Cultivating sustainable cannabis in South Africa

12-05-2022    11:52   |    Agritech Tomorrow

Cannabis is well-known to be a resource-intensive crop. From lighting to water to HVAC to soil, there are numerous factors that affect production, morphology, costs, and waste.

Located in the Western Cape Province of South Africa, Paarl rests in a beautiful valley surrounded by hills whose bluffs rise abruptly from the flat countryside in stark but splendid contrast. Paarl remains one of the oldest farming towns in the region with a rich history of vineyards, citrus orchards, and blueberry fields, but a new crop is transforming the land and region–medical cannabis. The Van der Merwe family, through their holding company Boplaas 1743, has been farming commercially in South Africa for nearly three-hundred years with a concentration on apples, pears, and citrus.

This changed in 2019 when an entrepreneur from Johannesburg, James Simpson, approached the Van der Merwe family with his vision for producing world-class, medical-grade cannabis on the African continent. Thus, at the beginning of 2020, the new partners broke ground overlooked by Carl Van Der Merwe and James Simpson for the new ChroniCo medical cannabis facility. Soon after work was completed in 2021, ChroniCo was granted a license to grow and process cannabis flowers by SAHPRA (South African Health Products Regulatory Authority).

Cannabis is well-known to be a resource-intensive crop. From lighting to water to HVAC to soil, there are numerous factors that affect production, morphology, costs, and waste. Therefore, the Van der Merwes spared no expense and cut no corners when constructing their state-of-the-art facility to optimize resource efficiency.

James and Carl explain that “one of the guiding principles was to always be working toward carbon neutrality and to minimize both wastage and pollution.” For this reason, the farm is powered by both land-based solar panels and a floating array. To conserve precious water, a complex system of pipes and drains was installed underneath the facility. He continues, “Before being redistributed on the farm, the water undergoes extensive treatment through both ultrafiltration as well as reverse osmosis.”

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Photo Courtesy of Fluence by OSRAM


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