The goal, CEO Ori Bytton told Cannabis Business Times, is to become a global cannabis company within the next 10 years.
“The reason we’re building a campus is the cannabis industry is bringing people [together] from all walks of life,” Bytton said. “It’s a new industry, [although] the plant has existed for more than 10,000 years. It’s a plant that people are using on a daily basis for a lot of different needs. We’re building a campus to combine all of that together, and we believe that that will bring the best products in the future.”
At the Sacramento campus, Bytton’s company will have chemists, product developers, marketers, growers and more teams all working alongside one another. The overarching goal, aside from efficiency, he said, is to increase each individual’s general awareness of the broader supply chain around his or her corner of the operation.
“We believe that everyone that is in the industry today is a spokesperson for cannabis and they need to be educated well,” Bytton said. “We really want to educate people on the benefits of cannabis, on what the sciences knows, so far, and it all starts with the industry.”
COO Craig Powell echoed those thoughts. He came to cannabis from consumer-packaged goods industries, where corporate teams often function more as nodes in a network. “Here,” he said, “we have the opportunity to create something pretty extraordinary in terms of experience for our employees. Not only do they get to see literally every point along the supply chain, but they also get to interact with the people who are selling the product. They’ll receive feedback [and] education from those people. … Knowledge and information are huge issues—and I should really say lack of knowledge and lack of information is really a huge issue in this space.”
The original plan behind this campus was designed for API development—active pharmaceutical ingredients. But the layout translates to how cannabis is shifting toward a more medical-research sort of operation. “It’s a design that’s been a long time in process,” he said. “It’s very precise what we’re going to do. We want to learn the best growing protocol for each strain and the cannabinoid profile for each strain in the environment that we will [maintain].”
Bytton said he intends to collect data at every point along the supply chain, right on the Natura property, in order to learn, adapt and better serve the end consumer through delivery.
And that’s the other big bet at work in Natura’s financing and development news: a move away from traditional brick-and-mortar retail licensing and toward the delivery model that’s already taking off in California.
“I may get killed for saying this,” Powell said, “but the retail experience in cannabis currently is a challenging environment. Licensing restrictions, zoning restrictions, local ordinances—first of all, there aren’t many retail establishments in California as we currently sit. Delivery affords us the opportunity—it’s really about accessibility. It affords us the opportunity to reach the consumer directly, effectively and efficiently. … It’s unusual in the CPG space to have the opportunity to have a direct relationship—communication—with your consumer. Usually you’re going through an intermediary, whether a grocery store or some other type of retail outlet.”
By continuing to gather data—both internally and through consumer delivery trends—Bytton said that Natura will hone its blueprint for longer-term goals. He plans to build 30 such campuses around the world over the next 10 years. “Basically, what we are going to learn here is how to build the best cannabis company in the world,” he said.
Jared Helfant opened a dental practice in southern Florida about 10 years ago, and quickly noticed the ascendant opioid addiction epidemic. It wasn’t just Florida, either; opioid prescriptions were ravaging broad swaths of the U.S. After arming himself with research, Helfant and his family turned toward the cannabis industry for a way forward.
He’d seen the need for pain management, an urgency for anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties—to say nothing of the anti-anxiety benefits of certain medication for patients who aren’t super confident about their semi-annual trip to the dentist. The more he learned about cannabis, the more he saw a solution.
When an opportunity came up to buy a farm in Monterey County, Calif., Helfant and his family jumped at it and set to work growing a small business in Salinas into a vertically integrated cannabis company. They called it Sparx Cannabis.
“Because I’m a dentist, my whole career I’ve been very patient-oriented,” Helfant says. “I kind of used that same method in our cannabis company, making sure that everything we’re doing is the highest-quality grow and very safe for the consumer, very consumer-friendly.”
California regulations, of course, are not as restrictive as Florida’s medical cannabis program. The state’s booming cannabis industry affords space to research the plant and learn about what works (and what doesn’t) in a far-reaching cultivation operation.
Sparx Cannabis runs two grow facilities—Harkins (20,000 square feet) and Sparx Farms (40,000 square feet)—in Monterey County. The company is planning a 40,000-sq.-ft. expansion at the Harkins facility, which is currently in its fifth harvest. The Sparx facility, which opened about three months ago, is outfitted exclusively with solar power and reverse-osmosis water technology.
“Like with any business, there’s always a learning curve,” Helfant says. “Luckily, we brought in the right people who have done this before and know more than us—to really help us and bring us in the right direction. You always bring people in who are smarter than you.”
