By Rick Brar, CEO
CEO Rick Brar and Chief Growing Officer Leo Benne at the Zenabis facility in Langley
What an amazing time we’re in right now! It’s cannabis legalization – which some are describing as ‘Prohibition 2.0’ – and a new era for Canada’s agricultural, scientific, and medical therapy fields, to mention only a few. This promises to be an amazing boost to job creation, innovation, and the Canadian economy.
From where I stand, I call this new era ‘the next step’ in the business my father built and passed on to me. And not just my father and our business. What I mean by that is the story I can tell is a story of ‘twos’; two families coming together, leading to two businesses coming together years later, and now two opposite sides of a country working together to make Zenabis into the success we know it can be.
I think back to a conversation I overheard between my father, Del, and Leo Benne’s father, Jack, when Leo and I were kids. Jack, who started Bevo farms after emigrating to Canada from Holland, said “stop growing celery” to Del, my dad, who had come to Canada from India and started our family business. “If you end up growing too much, it will all go bad.” My dad laughed, thought about Jack’s advice, and the two of them carried on. That was the sort of relationship our fathers had. They were friends who relied on each other constantly as they ran their respective businesses.
Flash forward 30 years, and that’s the same relationship Leo and I have. In a way, we grew up together, and grew our companies in different but complementary directions. But the huge potential that this ‘new era’ of cannabis legalization offered was not lost on either of us. We talked about it with our families, we planned and strategized and – with the blessings of our dads – we’ve moved forward to create something amazing.
With myself representing Zenabis, and Leo Benne representing Bevo Agro, we recently announced a reverse takeover transaction that will result in a type of merger. Once the transaction is finalized in early December and retrofitting of our space in Langley B.C. is complete, we will have created the world’s third-largest cannabis company, as measured by available cannabis production square footage.
Our 3.5 million square feet of growing capacity is spread between British Columbia, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Moving forward as Zenabis, we are proud to have raised the greatest amount of capital before bringing a cannabis company to the public market. Not to brag, but we have in fact raised the most capital of any licensed cannabis producer, at the point of announcing their public listing.
Our two families have a long history of collaboration. That’s what makes this landmark deal so meaningful, not just for our businesses, but for us personally. With Zenabis high-quality cannabis production and worldwide distribution networks, and Bevo Agro’s unparalleled greenhouse and cultivation expertise, Zenabis has hit the ground running – just in time for recreational cannabis legalization in Canada.
We’ve already established supply agreements with the governments of B.C., Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the Yukon, organizations and institutions like PharmaSave and GroupHealth, plus distributors in Europe and Central America and with more announcements to come.
Moving forward, we’re investing over $100 million to retrofit Bevo’s greenhouse facilities in Langley to include advanced propagation technologies, enhanced security, and new ventilation and lighting systems. To grow high-quality cannabis while keeping costs low, we are leveraging several strategic partnerships.
A great example is our involvement with the province of New Brunswick, which – through Opportunities New Brunswick – is an equity partner in our company. I’m proud to say that it’s the only partnership across G7 nations between a government and a private company to produce, market and distribute cannabis.
Governments are obviously prudent in how they invest tax-payer dollars, so they did a deep-dive on our company and liked what they saw. They’ve been tremendously supportive at every stage of our partnership. In fact, when we arrived in New Brunswick to explore opportunities to establish facilities there we had nine mayors on hand waiting to receive us!
Zenabis is the only cannabis company in Canada to have received funding from both Provincial and First Nations governments. In addition to receiving an investment from New Brunswick to build our facility in Atholville, the Listuguj Mi’gmaq First Nation of that province has made a substantial investment in our vision. We hope to establish similar partnerships with other First Nations across Canada.
So, who are the minds behind Zenabis? As CEO, I’m in charge of corporate growth, new market penetration and long-range planning. I believe my background in the nutraceutical, food, beverage, agriculture, land development and construction sectors are complementary to the cultivation, production and distribution of cannabis and related products.
My partner is Chief Growing Officer Leo Benne, who is also General Manager of Bevo Farms. No one knows greenhouses and modern horticultural propagation methods like Leo. He’s a wizard at applying technology to the production of healthy, high-yield plants. We’re supported by executive-level experts in finance, operations, science, marketing and compliance. As individuals, they are exceptional leaders in their own right. Together, they will lift agricultural production and product innovation to new heights. They are my dream team, and I look forward to introducing many of them in future blog posts.
Recreational cannabis legalization in Canada is an historic event. For our team, it represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We’re in the midst of a global paradigm shift, and Canada is leading the way. I believe that other countries will follow our model.
As Canadians, we should all be proud to be leading this journey.