Aurora Cannabis planning major investment in Saskatoon grow facility

Just over one year after acquiring Canada’s first licensed medical marijuana producer, Aurora Cannabis Inc. says it plans to sink millions of dollars into its former facility southeast of Saskatoon.

The Edmonton-based cannabis giant will immediately spend $1.5 million to update scientific labs at the complex. CEO Terry Booth said an additional $16 million will be spent on infrastructure over the next 18 months.

That money comes on top of the $4 million spent since Aurora paid $1.1 billion to acquire CanniMed Therapeutics Inc. in early 2018, Booth told reporters on Friday during a rare tour of the 225-employee cannabis-growing facility.

“Really, it’s just improving the facility, bringing it up to today’s standards. It’s already a world-class facility but we can make it even better,” said Booth, who in 2006 founded what is now the world’s largest cannabis company.

“It moves us more towards the science of cannabis and making sure this facility remains a world-class, top-notch scientific medical cannabis facility,” he said, adding that there are also plans underway for expansion.

Aurora, valued at over $10 billion, is spending hundreds of millions of dollars on its facilities around the world this year, Booth said. During the 2018 takeover, Aurora pledged to continue investing in CanniMed’s facility.

According to the company, the upcoming improvements will turn the Saskatoon facility — now renamed Aurora Prairie — into one of the company’s “science hubs” with a focus on plant genetics, which is important to improve breeding.

Jonathan Page, the company’s chief science officer and a former University of Saskatchewan biology professor, said the facility will focus on plant tissue culture, analytics of cannabis chemicals and plant breeding and cultivation.

“A lot of that $1.5 million goes into new (research and development) cultivation facilities, basically high-tech growth rooms where we can grow plants, learn more about their properties before they go into production,” Page said.

The aim, Page said, is to ensure a supply of clean plants to ensure consistency. During Friday’s tour through one of the facility’s new plant tissue labs, technicians wearing white lab coats painstakingly placed cannabis cuttings into sterile jars containing agar.

“The goal of medical cannabis is safety and standardization,” he said.

Aurora continues to market medical cannabis products under the CanniMed brand name. Both Page and Booth said growing acceptance of cannabis in the medical community is expected to continue driving demand.

Read the original article at The Star Phoenix