In a small town in the European metropolis of Lille (MEL), a special type of farm was established just over a year ago. No cows, no cornstalks, no potatoes, no. But, well sheltered in the vast greenhouses of the old rose garden, cannabis plants now grow in abundance. However, there is nothing illegal in the approach of the owners of the premises: hemp, which they lovingly grow, is used to produce various products based on CBD. In about 20 minutes we managed to visit this modest, if not secret, place.
The former operator of these approximately 10,000 m2 greenhouses grew roses there until his 80th birthday, just two years ago. The land, near which he still lives, he only wanted to give to Hthys. And when Thibault Devaux, Paul Bleuchot and Antoine Aliber landed with their project to grow a completely different kind of flower than roses, the octogenarian didn’t even flinch. “We never had any problems with the mayor of the city or with other farmers. On the contrary, even,” says Thibault Devaux. And yet, as soon as you approach the greenhouses, the omnipresent smell leaves no doubt about what kind of crop they contain.
“The variety we grow here is called Charlotte.”
Finally, so accurate, because in terms of flavor, nothing distinguishes THC cannabis from CBD cannabis. The latter, which needs no further introduction, is available in many forms by the two companies (Tilyo and Green Exchange) that created Agrican, the Economic Interest Group (GIE). “The variety we grow here is called ‘Charlotte’ after an American child whose use of CBD soothed epileptic seizures,” explains Antoine Aliber, Tilyo’s boss.
If CBD-derived products can’t get an organic label, Agrican’s hemp does. So much so that instead of using pesticides, farmers themselves breed insects to hunt pests. “There are no legal frameworks for this crop, except for the maximum allowable level of THC. We must set very high standards in order to ensure the best possible traceability in order to obtain quality that will make a difference to consumers,” admits Thibaut Deveaux.
A very energy intensive culture.
Specifically, Agrican produces 3 to 4 crops each year with a total volume of 2 to 2.5 tons. Most of the products are sold in the form of dried flowers or heads. The part can also go through an extraction process to obtain “raw” raw materials with a high concentration of CBD and cannabinoids. In particular, CBD oil is produced from crude oil. For Antoine Alibert, “oil is the most value-added product in our business.”
Growing cannabis, like growing endive or potatoes, is not immune to increased energy costs. “Greenhouse lighting requires 1,500 sodium lamps of 600 watts each, not to mention the heating, which is now carried out on gas,” one of the operation employees admits to 20 Minutes. An abyss, especially since cannabis must benefit from photosynthesis for 13 hours a day to avoid early flowering. Therefore, Agrican is gradually switching to LED lighting and intends to invest in a heat pump. Luckily, CBD hemp is more lucrative than endive but less lucrative than THC hemp. “With an almost identical setup, we are about x10 with THC,” Thibaut Devaux estimates.