A groundbreaking ceremony was held south of Edmonton Friday morning on what’s touted to be the largest cannabis production facilities of its kind in the world.
The 800,000 square-foot Aurora Sky cannabis production facility will be capable of producing more than 100,000 kilograms of cannabis every year.
Larger than 16 football fields, the facility is being built on the land at the Edmonton International Airport.
“Beyond that, it’s so technologically advanced,” said Cam Battley, with Aurora Sky. “We’re using technologies that have never been used, in some cases in cannabis production and in other cases, in agriculture.
“There will be robotics involved and we’ll be able to keep a closer watch and greater surveillance on our plants than any other agricultural facility in the world.”
The $100-million project is expected to create at least 200 to 300 jobs.
“We’re talking jobs from highly skilled technical jobs all the way down to basic labour jobs, which is great. This is what we need,” Municipal Affairs Minister Shaye Anderson said.
Coupled with investment Aurora Cannabis is making in a Leduc County company called Hempco and Edmonton’s Radient Technologies, Battley said the employment could actually be “significantly beyond” a couple hundred jobs.
“If you add all these things up…I think what we see is the beginning of the development of an industrial cluster or a centre of excellence with respect to both medical and consumer cannabis right here in Edmonton,” Battley said.
“We’re leading the world right here from Edmonton.”
Anderson said this type of development proves the region is an economy driver. He’s excited for what the facility means for the area and the economy.
“It’s exponentially going to grow with all kinds of other businesses, too,” Anderson said. “We’re talking millions of dollars in investment, hundreds of millions of dollars in investment in this area.
“This is kind of an anchor for what’s happening here and I think other businesses and other ventures see this and realize this is a great place to invest.”
Aurora Cannabis said the location near the airport will make it easier to import the supplies and equipment it needs. It will also make it easier to export pot to its customers in Canada and eventually to other countries where marijuana is legal.
Marijuana will be legal in Canada by July 1, 2018.
While Battley and Anderson say stigma remains around marijuana use, they both believe attitudes are changing.
“I think what you’ll find is that the social attitudes will continue to change very, very rapidly,” Battley said. “The world is watching us. So I think Canadians are starting to become proud of the fact that the world trusts Canada to get this right and that we are the world leaders. And that’s helping the stigma go away.”
Battley believes the cannabis industry is “going to be a lucrative one.”
“As long as the industry develops according to rules that people can respect, we believe that this industry could be as big as brewing or distilling.”
The company plans to have construction complete by mid-2018 but begin medical marijuana production by the end of 2017.
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