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ProgenyBio / CanGenX Biotech

COMPANY:ProgenyBio / CanGenX Biotech
LICENCE TYPE:Nursery
APPROACH:Tissue culture, seed production
TIMELINE:~5 months (June 2019 to November 2019
COST:$500,000
FACILITY:Indoor

Geoff White started ProgenyBio Agricultural Services Inc. in British Columbia in 2012 to help fill what he saw as a gap between agricultural technology services and commercial producers, offering services like molecular virus testing for vineyards and orchards.

Around 2015 White began seeing the need for similar services in the cannabis space in Canada, especially in BC. He applied for a type of research licence that at the time was called a Dealers’ Licence under the Narcotic Control Regulations of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

After receiving the Dealers’ Licence in early 2016, White says he began working with home growers under the MMAR and, later under the AMCPR to start developing technologies focused on improving the existing cannabis production practices. . 

CLEANING PLANTS

The first technology that ProgenyBio worked on was cannabis tissue culture micropropagation. This allows for the ’clean-up’ and propagation of cannabis plant material in a sterile and insect-free environment. This process allows for the propagation or transplant of virus-free, disease-free, pest-free, fully-rooted verified cannabis plants within a month in their system. 

Over several years this process also allowed ProgenyBio and their offshoot CanGenX™ BioTech Inc. to  build up an extensive library of genetics for their own research purposes and further product development. 

Once White saw the first drafts of the Cannabis Act and the direction of legislation beyond the medical cannabis regime, he began to look at how his small lab could service the broader consumer and B2B market. In the summer of 2019 he applied for a nursery licence, and was fully licensed by November 2019. 

We realized that technology is at the core foundation to be a successful business in the future in this landscape, not just the more square footage you can have, and I stayed focused on that.

LAUNCHING COMMERCIAL SEED LINES

Since then, White says the company was able to begin building partnerships with commercial growers, and start to realize a more substantial revenue generation through their newly launched commercial seed line through their independent subsidiary CanGenX™.

Despite taking a while to begin bringing in much revenue, White says he’s glad that he’s kept his company small and efficient through the pot-com boom of the past few years. 

“We’ve avoided the swarm of over capitalization and people taking on too much money from the wrong investors, and we’ve just stayed small. We realized that technology is at the core foundation to be a successful business in the future in this landscape, not just the more square footage you can have, and I stayed focused on that.”

“We’ve been able to grow and do the right thing to keep our doors open, and finally we’re starting to be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. And a big part of that is our erbaceous™ seed line. Getting that to the retail market has been a lot of work, but it’s now huge rewards for us.”

STOCK FOR COMMERCIAL GROWERS

CanGenX™ launched their erbaceous™ seed line in March of this year in the BC market with their K 1 L I M A N J A R O line of seeds, which have been quickly selling out every time new product arrives. They also are planning to release their  recently-harvested second and third varieties, K 2 – C H H O G O R I and D 3 N A L I, some time in May, and hope to have six different varieties available on the consumer market by the end of this year.

White says ProgenyBio is also teaming up with a few larger commercial cultivators to help grow even more seed for the consumer and business market. Although ProgenyBio has a small footprint of only about 50m2 for seed production, White says they can provide stock that commercial growers can grow in much larger approved space. 

We don’t even have the opportunity to go into other provinces yet because the appetite in BC is so great.

PROVINCIAL DEMAND

White says the process of convincing provinces that there was even a demand for seeds at the consumer level was a challenge at first, but when their first batch sold out in half a day both BC as well as other provinces began calling and asking for some. 

“BC is gobbling up all our product right now,” says White. “We don’t even have the opportunity to go into other provinces yet because the appetite in BC is so great. And that’s why we are partnering with some larger producers, so we can provide them our certified stock material and they populate their grow rooms, their greenhouses, and harvest the seed that we can then market under our brand.”

NEW STOCK FROM TISSUE CULTURE

Another advantage, he says, is that unlike other cannabis seeds traditionally available on the market, either licit or illicit, their seeds are not the traditional ‘pollen-chucking’, creating new varieties often by chance. His lab is able to start new stock from tissue culture which can be properly cleaned and identified, ensuring growers know exactly what they have and know that it’s of the highest quality. Therefore any breeding done with those genetics is also of a greater quality and degree of certainty as to the source genetics. 

“Our seeds aren’t like other people’s seeds. A lot of other groups are just throwing plants together, seeing what they get, and selling that. We make sure we have stable seed lines, they’re all virus tested, the mother and father material that we work with come out of our certified stock of tissue culture, and then we do our proper germination test. We take it very seriously.” 

POTENTIAL FOR INTERNATIONAL SEED COMPANY

Although he also wants to serve more of the B2B market, White says the industry is still too immature to see a large demand for that at this time, especially in terms of commercial growers in the area near ProgenyBio in Penticton. Because of that he hopes to continue to work towards satisfying the consumer demand first in BC, then ideally the rest of Canada and then looking at the international market. This would make them one of, if not the first fully legal international seed companies anywhere. 

“After this we’re looking at the medical market with some partners,” he says, “getting it into the hands of medical patients, because they have not been serviced well for the past few years, and then the international market as they come along, too.”

We have the first real, commercial seed brand on the market, and we feel good about the quality that we’re going to be putting out there for people. We’re trying to address the need rather than the greed.

PREPARED FOR THE LONG HAUL

After spending about $2 million over the past seven years building his company, he says he’s happy that he and his team of three others are able to see the fruits of their labour. 

“We have the first real, commercial seed brand on the market, and we feel good about the quality that we’re going to be putting out there for people. We’re trying to address the need rather than the greed. We can hold our heads high and keep moving ahead through this process.”

Despite that hope, he does say that anyone else looking to enter the space, either as a cannabis nursery or as a cultivator or processor, needs to be prepared for the long haul and be willing to learn from their mistakes.

“Be honest about disease pressures and insect pressures and your failings. It’s not always about how glorious you are when there are millions of sq feet being shut down. It’s been a struggle, honestly. There’s a lot more than just the Cannabis Regulations you need to be aware of. There’s the Seeds Act, pesticide regulations, just to name a few. Health Canada makes it hard, the CRA makes it hard, the Province makes it hard.” 

MADE IT TO THE STARTING BLOCK

“(Once licensed), you’ve just opened a whole new can of worms. You have monthly reporting, accounting for products, more than you’ve ever done before. It’s not like you’ve just made it to the finish line, you’ve actually just made it to the starting block. Applying is half the battle, but surviving as a licence holder is the other half.”


See the StratCann cannabis news article on ProgynyBio/CanGenX Biotech:
https://stratcann.com/new-cannabis-seeds-should-soon-be-available-in-stores-in-bc/
About Author

David Brown writes about cannabis policy and industry stuff and lives in British Columbia. He likes plants.