St. Stephen – Stewart Farms is just a few weeks away from being issued a license from Health Canada to cultivate, process, and sell marijuana. Currently, they are only able to sell plant clones and seeds directly to medical patients, but that will soon change, and they will be able to sell dried flower and infused products, both to medical patients and to the recreational market.
Tanner Stewart, Founder and CEO of Stewart Farms, said they had to grow two batches of dried flower and have them tested to make sure that they passed Health Canada’s strict medical standards. Once it passes, they will have their full sales license.
“When we get our full sales license, we’ll be able to sell dried flower to patients if they get their prescription with us, and we’ll be able to sell directly to Cannabis NB. Once we get that full license we’ll be able to sell dried flower and infused products directly to medical patients and to retailers in the recreational space,” said Stewart.
Setting up a company such as this takes a lot of work, and Stewart said in the case of Stewart Farms, it took two and a half years of his family’s life, along with a few million dollars. He said the biggest challenge is going through the Health Canada regulatory process.
“Step one, to become a full licensed producer like us, you have to build a facility and then you submit your evidence package to Health Canada, which is primarily security based,” said Stewart.
“That’s the number one thing Health Canada is focused on. Their ability to verify that none of this regulated substance leaves the farm without being recorded and tracked in Health Canada’s system.”
Stewart chose the former SWP building in the St. Stephen Industrial Park, a 100,000 square foot facility that is 40 feet in height and sits on approximately 50 acres of land. He said during phase one of their project, they developed about 10,000 feet of the property.
One of the most interesting things about this project is that it is not just a business that grows marijuana. This is a two-sided business, using aquaponics to not only grow marijuana but to also cultivate tilapia fish, which will eventually be sold to live Asian markets in Boston and New York.
“We’re doing a format called aquaponics,” said Stewart. “Aquaponics is basically when you combine land based fish farming with plant production. When we’re actually going to be at full scale we’re going to be farming 200,000 metric tons of tilapia fish, and feeding that nutrient to our cannabis plants.
“It’s like having a fertilizer factory right on site. On the plant side, we’ve got somewhere to send the water back to feed the fish farm. By putting these two businesses beside each other, we’re capturing the waste stream of each business and eliminating it.”
When asked how he came to be interested in this type of a business, Stewart said he has been involved with agriculture technology for over six years, and he has been an entrepreneur with a construction company in Alberta for 14 years. He also has a personal and professional interest in the use of marijuana.
“Cannabis has been a big part of my life for over 18 years. I’ve run a construction company in Alberta for the last 14 year. Stewart Farms is basically a culmination of my entrepreneurial endeavors and my personal life combined. I love cannabis as a product, medically and recreationally.
“I love that, I love sustainable farming technology, and I love the whole technology side of what we’re doing. We’re using the most valuable fruiting crop in the world to fund our technological advances in this space.”
Company looks to sell across Canada
Stewart said his company has partnerships that will allow them to be able to sell their product across Canada once they have all of their licensing in place. They hope to have infuse products, as well as health and wellness products, across the country by fall, and are also hoping to have their first dried flower on the market around the same time, or at least by the end of this year.
“We’re just getting up and running. I was just pruning plants right before this phone call,” he chuckled.
Stewart Farms will have a variety of strains of marijuana, and at the moment they are just ironing out which strains they will take to market. They have put much effort into building their genetic library.
“We have probably one of the most robust genetic libraries in the Canadian, and the world, legally. I wouldn’t say that’s an exaggeration. We have ample selection.”
Why St. Stephen?
Stewart is originally from the Mirimichi, and he was looking for the “most ideal building for the most ideal price” in New Brunswick. He searched throughout the province, and said he found a beautiful warehouse on lots of land that seemed ideal for what he wanted to do. He added it helped that St. Stephen is closer to the New York and Boston areas than any other part of the province.
Stewart said finding this facility worked out perfectly, and he and his family love being here in St. Stephen.
“It all kind of just worked out really well. The building that initially brought me to have a look, everything else seemed to make a lot of sense to be here. The municipality, the town, Future St. Stephen, they’ve all been amazing, and they continue to provide a lot of support to our company and my family. It’s just a complete willingness to do whatever they can do to help us get off the ground.”
Future employment opportunities for Charlotte County residents
Stewart said all levels of government have been very supportive of this endeavor, because it will eventually bring more jobs to the community. At the moment, it is a small operation with only about a half a dozen people working. Over time, they hope to be able to employ as many as 100 people. This could take up to five years, and Stewart is hopeful his business is going to be an asset to the community.
“Because Stewart Farms is a fish farming company combined with a cannabis growing company, I don’t feel for one minute when we do start to hire more general labor and ramp up to become a larger employer in the community, we’ve got lots of skilled labor in the area to pull from.”
No need for any concerns
Stewart said there is “definitely no danger” in this type of operation. In fact, it is likely one of the most secure buildings in the area. The security system is one of the best because of Health Canada standards, and there isn’t an inch of the property that isn’t under surveillance 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Stewart feels his facility will bring added security to the industrial park, and wants the community to know that this type of industry is perfectly safe.
“I’d say there’s definitely no danger. The weed we’re going to grow here in this facility will come nowhere near the amount of weed that’s already being grown as we speak in Charlotte County,” he laughed.