Cape Breton cannabis company looking to prove small-batch business

Cape Breton cannabis company looking to prove small-batch business

Origin Coast CEO Michael Fong says a start in cannabis at the micro level is going to allow an attention to detail, as the company works to find its space in the Canadian cannabis market.

“Because we’re small, we can focus a lot more on the plants than certainly larger LPs (licensed processors) can, given the scale. We can really focus on the individual plants to really drive the quality,” he recently told Atlantic Business Magazine, laying out how he views the company in relation to companies with much higher production capacity.

Like other “micro”-licensed producers, the company is reaping small harvests of carefully selected cultivars, with the goal of gaining notice and a foothold in the larger market.

Origin Coast is based in Fong’s childhood home of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia and has a purpose-built facility – with flower, propagation, drying, processing rooms and more. The building clocks in at just under 8,000 square feet of space, approved by Health Canada.

“Because we’re small, we can …really focus on the individual plants to really drive the quality,”

Michael Fong, CEO, Origin Coast

The company started on the licensing process about a year and a half ago, according to Fong, with an application tied to sales filed last July that was successful as of just a couple of weeks ago.

Origin Coast holds licences now for micro-cultivation, micro-processing and sale for medical purposes. It is permitted for processing up to 600 kilograms of dried cannabis per year.

One of about 25 licensed producers in Atlantic Canada, Origin Coast has four full-time employees with another hire possible in the near future, and another four, part-time staff.

The company is currently able to sell wholesale to larger producers and processors but is also taking the next step – seeking a sales amendment that would allow it to sell through the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation if accepted by the NSLC, and other provincial suppliers.

Getting closer to individual consumers could lift demand, require growth and a move to a regular cannabis license with greater production ability, another building, more square footage, more hires. It would come with the challenge of maintaining quality while scaling up.

But for now, Origin Coast is celebrating its start to its small but ultimately—Fong hopes—mighty commercial operations. And the company is carefully watching to gauge early response to its plant selections and final product.

“I decided I wanted to come back and do something for the community here from an economic development perspective, but certainly also something that’s intriguing for me and sustainable as well.”

Michael Fong, CEO, Origin Coast

For Fong, who left Cape Breton for Hong Kong about 30 years ago, the enterprise is tied to a personal interest in bringing new business to the island. While in Hong Kong, he worked in venture capital, closely with video game companies. “Then I decided I kind of wanted to get out of the corporate world (…) I decided I wanted to come back and do something for the community here from an economic development perspective, but certainly also something that’s intriguing for me and sustainable as well,” he said.

A great deal of research led him toward the cannabis industry, the company’s current property and detailed building plan, with the building taking about a year to build.

“For me a big component of this was the economic development side of things, to really bring a new and sustainable industry to the area,” he said, noting phone calls and social media messages since news of the latest regulatory successes, wishing him and the company all the best.

“The response has been great. Certainly in the local community here, we’ve gotten a lot of support from the community here.”

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