COMOX – Anandia Laboratories was looking outside the sky-high lower mainland real estate market for its new Cannabis Innovation Centre (CIC), and they found a perfect situation awaiting them in Comox.
While rezoning a parcel of land near Comox Valley Airport several years ago, forward thinking Town of Comox Council members added “cannabis” to the zoning allowances for possible future tenants, so when Vancouver-based Anandia came calling, they were ready. It was a perfect fit.
Construction is already underway on a 21,000 square foot building that is the first phase of the CIC, which will eventually be home to over 25 well paying jobs and a total investment cost of close to $20 million. Heatherbrae Builders is building the first building, which is targeted to open by mid-summer this year.
Besides the fortuitous opportunity, it’s a chance to “come home” for Dr. Jonathan Page, Aurora’s Chief Science Officer, who grew up in the Comox Valley, where his parents still live.
“The location is close to a good, regional airport (Comox Valley Airport – YQQ) that has regular flights to Calgary and Vancouver,” notes Dr. Page. “We’re recruiting science talent, and Vancouver is a great city, but it repels people with its high housing costs. We believe we can attract science talent to the Comox Valley because they can afford to buy homes.”
Having another major employer locate in the area is good news, says John Watson, Executive Director of the Comox Valley Economic Development Society.
“We are very pleased to have Anandia make such a major investment in the Comox Valley,” said Watson, “It’s a great example of the range of companies that are investing or expanding here, and the type of lands available for various projects and businesses.”
CVEDS, with a local tech firm, developed an online interactive mapping system to feature current and proposed developments, available commercial leases, major projects and tax incentive zones with their boundaries, to focus on the promotion of opportunities in downtown Comox and Courtenay. It has proven to be very effective in demonstrating opportunities to companies like Anandia.
Dr. Page was not only impressed that Comox Council had the foresight to zone the property for cannabis use, but that subsequent meetings regarding storm water and other development-related issues revealed that “council overwhelmingly supports the whole project, as they see it brings good jobs and increases the tax base in Comox. We’re certainly very encouraged to be in Comox.”
The CIC will focus on the development of new cannabis cultivars using modern plant breeding tools. This will equip Aurora and the broader cannabis industry with better knowledge of cannabis genetics, biology and biochemistry.
Leading the Comox management team is Greg Baute, Director of Plant Breeding and Genetics. The Centre’s work will help develop cannabis cultivars with beneficial traits, improved yields, resistance to disease and pests, and optimized chemical profiles.
Unlike other agricultural crops with decades of breeding knowledge, cannabis hasn’t yet received the same attention from plant biologists and breeders because of the historic difficulties in obtaining the appropriate licenses. The work of the CIC will change all of that: crop improvement will be furthered through conventional breeding techniques that haven’t yet been maximized for cannabis.
The first phase of the Comox project will consist of a 21,000 square foot greenhouse and a 10,500 square foot header house that will have offices, lab space, meeting rooms, and the mechanical and electrical systems that support the greenhouse. Future phases will likely include additional greenhouses, as well as support buildings for indoor propagation, labs, and offices.
The initial staffing complement will be between 8-15 people and will increase as the facility expands. The Centre’s design team of architects and engineers hails from Metro Vancouver, and includes support from local engineers and environmental staff.
Last June, Aurora Cannabis Inc. acquired all of Anandia Laboratories Inc.’ outstanding shares for $115 million, and in November, Aurora announced that Dr. Page, who was co-founder of Anandia, would assume the role of Chief Science Officer, where he would oversee all science-related projects at the company. The Aurora science team develops innovative products for the medical, wellness and adult consumer use markets, and focuses on delivering industry-leading cultivation results in terms of yields, consistency, quality and efficiency.
Dr. Page was a co-founder of Anandia, a leading cannabis science company that provides analytical testing services to licensed cannabis producers and patient-cultivators. Dr. Page is an adjunct professor in the Botany Department at the University of British Columbia, where he received his PhD. He undertook post-doctoral training in Germany and for a decade directed a lab at the National Research Council.
Dr. Page is also an accomplished inventor with eight issued patents or patent applications, and a frequent lecturer on cannabis science at international
“Anandia has amassed an extensive library of cannabis genetics coupled with in-depth genomic and chemical analysis,” notes Dr. Page. “Partnering with Aurora, with their expanded financial resources, scientific expertise and multiple cultivation sites, will enable us to accelerate our current breeding efforts to create the next-generation of cannabis genetics. Both Anandia and Aurora are strong believers in research and science-based solutions.
“We are confident that joining forces will enable us to rapidly advance cannabis science for the benefit of consumers, patients and growers, and further establish Aurora as the global leader in the cannabis industry.”
Dr. John Coleman, Anandia’s co-founder and now President, states “It is the combination of strong science and client focus that has made Anandia a cannabis testing leader. We intend to continue supporting all of our clients. Anandia’s testing business will remain operationally independent, and we will be taking steps in the coming weeks to ensure that our independence is clear to our stakeholders.”
“We hold all client information private and confidential and will continue to do so. In the meantime, we are expanding our capacity to service the anticipated increase in sample volume associated with legalization through our new 12,700 square foot corporate head office, testing and product development laboratory in Vancouver.”
Dr. Page adds “Our new Cannabis Innovation Centre in Comox will provide the infrastructure needed to serve a rapidly growing cannabis market. Leveraging Aurora’s capabilities, we will be able to accelerate the completion date of our new centre. Additionally, being integrated into Aurora’s international operations will enable us to rapidly broaden our reach beyond the domestic Canadian industry.”