What we know so far about $100 million cannabis facility
IT WAS one of, if not the biggest announcement for the region last year.
A Canadian company is going to build the biggest medical cannabis processing plant in the southern hemisphere at Casino.
And the first seed could be planted within a matter of months.
Solaris Nutraceuticals (previously PUF Ventures Australia) touted the idea for the Northern Rivers last year, looking at various towns including Ballina, Byron and Tweed, and Richmond Valley Council gladly put their hands up.
The company said they planned to construct the greenhouse operation with large scale manufacturing, processing and office facilities for the cultivation, production and manufacture of medical cannabis and associated products in Australia.
It was announced in September last year the company had entered a partnership with Richmond Valley Council to build the 10ha facility on a parcel of rural land on the outskirts of Casino.
A few months later in November 2017, three applications lodged with the Australian Office of Drug control revealed the proposal for the major medical cannabis facility would be 20 per cent bigger than it was first announced, bringing the greenhouse and extraction facility to 1.2 million square feet.
Solaris Nutraceuticals chief executive, Michael Horsfall, said the reason behind the size increase was because he saw the demand in Australia and the potential of exporting cannabis products "growing exponentially".
The first crop, based on the construction timeline suggested earlier this year, permitting and various Australian approvals, was expected to be planted in the fourth quarter of this year.
Mr Horsfall said in November it was expected the company's application to Australian Office of Drug Control would be successful.
"We...are moving ahead with building permits, infrastructure, and other applications to support the Northern Rivers Joint Venture Project," he said.
The "state of the art" facility will be built in stages, with a total estimated cost of $80 -100 million.
When complete, the facility will include greenhouses, manufacturing, processing and office facilities producing 100,000kg of cannabis a year worth an estimated $800 million to $1.1 billion.
The opportunity will bring an estimated 300 plus jobs to the region, and position Richmond Valley at the heart of what is predicted to become a $9 billion industry in the next seven years.
In early February this year the project received grant funding of $2.5 million from the Australian government as part of the regional jobs investment packages program (RJIP), a grant initiative that was made available by the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science.
On the announcement Page MP Kevin Hogan said the government was "co-investing with Solaris Nutraceuticals to make sure it (the medicinal cannabis facility) happens".
"We look forward to having the largest medicinal cannabis facility in the Southern Hemisphere soon in Casino," Mr Hogan said.
Mr Horsfall said they were honoured to be awarded the grant towards the construction of the 1.2 million square feet greenhouse.
He said they were "working hard to deliver (the) project".
"We expect to create upwards of 300 to 500 direct and indirect jobs in the Northern Rivers Region from our greenhouse project. This will provide a significant boost to the local economy."
Solaris Nutraceuticals said the "state of the art, custom built Ultra Clima greenhouse" was being designed by partner - KUBO in the Netherlands, one of the biggest greenhouse builders in the world.
The project is scheduled to break ground this summer with phase one completed by the end of 2018. Project completion is scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2019.