Bringing together the knowledge of two important cannabis markets with much future potential left. That is what occurred yesterday at a well-visited symposium in Lisbon, Portugal. The event was organized by the Dutch Legal Cannabis Coalition (LCC) and WISE Healthcare Solutions, and brought together many experts in the industry who shared their knowledge during the day-long event. With 100 people listening along in the audience, it is safe to say that there was a lot of interest in obtaining Dutch and Portuguese cannabis knowledge.
The Legal Cannabis Coalition founders along with all of the speakers at the event
The Legal Cannabis Coalition. From left to right: Arno Hazekamp, Peter Tas, Darryn Bruce, Isabelle François
Portugal: “the ideal hub for medical cannabis”
Filomena Frazao de Aguiar, General Manager of WISE Healthcare Solutions kicked off the event with her presentation on the advantages of the Portuguese market for cannabis. “There are several reasons why we believe Portugal to be the ideal hub for medical cannabis. First of all, there are many aspects making the Portuguese climate very favorable for cultivation, from light hours to water and soil conditions. Moreover, with affordable labor and lands, local cultivation would be low in cost compared to some other countries. Portuguese regulations are also more and more on our side. After Parliament approved the use of medical cannabis in 2018, we now have 18 licensed cultivators in the country. But with there being more and more talks of further legalization, this would provide exciting opportunities for the future.”
Filomena Frazao de Agular, WISE, discussing the Portuguese cannabis market
Arno Hazekamp (LCC) sharing the importance of the Dutch horticultural expertise
Arno Hazekamp, LCC consultant, explains the benefits of bringing the Dutch expertise to the Portuguese market. “It is important to do what you are good at. The Netherlands has their cultivation and greenhouse technology expertise, and we were one of the first countries to venture into legal medical cannabis.” With their variety of members, the Coalition is building a toolbox of information to share with the industry. “If we combine everyone’s specific skillsets, we create a large combination of knowledge.” With a full day of informative presentations ahead, attendees of the event got a glimpse of what all of this knowledge has to offer them.
Everyone enjoying a well-deserved coffee break
“A challenging crop needs a dedicated facility”
The first session of presentations was dedicated to preparing your cultivation site. “The crop is always the boss when looking at a facility,” says Pascal van Oers of VEK Adviesgroep in his presentation on facility design. “With such a high value crop as cannabis, you need an expensive greenhouse to make the production valuable. Therefore, it is also important to look at ways to use the natural climate conditions. The colder nights in Portugal, for example, save growers a lot of money that would have otherwise been spent on cooling down the plants. A good analysis of the natural climate is important as a starting point, after which we can adapt the facility to optimize production.” Van Oers explains that the budget is always limited when it comes to building and designing a facility. “Therefore, we always focus on the must-haves vs. the like-to-haves in our discussions of the project. Especially now that shortages and rising material costs are making things more complicated, this is an important but challenging conversation.”
Pascal van Oers, VEK Adviesgroep
Bart ‘t Hoen explaining the benefits of Hoogendoorn’s IIVO process computer
Once the facility is built, there are ways to facilitate certain processes for the grower. If there were a way to monitor and control your facility’s environment, for example, that would be of great help to many growers. “We need to listen to the plant’s behavior, as it will tell us how the climate should be,” says Bart ‘t Hoen, Area Sales Manager at Hoogendoorn. “That is where our IIVO process computer comes in, a next level climate computer. “IIVO constantly monitors every aspect of your greenhouse environment, including climate conditions, irrigation and energy management. For example, if you know exactly all of the energy coming to the plant, you can then use that data to calculate the evaporation. Or if something is wrong with the ventilation somewhere, the grower will know immediately. As the younger generation enjoys pictures over graphs, we are also providing the collected values in pictures for an easy overview of your facility’s current situation. All of the data together is extremely important, as it is the only way to truly understand the plant. While a plant’s looks can be deceivingly good, sensors could tell you that the stomata are closing. When it comes to cultivation, it is much better to be proactive than to be reactive.”
Arnold de Kievit of Oreon (left) and Paulo Feteira of AgroTeck (right)
René Corsten of Delphy sharing the biggest challenges of cannabis cultivation, from selecting the right genetics to optimizing the ingredients. “There is still a lot to improve, so our cultivation research will continue to benefit growers’ knowledge.”
