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Mike Kindrat, Avextra:

Portugal: “We’re starting small, but aim to scale up production to keep up with the German demand”

With 10.000 square meters of GMP manufacturing operational in Germany, Avextra started cultivation in Portugal to further control its value chain. After receiving their GACP license in Q4 of 2023, the first commercial crop was harvested in mid-February. "We previously supplemented with imported flower from other sources while we scaled our operations. Our operations in Portugal have been set up quite small because we didn't want to overbuild like a lot of companies did in North America without understanding the market demands. There's potentially a 9 to 12-month+ period when you're running the facility and receiving no revenue. We wanted to prove our concept in the R&D space, and scale up from there," explains Mike Kindrat, Managing Director of Avextra Portugal SA. "We are starting to look into the validity of our commercial varieties for the next couple of years and scale our cultivation asset in Portugal to keep up with the demand in Europe. Right now, our flower is either used for extraction in Germany or as dry flower for our partnerships in the UK."

Switching to coco
"We grow in a single greenhouse using natural water from a spring on site that goes through the RO system. We then add our nutrient mix and the plants get fed through drip to waste irrigation," Mike explains. "Right now, we are using a rockwool mixture, but we are also testing coco. Due to the temperatures in the summer in the Alentejo, we will most likely be switching our medium to coco," he adds. "Although we are having really good results with rockwool, we just don't think we have the control in terms of crop steering to really drive the plants where they need to go in the summer. We are assessing that right now within our breeding program. We are also testing a couple of our commercial plants in coco alongside the rockwool, to see what kind of differences we get. The coco is showing some favorable traits that we don't get with rockwool. For example, the feeding is easier, you can build the nutrients up, we can flush a bit longer, and we can get more even drybacks in the summer greenhouse."

Exclusive cultivars
Avextra's goal is to create its own IP: "We are running a genetic program alongside the commercial crop. We didn't want to go for market-ready cultivars. If we're buying those, there are large costs involved in terms of licensing. On top of that, a lot of genetics are open-source, and anybody can use them. What we are doing is targeting specific cannabinoid ratios for use in our clinical developments and formulations in Germany."

Investing in R&D
The company is focused on collaborating with researchers, doctors and scientific associations to gather and document evidence to support the therapeutical use of its products. "I think it is really important we do this type of work. As companies, we can support medicinal markets and legalization, but there's always the counterargument about evidence, safety and efficacy. We will be taken more seriously by health care professionals if we can prove the medical cannabis does what we say it does," Mike says. "Doctors need evidence-based studies indicating benefits to confidently prescribe cannabis-based medicines to their patients. This would allow the market to open up and flourish a little bit further from where we are today." Avextra has 5 clinical trials ongoing in Germany right now, focusing on sleep, pain and palliative indications.

Navigating the medicinal cannabis market
"To date, we are in 5 different markets: Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy and the UK, with Portugal as our cultivation and R&D hub," he explains. "We continue to explore new market opportunities and expansion while focusing on developing IP-protected products and discovering evidence from our clinical trials."

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