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Ontario Cannabis Fieldnotes: Cannara Biotech Blends Business with Pleasure

Montreal-based Licensed Producer Cannara Biotech began with a bang in early 2018. By July of that year, they had secured a 625,000-square-foot facility in southern Quebec.

Founder and CEO Zohar Krivorot is a relative newcomer to the cannabis industry, having come from the tech space. Unusual for most C-suites, he is also Cannara’s grower. He hired a cannabis consultant from the Netherlands to teach him how to grow cannabis from scratch. Prior to legalization, for over the span of a year, Cannara was not in market and Krivorot instead worked to understand the science and nuance of growing.

The dedication impressed Nicholas Sosiak, Cannara’s chief financial officer, who doubles as the company’s genetic hunter, marketing head and product tester. “Two times a week, 2,000 plants, [visiting the] same rooms over and over again. He did 108 harvests in 2021,” Sosiak says. “Back-to-back with a team of scientists, PhDs, irrigation staff, cultivation staff and through trial and error and study, he learned to grow some of the best cannabis I’ve ever smoked,” he adds.

Just under a year later, Krivorot grew some Gelato Mint and gave it to Sosiak to try. “I smoked it and it was a game changer,” Sosiak says. The indica-dominant strain is a cross between It’s It and Cookies and Cream. It has 20-28% THC and 2-5% terpenes, a combination of caryophyllene, limonene, myrcene and farnesene. Sosiak describes the mint taste on both the inhale and exhale as “rare in Canada.”

Today, Krivorot tends to 90,000 plants across two facilities near Montreal, totalling 1.6 million square feet and 24 grow rooms, with the capacity to produce 125,000 kilograms of cannabis.

In 2022 — the company’s second year of production — Cannara yielded just under one-tenth of that. However, the company has plans to expand. “We should be 50% built out by August 2024 and the other 50% over 2025, leaning a little into 2026,” says Sosiak.

Despite its large facility size, its market differentiation relies on applying certain craft touches. For instance, they hand-trim all their cannabis, eschewing machine-based efficiency for attention to detail. “If you put a flower inside a machine with blades, it’s going to cut the trichome stalks, which are what give cannabis its flavour and high THC concentration,” says Sosiak.

Cannara also hang-dries the cut plants upside down for 14 days, which allows the flower to finish maturing and develop its cannabinoid potency. And all packages have a “harvested on” date to show the product’s freshness.

Hunting for unique genetics

Cannara is the exclusive Canadian partner of the U.S.-based heavy hitter Exotic Genetix, the breeder of Gelato Mint. “I knew that I needed a breeder that has reputation that has been doing this for 10, 20 years, that has over and over found these genetics that he keeps on bringing, that the people want and keep wanting to try,” Sosiak explains.

Cannara Biotech’s Brands

  • Tribal is primarily focused on new consumers as well as terpene hunters and genetics aficionados — people attracted by the brand’s artisanal touch.
  • Tribal’s lemony Cuban Linx sativa is a crowd favourite, and the recently released Power Sherb is already doing numbers.
  • Orchid is more attuned to the wellness sector and has a roster of CBD-dominant products that will eventually include topicals, tinctures and creams.
  • Nugz, meanwhile, nods to the traditional cannabis crowd with its bulk packaging and bright yellow branding.

He says the deal gives Cannara exclusivity in Canada to research and develop genetics under the Exotic brand, as well as market Exotic Genetix-branded products in Canada. Already, Exotic Genetix strains are heavily featured in Cannara’s product roster, including Gelato Mint, Power Sherb, Galactic Runtz, CBD Runtz and Slapz.

Cannara hopes to release a handful of Exotic Genetix-bred strains by the end of 2023 under its Tribal brand, expanding its roster of flavours to include strawberry, cherry, guava, cheese and gas profiles.

The partnership also formalizes Cannara’s relationship with Exotic Genetix founder Exotic Mike, an internationally revered seed breeder based in Washington state who has won more than 50 awards for his seeds. Sosiak, a self-avowed genetics nerd, is excited about the partnership, not least due to Exotic Mike’s influence on his own passion for the genetics hunt. Sosiak spends a lot of time pheno hunting and looking for the strains with the most potential and uniqueness in the Canadian market. The lineage, name, bag appeal, trichome density, texture, smell, taste and psychoactive effects all inform which strains get planted, cloned, grown out and eventually brought to market. With a genetics library 2,000 strains deep, Cannara has a lot to work with. Its long-term vision makes Cannara Biotech one to watch in Canadian cannabis.

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