Citrus grower invests in one of Australia’s largest outdoor medicinal cannabis facilities

MedTEC Pharma has three hectares of medicinal cannabis growing under protected cropping outdoors medicinal cannabis facilities. (ABC News: Tony Hill)

Inside an ultra-secure location in South Australia one of the country’s biggest medicinal cannabis farms is harvesting its first crop.

Third-generation citrus grower Brad Gallard, who is at the helm of the multi-million-dollar MedTec Pharma operation in the Riverland region, said it had take almost five years to get to where he was and he was yet to make a cent.

After exploring the viability of several other crops, including hemp, he decided to push forward with medicinal cannabis.

Brad Gallard has drawn on his background as a citrus grower to grow cannabis.(ABC News: Tony Hill)

“The latitude of 34 degrees is really what cannabis does like, there’s obviously certain strains that can do a colder climate, or more humid climates,” he said.

“But they do say where citrus grows, cannabis grows really well too.”

Aside from the opportunities of an in-demand industry, Mr Gallard said the decision to move into plant medicine was personal.

“My father had Parkinson‘s disease and my mum had scleroderma and ulcers … and they tried a bit of their product just after it was legal and saw a reasonable result for at least a few days,” he said.

Growers say getting the temperature right in controlled growing rooms is important.

“So I thought, I’d better look into it.”

Less than six months ago a patch of dirt marked the site where three hectares of sun-grown organic cannabis plants are being harvested by hand.

MedTEC Pharma removed citrus trees to make way for the medicinal cannabis facility. (Supplied: MedTEC Pharma)

Despite some similarities between growing fruit and cannabis, Mr Gallard said the learning curve had been steep. medicinal cannabis facilities

“This is obviously a much faster acting crop, there’s no doubt about that,” he said.

Mr Gallard said cannabis required similar fertilisers and a similar amount of water to citrus, which in his case came from irrigation.

The operation is one of only a handful in Australia where the plants are grown outdoors, rather than in a glasshouse or building, which reduced electricity costs.

Pacific Island seasonal workers harvest medicinal cannabis.(ABC News: Tony Hill)

Beneficial insects and rigorous biosecurity processes including being a smoke-free work site were in place to protect the crop from diseases such as tobacco virus.

“All our boots and clothes stay on site, so we make sure that nothing comes from anywhere else,” Mr Gallard said.

Employment opportunities
About 30 staff are employed by MedTEC, with the potential for the workforce to grow to 100 people across the entire business.

Serena Lange hadn’t even graduated from her agribusiness degree when she was chosen for a role with the company.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *