Green Relief has become the first and only licensed producer in North America to use the “Aquaponics” cultivation method. The company, valued at CAN$31 billion ($23 billion), has developed an experimental growing facility in Hamilton, Ontario that uses the waste of 6000 Tilapia fish to fertilize 4500 plants at any given time, and produce about 2700 kilograms (6000 lb) of dried flower buds a year.
Introduction to Aquaponics
Aquaponics is a production technique that takes the benefits of hydroponics but adds fish into the mix. In normal hydroponics, instead of using soil as the plant’s main source of nutrients, the plant’s roots lay in nutrient-rich water, which gives producers a more accurate control of the plants’ overall growing environment.
In Aquaponics, an ecosystem is created, in which the fish’s waste is used to fertilize the plants, which in turn purify the water for the fish. It’s a type symbiotic environment that mimics nature’s process, and it can be used to produce any kind of fruit or vegetable, without the need for artificial fertilizers.
A Sustainable and Cost-Efficient Method
According to Warren Bravo, a former construction contractor who co-founded the company on an initial CAN$18 million ($15 million) private investment in 2013, “Aquaponics is the most sustainable form of agriculture known today”. Green Relief’s co-owner and former CEO claims the company’s method of production is leading the industry in sustainability and is providing even better results than regularly grown organic crops.
Since the plants and the fish are grown together in a balanced ecosystem, “it’s absolutely impossible to use any harmful chemicals, because the fish will suffer, and the whole system will fail.”- says Lynn Bravo, Warren’s wife and main architect behind the company’s 35.000 square feet facility. The building is built underground in order to provide the best isolation from outside weather conditions.
The closed-loop water system “uses 90% less water than any other agriculture method known to mankind”, Bravo told Bloomberg in a recent interview. Since the plants purify the water, the same water can be used for about 5 years without the need for changing it. And since the fish’s poop is not processed artificially, but broken down using bacteria as it would on any freshwater lake, there is no need for any type of synthetic fertilizers.
Although Green Relief is planning to keep up with market prices, the company claims its cost of sale is the lowest in the industry, at about CAN$1,45 per gram, with plans of reaching CAN$0,70 per gram in the near future.
The excess fish purged from the system are periodically donated to an NGO which distributes them to local homeless shelters.
Plans for the Future
Green Relief owns the rights to Cannabis Aquaponics all across North America and is planning on staying out of the recreational market, for the time being, focusing solely on the production of high-quality bud for the medical communities.
The company is implementing a CAN$60 million ($45 million) expansion to its main facility that will add between 15,000 and 20,000 kilograms of production a year. Four other facilities are being built on different locations across Canada with the same Aquaponics method, and they’re expected to yield around 20,000 kilograms each.
Bravo is currently overseeing the purchase of new growing facilities in Italy and Australia and plans to take the company public within the next few months.