Located around Canada’s southernmost point, the Leamington and Kingsville area has one of the warmest climates in Canada. The town of 30,000 people has seen 21 of its approximately 120 greenhouse growers convert entirely to cannabis production or be acquired by a larger firm, according to James Cox, Leamington’s manager of economic development. Meanwhile, an additional 35 greenhouses are planning to add capacity to existing facilities to produce marijuana alongside crops like tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers.
Additionally, the area’s growers have the technical expertise to handle a highly-regulated agricultural sector like cannabis, according to Mike Dixon, environmental science professor and director of the Controlled Environment Systems Research Facility at the University of Guelph.
“This is not gum boots and garden hoses in a plastic greenhouse,” Dixon said.
“[Leamington has] serious technology in terms of computer automated, environmentally controlled, hydroponic systems, disinfection protocol – a long laundry list of horticultural practices for cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers. It’s a logical home for a new commodity that promises significantly larger margins than food or even ornamental [plants].”
That was something Aphria’s Cacciavillani saw in 2012, after Canada changed the regulatory framework around medical cannabis and paved the way for the plant to be grown commercially. At the time, Cacciavillani Farms was already the “oddball” of Leamington’s growers, Cacciavillani says, bucking the trend of growing fruits and vegetables for more vertically-integrated holiday plants, such as poinsettias and Easter lilies. He fully converted the greenhouses to grow cannabis in 2016.