Your Reading List

Expansion possible as cannabis market grows

Small companies could see host of new opportunities in the wake of cannabis legalization

Jen Unwin of Nature’s Perfect Plant Food grabs a handful of red wiggler worms from a vermicomposting tub.

A Manitoba entrepreneur has high hopes that pending changes to cannabis laws will help expand her fertilizer business.

Jen Unwin of Nature’s Perfect Plant Food said the ability for Canadians to grow their own marijuana could be a “huge boon” to small input providers, as consumers learn more about indoor plant production.

“In eight short months you’ll be able to grow your own cannabis for recreational purposes… and the question you have to ask is, how do you want to do that?” she asked would-be growers during a presentation at Hempfest Cannabis Expo in Winnipeg earlier this month.

This is the first time the family-run business has reached out directly to recreational cannabis growers in its more than two decades of existence, but Unwin said that with tens of thousands of Canadians poised to begin legally growing their own cannabis, the market for organic fertilizer could see massive growth.

And while she has little doubt that some marijuana growers are already purchasing her vermicast fertilizer — produced just south of Steinbach — the company can now actively market to that demographic.

“Legalization is going to create new customers for us as organic fertilizer producers,” Unwin said. “I think people who maybe would have never done this before are now feeling safe and ready to grow their own if they want, and I think that’s a huge thing… it’s going to open up some doors.”

Unwin said that while many people are concerned large companies and giant pharmaceuticals will dominate the recreational marijuana market, there will always be interest in organic production methods. She hopes that she can help facilitate that interest.

“I would like to see the power put back in the hands of individual growers and individual people,” Unwin said. “I want to help give them a choice, so they can choose to do this themselves… that’s the joy of it.”

Paul Martin of Green Beaver Genetics is already growing cannabis organically and agrees there’s going to be a surge of interest in growing organic cannabis as soon as prohibition ends next summer. He’s also a big fan of vermicast fertilizer.

“One of these great things about these worm castings is they just will not burn your cannabis plant at any stage,” Martin said. “And one of the joys of worm farming is that you can bring it into your house or your basement or even your grow room.”

In layperson terms, Unwin describes vermicast as “worm poo,” but she is quick to add it’s not a gross or stinky process.

“Vermicomposting is so effective because of the high bacterial interaction that is going on between the worms and the environment they live in,” she said, adding unlike anaerobic decomposition processes, the aerobic vermicomposting process generates carbon dioxide, not methane.

“Vermicast is then the end product of composting with worms,” she said.

At least one person who listened to Unwin’s presentation was prepared to give vermicast fertilizer a try.

“Yeah, I don’t think I’m going to put worms in my house,” said David Wiebe, who wasn’t familiar with vermicomposting prior to the presentation. “But if someone else makes it… it sounds like a good thing to try out.”

Unwin adds that conventional agriculture is also looking at vermicomposting more seriously.

“We’ve been able to introduce this technology… into a lot of co-operating cattle operations, so they are doing this on their sites now,” she said. “So really once the ball gets going the supply is endless.”

She and her business partner have also expanded to new sites, away from their operation near Steinbach.

“At the end of the day, we’ve been able to bring more understanding to the idea of organic,” she said. “And now by talking to cannabis growers we can do more of that.”

About the author


Shannon VanRaes is a journalist and photojournalist at the Manitoba Co-operator. She also writes a weekly urban affairs column for Metro Winnipeg, and has previously reported for the Winnipeg Sun, Outwords Magazine and the Portage Daily Graphic.



Stories from our other publications