There’s a new cannabis business making its way to the province, and it could mean another 200 jobs in the Freshwater area, near Carbonear.
FSD Pharma announced an agreement to purchase 51 per cent of Atlantic Island Cannabis Thursday morning — what they are calling a “strategic investment of $40 million to bring economic benefits to the province of Newfoundland” with a “phased expansion plan in place to create 200 local management and construction jobs.”
The first phase of the project involves setting up an indoor cannabis production facility in Freshwater, on the current Noel’s Turkey Farm land. Owner Kerry Noel signed a land sale agreement with Atlantic Island Cannabis on Wednesday.
Once fully operational, the site is expected to produce up to 13,000 kilograms of cannabis per year, targeted to be supplied to Newfoundland and possibly other provinces in Atlantic Canada, according to a news release.
"Newfoundland is a fantastic province with outstanding, highly skilled people," Thomas Fairfull, president and CEO of FSD Pharma Inc., stated in the news release.
The licensed cannabis producer has its headquarters at a former Kraft plant in Cobourg, Ont., where it is hoping to retain and increase jobs that were lost when the Kraft plant shut down in 2008. About 250 people lost their jobs, but with cannabis production, the number of jobs there could now grow by up to 1,200.
Atlantic Island Cannabis executive director Suman Pushparajah hopes the partnership with FSD Pharma will breathe the same kind of life into rural Newfoundland.
“I really liked what they were doing, so that’s why this partnership was important.”
Pushparajah hired Robert Giannou, of Targa Newfoundland, to lead the project.
He got to know Giannou through the Targa Newfoundland road rally — in fact, Pushparajah will be racing this September.
On a visit to Newfoundland with Giannou, Pushparajah learned that many people were leaving the province for work, and thought cannabis could help to create some jobs.
“I’m actually from Sri Lanka, and our people, one of the first boats with refugees came through Newfoundland, so I’ve always had some sort of connection and wanted to do something in Newfoundland,” said Pushparajah. “I always had something that I wanted to do for the province.”
200 jobs to gobble up
Noel is selling the land in Freshwater where he has operated the turkey farm since his father founded it in the 1970s.
He said the past number of years have been tough, trying to compete with large grocery chains that can sell turkeys for about half the price. While Noel is still thinking about continuing a smaller turkey operation, he is happy to sell the land to be used for the blooming cannabis industry.
“It’s a good deal, and it’s a better deal for the community, I think, because the number of jobs … I mean, my father died last year and I think he’d be proud to see, you know, if he could see 200 people going to work there, it’s a lot better than five, for sure.”
While most people know Giannou through his Targa Newfoundland venture, he said he has years of experience putting projects together. That’s how he approaches getting this new cannabis business in the province off the ground.
“I’ve been involved in putting projects together all my life, from the fishing industry to offshore vessels to Targa, which, of course, is the love of my life,” he said.
Giannou said the significant investment that FSD Pharma, partnered with Atlantic Island Cannabis, can bring to the province is why he’s passionate about being involved.
“In Newfoundland right now, I so firmly believe that we are not in a position to ignore any opportunity to bring funding into this province. We have a well-publicized debt … we’re in trouble with the Muskrat Falls operation and I just know from bottom to top we have to open ourselves up to welcome investment into this province.”
Pushparajah said the next step involves sitting down with the province to get a supply agreement and retail licences put in place.
Once construction begins in Freshwater, about 50 jobs will be created to build the facility. In the long term, the facility will require about 80 permanent employees once cannabis production begins. All told, the venture could create upward of 200 jobs in the area.