Food company sets sights on Outaouais town for massive pot facility

Food company sets sights on Outaouais town for massive pot facility


Seann Poli, director general of LiveWell Canada, says it will take at least one year before a massive cannabis production and research facility in Litchfield, Que., opens its doors. (Radio-Canada)

A Canadian food production company has chosen Litchfield, Que., as its site for a major cannabis research, innovation and production centre — one that could bring 500 jobs to the small Pontiac town.

LiveWell Canada is transforming a former pulp and paper mill in the community west of Shawville into a nearly 600,000 square-foot facility, one that could potentially begin operations in 2019.

“What we found, with the Pontiac, was an area that needed economic development, that needed support. And I think it was a beautiful connection,” said David Rendimonti, the company’s president.

“I think it was something where we could come into a community — that has welcomed us very much — … and then grow within that community.”

Hard times lately

Litchfield has roughly 450 residents, so the LiveWell Canada facility could potentially double the town’s population once it opens.

The company gave Radio-Canada an exclusive tour of the site, which is still in the early stages of coming together.

“There’s a lot more work that has to be done here, but a lot of work has been done already,” said Seann Poli, LiveWell Canada’s director general.

“This will be a good year of construction at least.”

Colleen Larivière is the mayor of Litchfield, Que., which LiveWell Canada has chosen as the site of its future cannabis production and research facility. (Radio-Canada)

Colleen Larivière, the mayor of Litchfield, said the decline of the forest industry has made the past few years difficult for Quebec’s Pontiac region, one of the poorest areas of the province.

We have to survive in the Pontiac, and it’s huge what’s coming.– Mayor Colleen Larivière

Larivière told Radio-Canada that the LiveWell’s proposed facility could turn the local economy around.

“We have to survive in the Pontiac, and it’s huge what’s coming,” she said in a French-language interview.

“We will try to work together.”

In addition to growing marijuana, LiveWell plans to use the “flagship cornerstone operation”  to develop various alternative products, including cannabis oil, Rendimonti said.

LiveWell is still in the process of getting Health Canada approval to grow cannabis on the site, but the company has already relocated its headquarters from Ottawa to Gatineau.

With files from Antoine Trepanier

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Rural Ottawa farmer wants to swap veggies for marijuana

Rural Ottawa farmer wants to swap veggies for marijuana

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Plans up for debate at city committee Thursday

An Ottawa company wants to set up a marijuana facility at a farm on Ramsayville Road. (Evan Mitsui/CBCNews)

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  • City council approved the zoning amendment for the project on Feb. 14.

An Ottawa farmer and his business partners want to turn a vegetable farm in rural Ottawa into a marijuana facility.

In the first step of what is a multi-jurisdictional approval process, a rezoning application goes before the city of Ottawa’s agriculture and rural affairs committee on Thursday.

If the city approves it, the group plans to seek a medical marijuana licence from Health Canada.

Peter Abboud’s farm on Ramsayville Road, between the Greenbelt and Metcalfe, currently produces tomatoes, beans and cucumbers for various Ottawa farmers markets.

Abboud is partnering with LiveWell Foods Canada and proposes converting the vegetable production to cannabis cultivation, doubling the current greenhouse space.

The proposal involves two phases, with the conversion and retrofit of about 70,000 square feet of greenhouses and other buildings in the first phase, and about 600,000 square feet in phase two. The rezoning proposal requires the approval of Ottawa city council.

Osgoode Councillor George Darouze supports the proposed medical marijuana farm in his ward. (CBC)

Ottawa city councillor George Darouze supports the project in his ward and said he’s only heard from a couple residents who are concerned about the project.

“It was about water and drainage. One resident was concerned about security,” said Darouze.

Darouze sees huge potential for economic development from the proposed cannabis operation, including the promised creation of between 700 to 800 jobs.

22 licenses in 6 months

Many municipalities are banking on the new market created by recreational marijuana that is set to be legal in Canada as soon as this summer.

In the past six months 22 medical marijuana operations have been granted federal licences in Ontario to produce cannabis,

Several more licence applications are still pending.

