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Ontario Cannabis Fieldnotes: Growing Strong with Seven Leaf
Nestled in the First Nations reserve of Akwesasne, Ont., you’ll find Seven Leaf, a 100% Indigenous owned and operated Licensed Producer. The team believes in “cannabis with purpose,” and they operate with a holistic approach to cultivation and an overall community-driven focus.
ABOUT THE REGION
The Mohawk Nation territory Akwesasne straddles the Canada–U.S. border and provincial boundaries of Ontario and Quebec. Today Akwesasne has a total population of about 12,000.
“Economic sustainability is a crucial part of our business model. At full capacity, we expect to provide full-time jobs to no less than 150 local employees, while infusing approximately $8 million in payroll into the local community annually,” says Nikita (Nik) Elijah, Master Grower at Seven Leaf. While the team is still lean, many of the current employees have been with the company since the beginning.
You might be familiar with their lineup of flower, including the Strawberry Diesel 99 and G13 Haze strains, or the Strawberry Diesel 99 Live Rosin Vape Cartridge, which are available across Ontario under the brand SOVE7EIGN (Sovereign).
Striving for Sustainability
Seven Leaf focuses on sustainability throughout the growing process. “All plants are grown in coco coir, a by-product of the global coconut industry,” explains Elijah. “Once our plants are harvested, the coco coir is composted offsite on a grateful landowner’s property.” The planters, including the outer bags, are 100% biodegradable.
“We are always looking to reduce our carbon footprint by testing new products that will reduce our plastic waste,” says Elijah. “Right now, we are experimenting with dry bagged nutrients to replace liquid bottled nutrients.” Elijah notes that the dry nutrients reduce space and weight needed for transportation. Because lighter items require less diesel fuel, the dry nutrients help to reduce Seven Leaf’s carbon footprint.
“We currently feed our plants less than a gallon a day,” adds Elijah. “This was done with crop steering, trial and error. Trying to minimize our strain on the local water treatment plant.”
Elijah also points out how Seven Leaf has made sustainable choices in their facility: “We run a chilled water system for cooling our rooms — it’s a much bigger upfront cost but more efficient than standard air conditioning.” He adds, “Our building is running all LED fixtures except for the flower rooms, which we are looking to upgrade to LED in the future.”
The Seven Leaf Process
For Elijah, it all starts in the mother room, where plant cuttings are brought to be propagated. They are then transported to the vegetation rooms, where they grow for 28 days. From there, the plants move on to one of 13 flower rooms.
Elijah started his cannabis career in outdoor growing, so watching plants flourish and become taller every week is a treat. And at Seven Leaf, they have plenty of place to grow. Each flower room contains 942 square feet of canopy space. Elijah states that his favourite plant phase is around the six-to-seven-week mark. “The natural aromatic strength is at its peak. It’s the first glimpse of what the finished product could be like,” says Elijah.
As a craft producer, Seven Leaf hang dries the flowers for roughly two weeks before trimming them by hand. During the hand-trimming process, the team tries to save as much of the trichomes as possible. The next step is curing, after which the flower can be packaged for retail.
Going to Market
When deciding to bring a product to market, the Seven Leaf team looks for cultivars that stand out on the nose. They consider the current cannabis landscape and the gaps in the marketplace when it comes to choosing terpenes.
Terpenes are important to Elijah, who says he wants to bring “a heavy OG funk or some vibrant lemon terps” to the table. “We will be bringing some unique flavours to market this year, in collaboration with some selective breeders, to help broaden our menu spectrum, from fresh lemon and blackberries to lavender and a couple stops at the gas station along the way.”
Ultimately, the most important deciding factor for Elijah is whether his own team would buy and consume the product.
Currently, Seven Leaf is focused on flower products, but they have partnered with Final Bell to develop infused pre-rolls, live rosin and a dual-chamber vape cart.