Marlborough hemp farm overcomes challenges to get natural standing

A rural Marlborough hemp farm has achieved an organic certified status but it hasn’t been without its challenges.

Puro, which began planting in December 2020, commercially cultivates cannabis for medical use in Kēkerengū, north of Kaikōura.

BioGro, New Zealand’s largest certifier for organic produce, granted the organic status after working with Puro for the past two years. The achievement is a first for any medical cannabis company in Australasia.

Puro, New Zealand’s largest medicinal cannabis grower, has been awarded organic certification at its Kēkerengū farm.

SCOTT HAMMOND/STUFF

Puro, New Zealand’s largest medicinal cannabis grower, has been awarded organic certification at its Kēkerengū farm.

Puro quality and compliance manager Wendy Tillman said Puro’s commitment to growing organically had not been without its challenges.

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“We are a very new industry here in New Zealand and one of very few organic growers worldwide,” Tillman said.

“So we’ve had to break new ground in terms of finding effective and appropriate products and processes that do the job while fitting our organic approach.

Puro managing director Tim Aldridge with hemp seedlings planted in December last year.

SCOTT HAMMOND/STUFF

Puro managing director Tim Aldridge with hemp seedlings planted in December last year.

“This has included exploring how organic fertilisers can help provide the nutrients our plants need and introducing specific predator species on site to control the pests that threaten our plants, and so, reducing the need to use pesticides.”

But pbtaining the status required more than just looking after the plants.

“Achieving BioGro Organic certification has required an in-depth look at every system and process we work with at our Kēkerengū site, from germination to growing and then through to the processing and packaging, so that our end product retains its organic status.”

Plants were low in THC and therefore weren’t suitable for recreational purposes.

SCOTT HAMMOND/STUFF/Marlborough Express

Plants were low in THC and therefore weren’t suitable for recreational purposes.

Puro managing director Tim Aldridge said it was a “testament” to the work and commitment of the team.

“Our vision has been to set the standard for a medical cannabis industry that is organic, sustainable, and environmentally conscious,” Aldridge said.

He said the team knew going organic was the right thing to do for “our people, our land, our community, and our plants”.

At its peak, Puro planted 80,000 hemp plants at its Kēkerengū site.

SCOTT HAMMOND/STUFF

At its peak, Puro planted 80,000 hemp plants at its Kēkerengū site.

“Importantly, it also provides Puro a huge point of difference in global export markets, as we take New Zealand cannabis to international buyers,” he said.

Organic Aotearoa New Zealand chairman Chris Morrison, who had visited the Kēkerengū site, said Puro were “pioneers” in the medicinal cannabis industry.

“Puro is building a depth of knowledge that will benefit the wider horticultural industry, providing opportunities for agricultural diversification and regional economic growth,” Morrison said.

The Kēkerengū farm had upwards of 80,000 CBD and CBG plants in-season, which were low in THC and therefore could not be used for recreational purposes.

It meant they were ideal for medicinal use in products like oils and creams.

Puro hoped to attain organic certification in the near future for its indoor growing facilities and research centre in Waihopai.