Pubdate: Fri, 15 May 2015
Source: Province, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2015 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Dan Fumano
Page: 3


Tantalus Labs officials say 115,000-square-foot cannabis facility
would be unique to continent

A new kind of greenhouse - designed for marijuana production and soon
to be completed in Maple Ridge - is set to make the green business
even greener, say the facility's owners.

The entrepreneurs behind Tantalus Labs describe their
115,000-square-foot purpose-built cannabis greenhouse as the first of
its kind in North America, with a horticultural approach they say will
produce a better, more sustainable sun-grown product with a
substantially-reduced energy footprint.

As marijuana moves toward the mainstream, Tantalus' owners say now is
the time for the crop to "rise out of the shadows and into the light."

And while Tantalus maintains its approach is based around
environmental stewardship, they'll first have to win over some of
their new neighbours, and convince concerned residents that the
company also prioritizes the long-term ecological health of the area.

Pot cultivation is nothing new in B.C., with the value of the
province's bud industry estimated between $4 billion to $7 billion
annually. But because of its illicit nature, the plant often called
B.C.'s biggest cash crop has been mostly produced in clandestine grow
ops, under the heat and light of electrical lamps in basements,
warehouses, and shuttered rental properties, which are more productive
than outdoor farming.


Alexander Close, Tantalus' creative director, said: "For the longest
time, cannabis that was being grown was being grown in secret. It was
being hidden until quite recently, that's what forced it into the
basements ... But it doesn't have to be in the basement anymore."

Typical indoor facilities use huge amounts of power for lamps and
temperature control. But by using the sun's natural light, a
greenhouse operation can reduce energy use by as much as 75 per cent,
according to one independent horticulture expert.

Other cannabis greenhouses in Canada have been converted from
different uses. One of the largest, Tweed Farms in Ontario's Niagara
region, is a 350,000-square-foot federally licensed marijuana facility
in a greenhouse that once produced tomatoes and eggplants.

But Tantalus' facility, says managing director Dan Sutton, is
different because it was designed specifically for cannabis and is
being purpose-built from the ground up.

Sutton said: "We're doing this because we believe it's time for a
quantum leap in cannabis agriculture, but also because we care about
our backyard, and we're British Columbians, and we want to minimize
our energy impact."

Dr. Jim Matteoni, an instructor at Kwantlen Polytechnic University's
School of Horticulture, agreed that cultivating marijuana in a
greenhouse like Tantalus' operation makes a lot of sense.

Compared with indoor lamplit marijuana grow ops of a similar size,
Matteoni estimated Tantalus' greenhouse production method could mean
reducing electrical use by about 75 per cent, a reduction he said is
"enormous" and "incredible."

"It's a much, much better controlled situation. I'm all for it," he

Greenhouse cultivation can yield five to 10 times more produce per
square metre than plants grown in the soil, Matteoni said.

"Because we can control the environment, we can grow 12 months of the
year," he said. "Can it be done with marijuana? Absolutely."

Although Tantalus says it values the "best stewardship of the planet"
as a cornerstone of their philosophy, local opposition to the facility
has centred around an environmental issue.

Some residents near the Tantalus facility have raised concerns in
recent months, particularly around the operation's water use.

The Tantalus facility will draw water from its own well, tapping into
an aquifer shared by residences and hobby farms in the area.

Concerned neighbour Mitch Jensen said: "Water is the biggest concern
. it's just not sustainable."

His wife Sylvie Jensen added: "There are other concerns, of course.
There's the security issue, because it's in the middle of a
residential area. We've got homes, we've got farms, we've got churches."

The Jensens plan to attend a "high noon protest to stop the marijuana
grow op" next Friday, May 22 at 12 p.m., outside the Tantalus facility.

Tantalus hired an engineering firm to evaluate the well's capacity and
water quality, and then voluntarily submitted the independent report
to the City of Maple Ridge and made it public. The report, conducted
by Active Earth Engineering, found that: "We do not anticipate any
impacts to the source aquifer or adjacent wells provided the site well
is operated as recommended in this report."

Betty von Hardenberg, who lives near the facility, said she
appreciated Tantalus' commissioning the engineer's report and making
it public, but still has her doubts about its findings.

Von Hardenberg, who last week presented her concerns about the aquifer
to Maple Ridge council, said Tantalus has "tried to be as diligent as
possible within the bylaws of the city. As far as Tantalus is
concerned, they haven't done anything wrong. And as far as I can see,
they haven't done anything wrong either. But it's just that it's in
the wrong place."

Von Hardenberg still hopes Tantalus can be convinced to move to
another location, possibly on industrial land.

Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read said she sympathizes with the residents'
concerns, but says moving the facility probably isn't feasible, noting
that Tantalus has done extensive construction work on the present
site, and has "a lot of skin in the game" there.

"I will say that Dan Sutton from Tantalus, he has been definitely
stepping up and trying to deal with the community," Read said. "I do
see him attempting to be a community partner, and I think that that
ultimately is what Tantalus would like to be. I think the challenge
right now is this is a huge unknown for everybody. We want to believe
that, if it is going to be licensed, that it's going to operate in a
way that doesn't cause a huge impact on the residential neighbourhood.
The challenge for everybody is we don't know that yet."

Meanwhile, Sutton said they will keep trying win over the

"Some people believe that our farm property is not a good place to
build a greenhouse. The Agricultural Land Commission, the Municipality
of Maple Ridge, the Province of British Columbia, and the Federal
Government of Canada do not agree with those people," he said. "And
we'll show them. They have an idea of what a cannabis grow facility
is, and this is not that. So we'll get a chance to show them
first-hand, this is a whole different thing."
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