Tomatoes grow in a Village Farms greenhouse. This time next year the company hopes to be growing cannabis in a 1.1-million-square-foot greenhouse in British Columbia. (Courtesy Village Farms / Emerald Health Therapeutics)

Cannabis cultivation a go for giant Canadian tomato greenhouse

Canadian officials have green-lighted a plan to convert a gargantuan tomato greenhouse for cannabis cultivation.

Health Canada issued a cannabis cultivation license for the 1.1 million-square-foot greenhouse operated by the joint venture of produce grower Village Farms International Inc. and medical cannabis firm Emerald Health Therapeutics Inc., the companies announced Monday.

“Growing any agricultural crop on a large scale and repeatedly delivering expected quantities and consistent quality, with full regulatory compliance, at a competitive price is an extremely challenging proposition for even the most experienced agricultural producers,” Michael DeGiglio, Village Farms’ chief executive officer, said in a statement. “The goal is for the Joint Venture to set the standard in this regard in the Canadian cannabis industry and establish itself as a preferred supplier for both the short- and long-terms.”

The companies plan to immediately start growing cannabis in the Delta, British Columbia, greenhouse and set expectations to receive the sales license by July 1, 2018.

The facility that’s the size of about 19 football fields is “conservatively” expected to produce 75,000 kilograms, or about 165,350 pounds, of cannabis annually.

The first 250,000-square-foot quadrant should be operational by April. The second quadrant, which is currently being converted, should come on line by the fall, officials for the joint venture said.

The third and fourth quadrants are scheduled to go into production by early next year.

“Clearly, we have a tremendous amount of capacity to serve the Canadian market and beyond,” said Dr. Avtar Dhillon, Emerald Health’s executive chairman.

And 1.1 million square feet of cannabis cultivation is just the beginning.

The British Columbia-based Village Farms plans to earmark another 3.7 million square feet of greenhouse space for cannabis cultivation, DeGiglio told The Cannabist last summer, shortly after the joint venture was established.

Emerald Health likely will pull the trigger on that option sooner rather than later, Dhillon said Monday.