict GMP requirements
Tasmanian Botanics grows and manufactures cannabis for both the GMP flower and extraction markets. As Edgley explains, the Australian GMP requirements are among the strictest in the world. Being one of the first licensed growers in the country did not make things easier either. “It was a pretty burdensome process to set up the cultivation. There are three initial licenses that are required from the federal government, then there are state and local licenses on top of that, as well as three permits. In total, it was a 2-3 year process prior to growing anything. Being one of the first made it even more challenging, as there was not much guidance available regarding the regulatory burdens.”

An 11,000 square meter expansion
The company has a greenhouse as well as outdoor production. “We have an annual outdoor production of about three hectares and we grow year-round with a perpetual harvest system in our greenhouse. The greenhouse is currently 2000 square meters, and we are halfway through building an 11,000 square meter greenhouse.” Edgley explains that growing permanent plants in a greenhouse, as opposed to growing in an indoor facility, can be a bit more challenging in some aspects. “If you permanently have plants growing, you don’t really get much opportunity to sanitize the whole area, so your IPM and sanitation practices have to be of the highest rank. Besides that, the climate management is actually not that different, as we have different climate zones in our greenhouse for vegetation and flowering. We currently grow cultivars that are suited to our greenhouse environment and grow well together, and our expansion will allow us to tailor the climate to the cultivar with more precision.”

Growing GMP flowers outdoors
Edgley explains that the company uses its own genetics. “The goal of our genetics department is to produce something that would work well in the Tasmanian environment and that meets the demand of the local market.” For their greenhouse production, they aim for the GMP flower market with high quality year-round. “Outdoors, we are able to produce high THC crops, which is quite unique in Australia. We took that opportunity and have grown for extraction in the past, but we are now growing GMP flowers outdoors as well. We take the best portion of the outside flowers for the bud market and use all the secondary biomass for extraction purposes. The combination of greenhouse and outdoor crops allows us to supply year-round at a lower price, as outdoor production is relatively cheap.”

But does outside production not bring along extra risks, especially for GMP flowers? “Yes, if there is a big storm at the wrong time, all of your crops could be gone. However, it is a risk that we are willing to take. By being more selective with the cultivars that we grow and the buds that we harvest, it remains a beneficial process for us.”

A developing industry
Just a couple of years ago, Australia was still relying heavily on imports for their cannabis, but a more domestic supply seems to be emerging. “It has taken producers quite a while to get locally grown GMP flowers on the market, but it is a good thing that we now have a large scale GMP flower production to supply the local market. Local supply reduces the reliance on imports, ensures that the quality meets our requirements, and gives more direct access to the patients. With the cannabis shortage Australia has had to deal with these past years, consistent access to high-quality products is an important focus for us.”

According to Edgley, Australian consumers and prescribers are getting more educated about cannabis, but there is still a long way to go. “The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is now increasing patient access and flexibility for prescribers, but it is pivotal that everyone becomes more educated. Hopefully, the regulations will continue to increase the ability for patients to easily access locally grown medical cannabis, leading to local suppliers being able to meet the market demand as well as export. Australia is a very good place to produce pharmaceutical products, and we are hoping to become a global player in the industry.”

For more information:
Tasmanian Botanics
[email protected]