Ganja Labs con­fi­dent in quest for global qual­ity

Jamaica Gleaner - - BUSINESS - Steven Jack­son Se­nior Busi­ness Re­porter

GANJA LABS LLC, which grows mar­i­juana at the Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy Ja­maica (UTech) in Kingston, in­vested an ad­di­tional US$150,000 to set up an out­door green­house which spans its en­tire field.

The com­pany, cur­rently in its se­cond test har­vest, is aim­ing for global stan­dards for its out­door or green­house ganja cul­ti­va­tion — equiv­a­lent to plants grown in Cal­i­for­nia, United States.

“We can catch up — just look what we have done in just two years,” said Ganja Labs chair­man and chief ganja of­fi­cer, Bal­ram Vaswani in a Gleaner Busi­ness in­ter­view.

The com­pany re­cently set up its white, translu­cent green­house which spans ap­prox­i­mately 5,000 square feet.

The farm pro­duces var­i­ous strains of mar­i­juana for re­search and test­ing by UTech and Steep Hill Labs. It nei­ther sells nor dis­trib­utes the plant. In the first crop, Ganja Labs tested 36 strains, then fo­cused on 21 strains for the se­cond crop, with plans to fur­ther re­duce those num­bers go­ing for­ward, with the main fo­cus on pick­ing the stronger ge­net­ics which per­form the best un­der the grow­ing con­di­tions at low al­ti­tudes.

“Now we have iden­ti­fied six strains that will per­form well, even with the heat,” Vaswani said as he kissed the leaf of a plant in the green­house.

Vaswani said it is hard to con­trol pests, rain, wind and heat in an ur­ban en­vi­ron­ment on the univer­sity cam­pus. How­ever, the green­house has elim­i­nated the wind and rain, and Ganja Labs is now work­ing with lo­cal ven­dor Is­rat­ech on so­lu­tions that will be prac­ti­ca­ble and af­ford­able for a lo­cal farmer to com­pete.

“The heat is still a fac­tor, even with so­lar fans and ex­trac­tors, but even so, we are still see­ing a more con­sis­tent and health­ier crop this time around,” said Vaswani.

“We will know the dif­fer­ence be­tween the first and se­cond crop when the test re­sults come back in a few weeks, but al­ready I can say it will give a three to five per­cent­age point im­prove­ment in THC,” he said. THC, or tetrahy­dro­cannabi­nol iden­ti­fies the mind-al­ter­ing con­tent of the plant.

Next, Vaswani will trans­form the floor of the green­house into a cool­ing agent by in­su­lat­ing the dirt floor with cold run­ning wa­ter, sim­i­lar to a river. A new floor will be laid above the flow of wa­ter.

The idea of util­is­ing mist through­out the green­house was re­jected as it would neg­a­tively raise the hu­mid­ity in the green­house.

SEV­ERAL STRAINS

The green­house con­tains sev­eral ganja strains with names like Ja­maican-bred Gold­en­back Go­rilla, 9-pound Ham­mer, and Cherry CBD. They, how­ever, still fit into three over­ar­ch­ing cat­e­gories of sativa, in­dica and CBD. Sativa gives an en­er­getic or head-high, while in­dica gives a sen­sory or body-high, while CBD is con­sid­ered a non-psy­choac­tive cannabi­noid.

Sativa plants are so rare in Ja­maica that many ganja sell­ers don’t of­fer it. It was more dom­i­nant in the 1980s. Nowa­days, in­dica has taken over. Vaswani con­curs with the trend, but adds that things are still evolv­ing with lo­cal re­search and farm­ers plant­ing a va­ri­ety of strains again.

“Ja­maica back in the ’70s had some of the best weed, but we lost much of the good stuff,” he said, al­lud­ing to po­lice raids and de­struc­tion of farms.

“This killed out much of the sativa strain of weed in the is­land. Then we got strains from Cal­i­for­nia in the ’80s, which were ba­si­cally in­dica which are usu­ally eas­ier to grow and does not take as long to reap, as the flow­er­ing times are eight weeks, com­pared to ten weeks for the sativa plant.”

He then heads back up­stairs Ganja Labs’ two-storey of­fice to check on his in­door medic­i­nal plants. These will pro­duce cannabid­iol (CBD) phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals for pa­tients seek­ing so­lu­tions for ill­nesses where tra­di­tional medicine has fallen short.

In­side the in­door cul­ti­va­tion room, he ca­resses the lush green plants grow­ing un­der tem­per­a­tures fit to chill meat.

“Be­cause we grow in per­fect grow­ing con­di­tions,” said Vaswani, “we are con­fi­dent that the in­door plant can be bench­marked against US and in­ter­na­tional stan­dards, but the price point will not make sense to de­velop a sus­tain­able mar­ket here.”

Plants in Cal­i­for­nia are able to main­tain 15-30 per cent THC up to 15 per cent CBD con­tent.

Vaswani in ad­vo­cat­ing for A ganja plant casts a shadow on re­flec­tive Bal­ram Vaswai as he walks through the plants cul­ti­vated by Ganja Labs LLC at the Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy Ja­maica on Oc­to­ber 20.

CEO Bal­ram Vaswai walks the green­house in which Ganja Labs LLC grows its ganja plants at the Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy Ja­maica, on Oc­to­ber 20.

PHO­TOS BY IAN ALLEN/PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

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