Foodbowl to grass bowl

By Country News

The Goulburn Valley is set to become a medicinal cannabis hub, with a new cultivation and manufacturing facility set to be built in the region. The facility is set to create about 65 new jobs in agriculture, processing, education and training as well as a number of trade and administrative roles in the Shepparton region, off the back of a $30 million investment partnership between Canadian firm CannTrust and medicinal cannabis start-up Cannatrek.

Many of the new jobs will go to tertiary-educated candidates with TAFE or university qualifications.

Cannatrek chief executive Tommy Huppert said Shepparton’s climate and horticultural history ‘‘ticks all the boxes’’, with the hydroponic facility set to be highly automated and state-of-the-art.

After visiting the region more than half-a-dozen times, Mr Huppert said the company purchased a fully lasered property, which was ‘‘the perfect site’’.

‘‘We’re just finalising our design and getting all our ducks in a row,’’ he said.

‘‘We’re hoping to turn soil this year and start producing in next year.’’

The facility will produce medicinal cannabis for domestic and export markets, and Mr Huppert said getting the product to patients quickly was a priority.

‘‘Our mission is to not only place the cannabis plant front and centre in production excellence, but to funnel our resources for patient care, with affordable medicine to those in need.’’

Invergordon’s Eddy Rovers said he hoped it would bring more money into the region, with the facility costing ‘‘mega-bucks’’.

‘‘Let’s hope they can get enough water to grow it,’’ Mr Rovers said.

Victorian Agriculture Minister Jaclyn Symes said the growth of a medicinal cannabis industry in regions such as Shepparton was part of her government’s long-term medicinal cannabis strategy.

The government’s Medical Cannabis Industry Development Plan aims to attract major investment into the new industry, with a projection of 500 new jobs to be created by 2028.

The plan seeks to have Victoria supply at least 50 per cent of the country’s medicinal cannabis needs and lead to the creation of a major new export industry.

‘‘Victoria is continuing to lead the way as the medicinal cannabis hub of the Southern Hemisphere and we are proud to support Cannatrek’s significant expansion in regional Victoria,’’ Ms Symes said.

‘‘We’re proud to be actively attracting investment in this ground-breaking industry that will not only improve the lives of patients around the world, but also create local jobs.’’

Another 10 positions will be created at La Trobe University’s Research and Innovation Precinct in Bundoora, Melbourne, with a Victorian Government spokesperson saying the focus of the La Trobe roles would be on research and development, along with administration.