VIDEO: James E Wagner Cultivation Corp (CVE:JWCA) World’s First Fully Organic Aeroponic Grower
James E Wagner Cultivation Corp (CVE:JWCA) (OTCMKTS:JWCAF) CEO Nathan Woodworth, a fourth generation cannabis grower, shares what legalization means to him and his family. JWC’s primary focus is medical cannabis, but Woodworth believes the recreational market has tremendous potential for LPs like his company. JWC is the only LP in Canada growing aeroponically, which creates a cleaner, more consist, and cheaper product to produce. JWC has developed a new variable for its aeroponic growing technology, which will allow the company to operate as fully certified organic, a world first for aeroponic growing. JWC currently has seven strains in production and plans to expand its offering to 50 by the end of 2019.
is the CEO of James E. Wagner Cultivation Corp., trading on the TSX Venture under the symbol JWCA. Nathan, welcome back.
Nathan Woodworth: Thanks very much for having me on.
James West: Nathan, let’s start with what has changed in the JWC universe now that this day has finally arrived?
Nathan Woodworth: Well, you know, I think it’s something that we’ve been waiting for a long time. I can remember talking about this issue with my grandfather on the farm years ago, and so it’s something that, you know, in our family we’ve been watiting for this for generations. My grandfather’s father grew cannabis in the early 1900s before Prohibition. So you know, we’ve gone full cycle on this, and we’re happy to be back.
Ed Milewski: That long ago?
Nathan Woodworth: Absolutely, yeah. You know, there was, he immigrated here from Germany, and as my grandfather tells it, at least, he brought the seeds with him, and it was something that they did historically there.
James West: Really?
Nathan Woodworth: So you know, it’s just another crop, in many ways; at least it was back then. And we’ve raised it to a different level, you know, in the legal and political landscape that has evolved in the last 100 years, but here we are, having completed that fully cycle, and like I said, we’re happy to be back.
Ed Milewski: You’re not related to the composer, the great composer Wagner, are you?
Nathan Woodworth: You know, it’s an interesting question, actually.
Ed Milewski: Because I didn’t realize, and I’m a fan of classical music, and in particular, Wagner. I’ve been to several of the Ring Cycle operas, so I wasn’t thinking – wow.
Nathan Woodworth: There you go. My great-grandfather immigrated from the Black Forest area, which is where he lived, and my grandfather looked almost exactly like Wagner when he was older. So it’s entirely possible, but I’ve got no evidence one way or another. Matter of vital curiosity only.
James West: Mm-hmm. Now, JWC is focused primarily on the medical segment or the recreational segment, or equally both?
Nathan Woodworth: You know, I think our first focus is on medical. Patients have a need, and we’re here to serve that need, and there’s a relationship of trust that you build there. And it’s important that our patients know that they can trust us to deliver medicine reliably, and that’s what we’re going to do.
That said, you know, I think the rec market is a tremendous opportunity, and it’s not something we could ever look away from entirely. So when the product is available, without doing an disservice to our medical patient base, we’ll absolutely be there.
James West: Okay. So right now, where do you distribute most of your cannabis? Who are your patients, what’s your sort of distribution profile?
Nathan Woodworth: Well, you know, they skew heavily toward Ontario, but I’m told that in recent weeks we’ve picked up patients all across Canada, from BC to Nova Scotia. So you know, I think the concept of a very high quality product that’s produced under exacting conditions is something that resonates with all Canadians, and so we’re seeing people across Canada to express an interest in JWC’s medicine.
James West: You bet. So what is the primary difference, if any, between cannabis that is grown aeroponically – and you’re the only licensed producer in Canada that grows aeroponically – versus hydroponically or non-hydroponically?
Nathan Woodworth: Well, it comes down to variables and their effect. You know, when you grow in a system where you don’t have complete control over everything, you can’t completely control what comes out of that system. And when you’re growing something, a plant, especially something that’s as exacting as cannabis is, you know, it’s worthwhile to attempt to achieve complete control.
So our product is cleaner, more consistent. We eliminate all of those variables and reduce it to a reproduceable, repeatable process, which gives us the ability to ensure that our patients get the same medicine every time they buy from us. And this is going to be valuable from the recreational perspective, as well; consumers want to know that when they like a strain and they go out and buy that strain from a given producer, if they come back for more a month, two months later, they’re going to get the same product. Even if it wasn’t grown at the same time or in the same batch, it’s still the same product. And that consistency, I think, is going to be a big value add in the years to come.
James West: Sure. Does aeroponically mean or imply more organically than, say, hydroponic?
Nathan Woodworth: Not necessarily, no. however, although I can’t talk about it much, as the first aeroponic grower in Canada, we have a bit of a better insight into the way aeroponics works, especially with long growth cycle crops such as cannabis. And we have developed a very important new wrinkle on that technology, which I believe will allow us to operate in a fully certified organic fashion. And that’ll be the first time in the world that this type of system has been introduced, and the first time in the world that aeroponics and organic have been able to be brought together into the same equation.
So you know, this is an important time for JWC. It’s an important time for these types of advanced cultivation technologies; we have the resources and the will to research this in a way that simply hasn’t been done before, and we’re coming up with some really fascinating answers.
