In October, marijuana industry heavy hitter Aurora Cannabis Inc. spent $3.85-million to acquire BC Northern Lights Enterprises Ltd., a Vancouver-based company that manufactures refrigerator-sized “grow boxes.” The miniature nurseries, loaded up with high-powered lights, ventilation systems and hydroponics equipment, are designed to hold four to 18 marijuana plants and made specifically for the home-growing market.
BCNL, which has been around for nearly two decades, has been selling boxes to medical-marijuana users since limited home growing became legal in 2001 for patients with government-approved growing licences. With the federal government legalizing recreational cannabis use this coming summer, BCNL’s chief executive officer Tarren Wolfe is expecting an avalanche of new customers. “I believe [the number of home growers] is at least going to double when the doors open,” he said. That could mean tens of thousands of new hobby horticulturalists looking for an easy way to cultivate.
In the overall context of Canada’s ballooning cannabis market, it’s unlikely that home-grown marijuana will ever make up more than a small portion of consumption. The federal government’s draft marijuana legislation has capped the number of plants recreational users can grow at four. Quebec has already given a firm no to any recreational home growing and challenges related to the sometimes unruly medical-marijuana home-growing market could invite further restrictions.
But even with these caveats, companies that have long worked in the world of hydroponics – the technique of cultivating plants indoors using artificial light and water-based nutrients – are expecting to benefit from a wave of DIY enthusiasm.
“There will be a huge influx of people just trying it out for the first time,” said Justin Cooper, co-founder of Surrey B.C.-based nutrients manufacturer and hydroponics wholesaler Green Planet Wholesale Ltd. “It will be like beer and wine: you can brew your own, which most people don’t do. But the ability to go brew your own has also led to the craft industry, and that’s now a huge component of the beer industry.”
Green Planet is scaling up its manufacturing and distribution capacity to meet the expected demand, Mr. Cooper said. He sees his company doubling in size within the next 24 months, from around 75 employees to around 150. Part of that growth will be driven by supply contracts with licensed producers, he said. But supplying home growers could “easily be 50 per cent of our business,” he added.
Whether this demand will be seen at the level of storefront hydroponics retailers is less clear, according to Trevor Wilkinson, owner of Toronto hydroponics store Grow It All Inc.
“I think in the short run we’ll see an increase in demand, as it will be a novelty,” Mr. Wilkinson said. “Eventually it will die down, because it will be a lot more convenient to just go out and buy your own.”
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