Jeff Nielson and his sister, Robyn Wyntick, of Custom Cannabis served as the keynote speakers for the 2019 SouthGrow Annual General Meeting in Claresholm.
“Cannabis is a plant that can be used as medicine in a very, very intense way for people with intense problems,” Nielson said.
Nielson said that he first became introduced to the idea and benefits of cannabis when he was diagnosed with a metastatic cancer and was struggling to cope with the aid of pain medication. Nielson said that a friend of his who was a cannabis grower introduced him to cannabis and it turned out to be very helpful to pain management. Thankfully, Nielson is currently in remission and now endeavours to help others.
“From that moment on with incredible intensity and tenacity, we began to build Custom Cannabis,” Nielson said. “We wanted to be able to be a business where desperate families like mine could come and have regular cannabis medicine provided for them.”
To start their journey, Nielson and his sister went and toured around to a lot of different municipalities in Southern Alberta and inquired as to whether or not the conversation around campus has changed a lot in the several years. In 2014, the siblings purchased 4.5 acres of rural commercial property in Claresholm and things steadily progressed from there.
“When we first came to the MD of Willow Creek, we showed them a little bit of a sniff of what it was going to be like, what the security was going to be like, what the proposed facility was going to be like,” Robyn Wyntick said. “We provided are very preliminary ideas to them and nobody even blinked an eye and so we knew we were home.”
Wyntick said she and Nielson made an offer on an old greenhouse on the south end of town that under that was perfectly suitable for growing cannabis in. The MD, Wyntick said, went in and they talked about it and they gave unanimous approval to the idea because they needed businesses in the area and a cannabis business would be a good specialty agriculture business to support.
“This area gets 900 more hours a year of sunshine than Leamington and Niagara in Ontario,” Wyntick said. “We have more sun and are more drier here than anywhere else in Canada. All of our systems can be designed to maximize the hours of sunlight as well as that dry air.”
Unfortunately, the building on the property actually turned out to be unsuitable for growing cannabis, so Wyntick and Nielson tore down the building and custom-built a cannabis growing factory. The current facility, Wyntick said, is the first of its kind in Canada and extremely automated.
“Our end goal is to help very sick people and we can't have any inconsistencies in our medicine,” Wyntick said. “ We have to be able to provide a reliable supply of medicine when people are relying every single day on our product to help them and their families in a very difficult time in their lives.”
Wyntick said that she and Nielson have weathered the storm with Health Canada through a whole bunch of different programs in getting their business approved. The first application was submitted to Health Canada in May 2014 and switched over to new programs in accordance with shifting regulatory programs. In total, it has taken Custom Cannabis five years and $25 million dollars, which was raised with the help and contribution of family and friends, to get to their current point.
“It's taken a long time to design because at the very beginning of this process, no engineers were willing to stamp an HVAC system on a greenhouse and put their errors and omissions insurance up for grabs to say this is going to work because no one knew if it would work,” Wyntick said. “It also takes time to raise the amount of money we’ve invested thus far. The banks do not get involved in lending within the cannabis industry until you're fully licensed.”
Currently, Nielson said, Custom Cannabis is waiting for final approval from Health Canada and once the business is given final approval and deemed a secure facility, they will begin bringing plants in. The application was submitted two days ago and it can take up to a month for a response. Wyntick also said that Custom Cannabis will get a one-time statutory declaration of genetics which will enable the company to put what plants they want into the facility without having to explain where they came from.
“I think most people who have toured our facility would agree that they're pretty blown away by the sophistication of it,” Nielson said. “The cannabis plant itself is a special little plant. It can consume more water, nutrients and sunlight and pretty any other cultivar that we have. With that being the case, you know, we have to have the facility that provides all of the sustainability elements of that plant. Cannabis growing just isn't about keeping plants alive; it's about pushing them everyday so that they're reaching their maximum genetic potential.”
For more information about Custom Cannabis, visit: https://customcannabis.ca/.
“It’s amazing to be part of something that can make such an impact in people's lives,” Nielson said. “It's becoming very quickly apparent in this industry that you need to have the proper motivation moving forward. A lot of non cannabis people are going to be completely blown away at how diverse the plant selection that we're going able to grow in here.”