James West: So apart from the extreme levels of control over the variables you mention, are there economies of scale that are applied through aeroponics that make it a lower cost of gram of production, or just a more efficient use of the space?
Nathan Woodworth: Both. Absolutely, both. You know, we maximize yield per square foot; we have a quick turnaround time, so we can increase the number of crops per year that we can produce in a given space.
Ed Milewski: How many crops per year, excuse me for interrupting?
Nathan Woodworth: No, not at all. It varies depending on the flowering time, but the number is between 5.2 and 6.4 crops per year, depending on the flowering cycle.
Ed Milewski: Yeah, and you could never get that in a traditionally growing –
Nathan Woodworth: It’s extremely unlikely. You know, one of the things that’s interesting about our system, because there’s no substrate, there’s only equipment – at the end of a growth cycle, that equipment comes out at the same point as harvest. We clean it, sterilize it, refurbish it, and put it back in. That is, we replace some minor parts on it. And in the same day, that equipment goes back into service. So there’s literally no down time, and it’s the same for our rooms: we don’t bring anything into those rooms that could be considered a physical contaminant. There’s no dirt in there; it’s complete clean room. So it takes us a very short period of time to turn around and refill that room, and put another crop into service.
So when we are in our new facility, and we’re operating about 140 flowering rooms there, 350,000 square feet, my calculations show that we’re going to be below 3 percent empty space on any given day of that year, and that’s because those are the rooms we’re harvesting on that particular day. Two days later, those rooms are full and back in service.
So we create this tremendous efficiency, which is really amazing, because when it comes down to it, the cost to produce is also much lower. You know, when you’re growing using soil or soil substrate, it can cost you $20 to $30 per plant, per cycle. But you know, that’s something that you have to throw away; and in the end, you have to pay to have it disposed of at the end.
Our sites cost around $55 from the floor to the top of the plant, and we can reuse those for up to five years. That’s what we’ve tested; I believe they’ll last between seven to ten years, but we haven’t had the opportunity – this is a new industry. And so you know, those reductions in cost, we’re transferring OpEx into CapEx, they are going to allow us to run leaner over time. So it’s an increased efficiency, better quality product, more consistent product, and a reduced cost of production.
James West: Interesting. So how many different sort of strains are you growing that way right now?
Nathan Woodworth: So right now, we have seven strains; three of them are available for sale, an additional two will be available for sale shortly, and then the last two are actually really exciting. We’ve been testing our new techniques on them, and we’ve increased our yield for a couple of those up to around 80 grams per square foot per iteration. Now, we can do about six of those per year, and so when you get right down into the numbers, we’re able to yield per square foot on par with or beyond the best in the world. And so the right combination of genetics, plus this technology, are going to drive us to that new level.
So within a month or two, we’ll have those seven available. Now, as we bring our new facility online, we’re going to be bringing in a bunch of new genetics. It’s my hope that before the end of 2019, we’re growing 50 different strains. You know, we’ve optimized our process within our facility to be able to accommodate a wide variety of strains, and that constant flow of production allows us to keep those strains in stock to the stores and patients that we’re supplying.
Ed Milewski: I have a question. If you took seeds of a particular strain and you, let’s say you did a test where you grew them aeroponically versus traditionally, and then you took the marijuana and tried it, would it be exactly the same effect? Or would it be different?
Nathan Woodworth: Very different. There are two main factors. You know, our system, as we were talking about earlier, we were talking about limits, here. We were talking about removing the limits on the plant. The goal with aeroponics is to remove every limit except the genetic limit; in every other system of cultivation, those variables represent hidden limits. What are the limits? It’s difficult to know, but once you remove all of them, you’ll see a greater expression of cannabinoids and wider expression of terpenes.
You know, we aim for about 2.5 percent terpene content; that creates a strong, robust flavor. It supports the cohort effect, making it, for many people, a preferable medicine. And in the end, we aim for a higher cannabinoid count. You know, many companies out there have a couple of strains that are above 20 percent THC; it’s our goal to offer no strains that are below 20 percent THC, before the end of 2019, as we refine our genetics pool.
And so we’re able to drive, you know, higher content of medicinal factors, better flavor, and a purer plant material at its end – which means a better end-user experience.
Ed Milewski: How many scientific people do you employ?
Nathan Woodworth: Quite a few, actually! It’s sort of a surprising thing. When we go out and hire for new growers, we end up getting a lot of PhDs and Master’s degrees. I think we have four or five PhD’s and almost an equal number of Master’s degrees. I’d have to check the list.
Ed Milewski: Sounds like a very scientific company.
Nathan Woodworth: It is, very much so. We are a cannabis-producing company; you know, my grandfather did it, I do it, I’m passionate about it. But in the end, we’re a technology company, and developing new technologies is what’s going to drive JWC forward; in the end, it’s what’s going to drive this industry forward. So I think people want to be a part of that, and people with a lot of understanding want to work with us to help develop the technologies that will define the paradigms that we’re using in this industry, you know, two years, five years and ten years from today.
James West: Interesting.
Ed Milewski: Wow.
James West: All right, Nathan, let’s leave it there for now. We’re going to come back to you in due course and see how you’re making out. Thanks very much for joining us.
Nathan Woodworth: Thanks very much.
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