|COMPANY:||Ovation AG Ltd|
|LICENCE TYPE:||Micro Cultivation|
|TIMELINE:||~ 6 months (August 2020 to February 2021)|
|FACILITY:||Indoor facility, geothermal infrastructure|
Dustin Steckle says a micro cultivation licence brought him back to the family farm in Ontario.
Steckle says he spent 15 years working in plant nutrition and plant health in corporate agriculture before deciding he wanted to start a cannabis farm with his dad on the family farm.
Shortly after legalization, he began the conversation with his dad and began the construction of an indoor facility for Ovation AG inside an existing barn on the farm on the shore of Lake Huron. He formally applied in August 2020 and the company received its cultivation licence on February 12, 2021.
“We thought cannabis would be the best way to keep it in the family and expand and continue to farm for many years to come,” he explains.
The indoor facility, with 3 flowering rooms, a mother room, and admin space, which is heated and cooled using only a new geothermal installation, cost just over $1 million to build. Steckle says the addition of the geothermal infrastructure was a large portion of this cost but was worth it.
It’s just more environmentally friendly,” says the company’s founder. “We wanted to go the sustainable route. And over time, the cost can be amortized, especially considering the savings in heating and cooling costs.”
Ovation plans to stay small, at least for the time being, says Steckle, and wants to focus on cultivation, not processing or packaging.
“We want to do one thing and do it well, which is growing the best cannabis we can. And so we’re happy to partner with others to get to market”
Now that they’re licensed, Steckle says they are ready to get things into motion and are already in conversation with other growers to help source genetics to fill their grow rooms.
“We’re excited and ready to hit the ground running. It’s been a long process. It was November 2018 when the first conversations about this started, almost 2 and a half years ago.”
All the work is currently managed by Steckle and his father, who still also runs the family farm, managing their corn, soybeans, hay and cattle, although as the company grows they hope to add additional employees. The farm has been in the family for 97 years now.
“As we grow we’ll add employees as needed, especially for new crops and harvest and trimming, but remaining lean and nimble is part of our farmer mentality,” says Steckle. “If one guy can do it in 18 hours, he’s the one to do it”
This lean and mean mentality is important, he says, because the licensing process can be challenging, and applicants need to be prepared to do a lot of the work themselves. His advice to other applicants is to be fully dedicated and ready to work very hard.
“If this is something you’re thinking about, you need to be 110% serious about it. If you’re not in wholeheartedly to make it successful, it’s just not going to go. It’s easy to get down and get frustrated, especially in the first few months after you apply and you don’t hear anything from Health Canada, but you need to be tough and stick with it.”