The good oil on growing trend

TASMANIAN Botanics is one of the newest faces on the Tasmanian pharmaceutical block, but in just five years they have become a big player in Tasmania’s newest medicinal export, cannabis.

Based in the south of Tasmania, their facility, the location of which cannot be disclosed, boasts almost 50 employees and some of the most sophisticated security in the state.

Their facility manages the vertically integrated cannabis production from growing, drying, trimming, extraction, formulation, to packaging a patient-ready product.

Tasmanian Botanics has been operating since 2017 under Chief Operating Officer Craig Knight, but in the past two years has been running at full capacity, supplying their tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) products in elixir and oral liquid forms.

From the 1800 sqm greenhouse, a fortnightly harvest of about 450 plants produces 600-700kg of wet weight product, which dries to 40kgs of flower buds and 20kgs of trim, from which the oil is extracted.

They also manage a 3ha outdoor crop, consisting of around 25,000 plants that is harvested annually, though the sheer volume of product – which has so far almost doubled expected yields – means the extraction process must be outsourced.

“The only difference between the greenhouse and outdoor crops is that they do get affected by seasonal differences. We don’t push them, but the plants are robust, they are called ‘weed’ for a reason,” Mr Knight said.

With much of their infrastructure in place, the challenge for Tasmanian Botanics remains for the ‘front-end’ of their business now that medicinal cannabis can be distributed by Tasmanian GPs.

It is something that Mr Knight admits is a slow process.
“A big challenge for us and the industry in general is to raise the profile of our products.
“Given the nature of our products we can’t advertise, so it really comes down to getting our message across to doctors to be confident that we produce reliable, consistent medicines that their patients can benefit from.
“What we and others are aiming to do is produce consistent goods … and make them as affordable as unregulated black-market products.”

On the Tasmanian Botanics site sits the scaffolding of an enormous new greenhouse complex.

The lack of builders due to Covid interruptions means progress is slow, but once completed, it will significantly increase the capacity of production from the greenhouses.

The 11,000 sqm greenhouse will feature internal irrigations systems, entire wings for crops in differing cycles of growth and the capability to increase the harvest up to 700 kilos of trim and flower buds per fortnight.

Statistics from the Therapeutic Goods Administration show a steady increase in prescribed cannabinoids, rising from 5972 prescriptions nationally in October 2020 to 13,666 in September 2021, stemming from 430 authorised prescribing GPs.

Mr Knight hopes the expansion of Tasmanian Botanics will meet the ever-increasing demand for medicinal cannabis in Australia and see off reliance on imported and potentially inferior product.

“What is comes down to is the regulators seeing that now there is a significant amount of locally grown, GMP compliant produce in Australia,” Mr Knight said.

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