VIDEO: Green Relief Inc. CEO Warren Bravo on Growing Cannabis Using Fish

Green Relief Inc. is the only medical cannabis provider in the world that uses fish to grow cannabis. Their method, aquaponics, uses 90% less water than conventional farming, as well as produces 10 times the crop yield per acre. CEO Warren Bravo talks to James about the innovative system and their recent $50 million dollar deal for expansion. 

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James West:     Warren, thanks for joining me today.

Warren Bravo:     Pleasure to be here.

James West:     Warren, Green Relief is a producer of cannabis who uses aquaponics as its growing system. Tell me a bit about aquaponics and what drew you to that system as opposed to the traditional ones.

Warren Bravo:     Well, aquaponics is the most sustainable form of agriculture used in the world today. We use 90 percent less water than any other form of agriculture; also using fish, the solid waste produced by fish converted microbially to all the NPK fertilizers the plants need to grow and thrive. So sustainability has always been a corporate focus for us, and it was actually my wife Lynn, a landscape architect, w ho started doing all the early research in aquaponics. We decided to, we did a little test facility in an MMAR grow that some friends of ours had, and it seemed to work out just fine.

Two years of R&D trying to get cannabis to grow proficiently in an aquaponics scenario, because nobody had ever done this before, and there are no books that tell you how to grow cannabis aquaponically; there are no, there’s no data out there at all, so we had to figure it out.

So with the help of Guelph University, Dr. Nick Savidov in Lethbridge University, Dr. Charlie Schultz – there’s many of the pioneers of aquaponics have been to our facility and helped us out and figured the science out of growing cannabis hydroponically, or aquaponically.

James West:     Right. So the whole NPK profile is available in exactly the right proportion?

Warren Bravo:     Good question. There are ways to manipulate an aquaponics system to provide NPK to the plants at the time that they need it. Plants require different amounts of, say, phosphorous and potassium at different phases of growth; manipulating your aquaponics system to be able to provide those nutrients at the right time is what we had to figure out. So two years of R&D, and we’ve got it. And right now, nobody grows cannabis as robust as far as quantities per yield; nobody can keep up with our system. We’re…

James West:     Do you have an eyeball on the metric, how many grams per square feet per year?

Warren Bravo:     We’re growing differently. So everybody’s model in this space is different; you’ve got the greenhouse guys, you’ve got the indoor growing guys – everybody has their own way that they think they’re getting the most yields out of their plants. We are growing a very small plant; our plants, when they’re done, are only about two feet tall, but they’re all cola, they are all flower, from top to bottom. We do that in eight weeks. From the time we take a cutting to the time we’re harvesting our plant is eight weeks, and therefore, we’re having a little more than six harvests per year, close to seven, and we plant per square foot.

So if you take those into account, we’re getting a little over a pound per square foot per annum, over our harvests.

James West:     Wow. That’s significant.

Warren Bravo:     Well, I’m going to say I’m 30 percent better than anybody else in the industry.

James West:     Yeah. Actually, the nearest metric I’ve heard is 350 grams per square foot; a pound would be 454 grams per square foot.

Warren Bravo:     And I’m a little better than that.

James West:     So that puts you at the top of the list.

Warren Bravo:     Nobody grows more proficiently than we do.

James West:     Interesting. Okay, so in terms of the cost of maintaining this system: is it more expensive than hydroponics, or is it cheaper? What are the advantages?

Warren Bravo:     We are growing per gram, our cost of sales right now, traditional cost of sales or cost of goods out the door, whichever you want to use, is $1.42 per gram today. Right now we’re currently growing in a 32,000 square foot facility, and have just signed a $50 million deal for expansion. So our 220,000 square foot expansion starting within a month.

So I expect our costs, by the time the expansion is done as well as the four other satellites we’re building as well in different provinces, will be down on the, I’m going to guess mid-80 cents. $0.80 to $0.85 per gram we’ll be able to shake out a year from now.

James West:     Wow. So Green Relief has really been the sleeper in the industry. When are you planning to go public?

Warren Bravo:     Well, we have just finalized some discussions internally, management team, and we are going to be doing a Spring IPO.

James West:     Sure. So apart from the aquaponic component, which I guess is the majority outside of the cloning phase, how does your business model differentiate itself from other ACMPR producers? Are you growing different strains, do you have a different sort of client approach?

Warren Bravo:     All of my competition will say we all have to grow standard; Health Canada sets the bar very high for what we need to do to achieve a final product going out to the marketplace. The differences between what Green Relief is doing and what some of the other companies – we’re not going to be taking advantage of the rec market in any meaningful way. We are going to be a medical company. Our philosophy has always been, we want to help people. So our sustainable agriculture, helping the environment; donating all of our fish to Second Harvest, helping people – we’ve served over 35,000 meals so far with the Second Harvest Group, with all the tilapia that go out of our system. And we want to explore this product scientifically, and try to get the most we can. We truly want a prescriptive medicine from our research in the cannabis space.

James West:     So that’s what happens to the fish – they get donated as dinner?

Warren Bravo:     That’s correct.

James West:     Interesting!

Warren Bravo:     So Second Harvest, I think there are about 8 or 10 homeless shelters they’re delivered to, about 350 tilapia every five weeks or so going into that space.

James West:     Okay, great. That’s a brilliant introduction to the company – it’s a different take on the whole business. We’ll be following with interest. Thanks for joining us today.

Warren Bravo:     I really appreciate the opportunity. Thank you.

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