Pubdate: Sat, 06 Jan 2018
Source: Truro Daily News (CN NS)
Copyright: 2018 The Daily News
Author: Andrew Rankin
Page: A3


Editor's Note: This is the fourth in a series of stories focusing on 
people in Nova Scotia who will be delving into the marijuana industry.

Fish urine is the secret sauce that will allow some 50,000 cannabis
plants to thrive in Liverpool. We'll get to that momentarily. Myrna
Gillis, founder and president of Aqualitas, reported recently her
company had collected $8.7 million from investors across Canada and
the United States.

Three years into the making, and Gillis says Aqualitas has its sights
set on a cultivating licence next month, allowing a minimum of 60
people to go to work in a job-starved area that was devastated by the
closure of the Bowater newsprint mill in 2012. The Aqualitis plant
itself occupies the former Bowater site.

Gillis is embracing the pressure.

"I hope we're not looked at as the saviour but I do hope that we are
looked at as a really good opportunity for good employment," said Gillis.

"Back in June we went to council with our plans and by the time I got
back to Halifax I had 60-plus job applications in my inbox, two hours
after the meeting. I thought, 'Wow, this is really important to this
community.' "In a funny way, it's the best and the biggest challenge.
At the end of the day it's what motivates you. You're excited to be
that change but at the same time you just want to make sure you deliver."

Gillis, who is in the last stages of winding down her law practice,
has relied on quite a team of experts, including a chemist, engineer,
botanist and microbiologist, to finally get to this point.

The operation essentially relies on the bodily waste of roughly 2,000
koi fish in four, 4x10-foot fish tanks.

Based on an aquaponics cultivation method, the system separates solid
and liquid waste produced by the fish and, from there, the urine goes
through a degassing and filtration process. The urine is broken down
into plant edible nitrates and other nutrients are added to the
formula. That fertilizer is then pumped into a water table from which
the plants feed. It's a continuous cycle and the water is constantly
being recycled and recirculated.

"It's two-fold - how we get it into the system and what we do to
introduce into the system. One is a design method and the other is a
recipe. Those are the secrets."

Those secrets have been developed by the company's subsidiary, Finleaf

Through the help of National Research Council of Canada funding, the
group has developed an aquaponic system that has garnered national
attention and most recently received a Spark Nova Scotia Innovation
award for its innovative technology.

The final product, Gillis insists, is that you're left with a fresher,
cleaner kind of cannabis that compared to conventional hydroponic
growing doesn't use chemicals in the cultivation process.

Why would a successful lawyer give up on her Halifax-based practice
and pursue an industry, which in Canada at least, is in its infancy?
She sees a great business opportunity and hopes to eventually have 300
employees working in cultivation, business management and customer
service roles, to name a few. She also has visions of expanding the
business into producing cannabis-based oils and edibles.

But in her experience as a disability lawyer, she's also seen
first-hand how cannabis treatment has been a "game changer" for many
of her past clients.

"I know and I believe in the benefits of medical cannabis, the
evolution of its use from a legal and civil rights point of view. For
medical patients, it's a constitutional right. "I'm very proud of the
work that I'm doing. I'm very proud to have represented and advocated
for clients to have access to cannabis that did improve their health.
I'm very proud to have colleagues that took these challenges through
the proper steps, challenging certain things in court and arriving
where we're at now."
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MAP posted-by: Matt