Earlier this week another eastern Ontario community, Chesterville, welcomed a proposed marijuana operation set to grow inside a former Nestlé plant.

Ivan Ross Vrána, who helps emerging companies manage the regulatory process, used to work in the medical marijuana division at Health Canada.

He said there is a wide range of producers seeking approval, from big operations such as Canopy Growth in Smiths Falls to small, independent operations.

Vrána said the million-dollar question is whether the number of suppliers will match the expected demand after recreational marijuana is officially legal.

If Abboud’s farm gets the rezoning approval it seeks at the agriculture committee, the application will then go to Ottawa city council later in February.

Darouze said he’s hearing interest from other budding marijuana entrepreneurs in his ward, though this is the first serious proposal.

Corrections

  • According to a previous version of this story, the LiveWell Foods proposal involves a one-million-square-foot marijuana growing operation. In fact, the proposal involves about 667,000 square feet of converted greenhouses and other buildings.
    Feb 13, 2018 3:58 PM ET

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Seeking committee approval, Metcalfe cannabis grow-op offers big job prospects

Seeking committee approval, Metcalfe cannabis grow-op offers big job prospects

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The city’s first legalized marijuana grow operation could eventually create up to 800 jobs in rural south Ottawa if the proposal gets the go-ahead from city council and Health Canada, one of the executives behind the project says.

Artiva, a branch of Ottawa-based LiveWell Foods, wants to set up the grow-op at existing vegetable greenhouses at 5130-5208 Ramsayville Rd. in Metcalfe, near the Hawthorne Industrial Park. The city’s agriculture and rural affairs committee is set to review the firm’s application to rezone the property for marijuana production at its next meeting on Thursday.

Under the three-phase plan, the site’s nearly 550,000 square feet of greenhouse space would be converted from producing food to growing marijuana. A second greenhouse would also eventually be added to the property.

LiveWell co-CEO Seann Poli, who plans to attend Thursday’s meeting, was tight-lipped about the proposal on the weekend. But in an emailed statement to OBJ, he said the planned facility would ultimately bring “up to 800 jobs to rural Ottawa” if it gets the green light.

City staff have endorsed the proposal, and the councillor for the ward says he’ll vote in favour of the plan on Thursday.

Osgoode Coun. George Darouze said he was “shocked” when he first heard about the would-be grow-op several months ago. But after consulting with residents and staff and doing more research into the medical cannabis industry and the facility’s potential economic impact on his ward, he says he’s now fully behind the plan.

Darouze said he spent months talking to his constituents about the grow-op proposal and heard only one complaint from a nearby resident who was worried about potential security breaches, a concern he said he’s confident will be addressed in the site plan.

“It is an agricultural plant, and I’m in an agricultural ward,” said Darouze, who is also the vice-chair of the agriculture and rural affairs committee.

Health Canada is currently reviewing Artiva’s application to become a licensed producer of medical marijuana. All medical pot growers must be approved by the federal government, and 89 producers are currently licensed across the country.

Under city guidelines approved by council in 2014, medical marijuana facilities are permitted only in industrial zones. City staff said they feared indoor grow-ops would damage soil used for farming. Marijuana facilities also must be located at least 150 metres from residential and institutional zones.

However, in a report being presented at Thursday’s meeting, city staff argue that since the grow-op would be set up within an existing greenhouse, there would be little impact on nearby farmland.

The facility “does not change the existing agricultural nature of the property and so protects from the loss of agricultural lands to other non-agricultural uses,” the report says. “Further, the proposed medical marijuana production facility takes advantage of the agriculture nature of the site and its location within a productive farming area.”

The report says the site’s owners are also planning to build a secure fence around the greenhouse buildings to address security concerns. The owners also say the facility will also use a “closed-loop” irrigation system that will not lead to any contamination in nearby wells. Additionally, the property owner says a house that is being rented out at 5130 Ramsayville Rd. would no longer be available for rent if the proposal is approved, ensuring there is no residential use of the property.

Should the committee approve the rezoning, it would go to full council at its next meeting on Feb. 14.

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