Article by Susan Taylor, Global News
The unlikely combination of freshwater fish and cannabis is producing outsized medical marijuana crops that Green Relief Inc aims to capitalize on, as the Canadian company plots a stock market listing and global expansion.
In an underground southern Ontario facility surrounded by farmland, Green Relief operates a cutting-edge aquaponic farm, using filtered fish waste to fertilize cannabis plants, which in turn clean the water for the fish.
The company says it is the world’s only licensed producer to grow medical marijuana this way, a pesticide-free process that took 2-1/2 years to fine tune. The only signs of this operation, which is built into a hill and insulated by some three feet of dirt and grass, is above-ground ventilation equipment sticking out of the ground.
“This is the agriculture of the future,” said Warren Bravo, a former concrete contractor who co-founded the company with friend Steve LeBlanc in 2013. “If you’re not latching on to sustainable agriculture technologies now, you’re going to be a dinosaur.”
Green Relief’s closed-loop system, which raises 6,000 tilapia and 4,500 plants at any given time, uses 90 percent less water than conventional agriculture, while delivering 10-20 percent better yields than traditional methods, Bravo said.
Every five weeks, Green Relief purges one of its 16 fish tanks, donating some 300 market-size tilapia to Second Harvest, a food charity which delivers the fish to a homeless shelter’s kitchen.