To boost the reach of the Sparx team, the company acquired distribution licenses that will allow for packaging, storage and wholesale opportunities of cannabis products.
“The distribution license in California is the glue that enables you to do many different things when it comes to selling cannabis. We acquired a distribution license in Del Rey Oaks, Calif., and that enables us to sell directly to dispensaries using our own sales force. We’re currently building out a front-end online system that will enable dispensaries to order online, schedule delivery online, actually see our inventory live online.”
With distribution licenses in hand, Sparx’s team is hoping to tap into a broader vision of what cannabis can mean to the California market.
“One of our biggest goals as a brand is to be very community-focused,” Helfant says. “Our motto is ‘Everyone, Everyday.’ We try to make sure that we remove the stigma and stereotypes associated with cannabis, by showing how it fits into that motto. We want to show that cannabis could be used with your brother, your boss, your coworkers; we want to show how it fits into everyday life.”
The company is about to launch its 100 Acts of Kindness social media campaign, in which team members will showcase altruistic acts in the Monterey County community. “We want to inspire other people to be kind and give back to the community and give back to others,” Helfant says, mentioning that the team would be volunteering at the Food Bank for Monterey County in Salinas on May 17.
For investors who have already cashed in on the U.S. “Big Marijuana” fundraising trend, the growing acceptance of cannabis among Britain’s political and business establishments is very promising. There’s also more than enough space in the market for new entrants to make an impact. Female CEOs and C-suite executives, in particular, are rising to the top of the industry because they understand the growing female consumer and their needs best.
For those looking to get into the industry, there are three main considerations you should be aware of:
Adapt your skills to the market
The first stage is to find what you do best and how you can apply this. Luckily, as medical cannabis is one of the fastest growing markets in the world, with estimates of Europe’s medical cannabis market hovering around £100 billion by 2028, there is going to be an increasing number of business opportunities in the next decade. Whether you’re a graphic designer or a scientist, there will be a role for you.
Any business owner entering the market must, however, be prepared to overcome the stigma associated with medical cannabis and the challenges they may face as a result of this. Starting or growing a business always requires a leap of faith, but the task can be more daunting when the market you’re entering is under as much scrutiny as this one. Understandably, governments are cautious, so there’s a lot of red tape to confront. The country you reside in will have an effect here.
The industry in Canada, for instance, is tightly regulated in a restricted industry. In parts of the U.S., the industry has been opened more broadly. In the UK, the industry is only just beginning.
All these policies pose benefits and challenges for business owners. Either way, it’s important to get your head around these restrictions.
Understand the amount of capital you’ll need
The financial implications of setting up a medical cannabis business from scratch also cannot be underestimated. Female entrepreneurs notoriously struggle to find capital investors in a male-dominated industry, so this is something they should be aware of. If you are starting a cannabis farm, there are also associated costs to be considered, on top of the initial costings.
The strict quality control measures are both time-consuming and expensive, but they are paramount to meet the regulatory standards needed to enable a medical cannabis business to trade. Security systems are important here. You must be able to show clear protection around the entire perimeter of your land and be able to detect any intrusions in order to guarantee the integrity of your product. There are also strict inventory management guidelines so every gram of product, including water, must be weighed and documented. If anything is to be disposed of, it must be recorded and witnessed by two people. These laborious processes should be factored in advance into any business production model.
Realize the sector’s regulatory, technological and sustainability developments
Before you have even started your medical cannabis business you will also be looking toward the future. With regulations around the world constantly changing, a business needs to stay ahead to keep on top of developments. Technology will continue to play a big role as new and innovative ways are discovered to make the production process easier. Even today, some greenhouses choose to handpick the plants, whereas others are moving toward robotics that reduce costs by eliminating the need for humans in the production process. This is particularly beneficial given the need to eliminate the popularity of the cheaper illicit market where products are not regulated and are of a lower quality.
The is also a growing societal shift in the UK toward living sustainably, so medical cannabis businesses should look to become as environmentally friendly as possible. In turn, this will not only make production cheaper, but it will also please consumers. As licenses are rolled out, in some cases enabling cannabis to be grown outside, this will assist the trend towards an eco-friendlier medical cannabis business model.
Ultimately, starting a business is never simple, but with the right knowledge and backing, the medical cannabis industry is one to be investing in now to prepare for the future.
This content was originally published here.