“We want extra light in the facility, but not the heat” is what many cannabis growers have been asking over the years, according to Arnold de Kievit of Oreon, who has water-cooled LEDs as the solution. “The heat can then be reused where you want it, instead of it being at the top of the greenhouse. As a result, you have more balance in your facility as you don’t want temperature fluctuations. With there being less ventilation and humidity as a result, some growers have even reported to water-cooled LEDs leading to lower risks in pests.”
Alessandro Radici, Key Leaves, sharing a Portuguese grower’s perspective with the audience
“Long and bumpy road”
In between sessions, Alessandro Radici of Key Leaves, a Portuguese Licensed Producer, shared the importance of external support. “Even though we have now had 11 successful production cycles, it was a long and bumpy road to get here. The cannabis industry does not yet have established knowledge and procedures, so we need to learn from each other. It is also still vertically integrated, meaning that it is challenging to master all the different processes you have to do yourself. It of course doesn’t help that the market and regulations are constantly changing too. As time is money in cannabis, working with a consulting company to speed up the processes and transfer their knowledge to you, is the best way to achieve your company’s goals.”
Jan Jaap Stelwagen presenting the benefits of Perfect Plants’ cannabis tissue culture compared to other starting materials
After hearing all the expert insights concerning the facility, the next step is of course to master the actual growing of cannabis. “Tissue culture is the best solution for cannabis,” is how Jan Jaap Stelwagen of Perfect Plants opened the cultivation session. “Wageningen University research has shown that cannabis produced directly from tissue culture have significantly larger yields compared to other starting material. Moreover, you get a consistent production without the high risk for any detrimental diseases. Once you have the material, you also have a short production time, as you are skipping the mother plants.”
Ben Nikaj of Grodan
Goncalo Duarte of Koppert had some interesting close-up videos to share of how biological control works
Jim Pryor of Royal Brinkman on the importance of CanHub's hygiene products for cultivators
Because of the importance of hygiene in medical cannabis, there is a high demand for stone wool as a growing medium in North America, says Ben Nikaj of Grodan. “You have to start clean, stay clean, and finish clean. Stone wool is a natural product that creates uniformity in production, which is important for such a diverse crop as cannabis. When it comes to cannabis we use the knowledge we have of other crops, as cannabis is in some ways a plant like any other. For example, when you do a mineral test, the mineral concentration is very similar to tomatoes. That means that you could use the same recipe for both plants. While we all know photosynthesis is extremely important, the minerals are necessary for the plant to get sugars, which are the first building blocks of the plant. In turn, a healthy root zone is extremely important to provide the plant with the right amount of fertilizers, so that it can function correctly and can reach the highest quality. For a grower, it is important to maintain a balance concerning the different aspects in the rootzone: water/air content, EC, pH, chemical availability (nutrition). To measure is to know; even three times a day is not too much, as it gives valuable insight into the effects of your watering strategy.”
Nick Abbingh of Cannabis-Drying.com
The final product
The final session of the day focused on what to do with your products post-harvest, from chemical testing to CO2 extraction. Nick Abbingh of Cannabis-Drying.com shared their company’s innovative drying solutions. “In our system the cannabis flowers are placed in Canna-Trays and a ventilator sucks the conditioned air top-down through the Canna-Trays. Because of the vertical air flow, you get an evenly dried end product that is free of wet spots and thus reducing the risk of mold. While many growers are convinced that hang drying produces more cannabinoids and terpenes, our research proved them wrong. When comparing the traditional hang drying to our drying solution, the cannabinoid and terpene production was the same. Yet our solution is 10 times more space efficient, which is an important benefit for medicinal cannabis production.”
Bart Jansen of Brightlabs giving his presentation on the challenges of chemical analysis of cannabis
Isabelle François on the extraction and purification services of Thar Process. "Cannabis flower is still the biggest market, but we are seeing that concentrates are gaining market, as many patients prefer to use the product in a more familiar way."
After the final presentations were given and the last round of drinks was done, it was time for everyone to go home again. Being the Legal Cannabis Coalition’s first international event, they were pleased with the large amount of interest. They are hoping to organize more in the future, as yesterday’s event proved to be a great way to exchange a wide variety of cannabis knowledge with each other.