A South African company is building dagga factories in shipping containers

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Back2Back engineering
Growing cannabis. Photo Jay Caboz.
  • A South African company is building dagga factories in shipping containers. 
  • They’re selling for a cool R6 million.
  • You can grow up to 25kg of medical-grade cannabis a month in one of them, the company said.
  • But first you need the legal rights to cultivate it. 
  • For more stories, go to Business Insider South Africa.

A Stellenbosch-based company is building dagga factories in shipping containers – to make it easier to grow medical grade cannabis.

The company, CanbiGold, wants to sell the containers for a cool R6 million each and says it’s possible to grow 25 kilograms of medical grade dagga a month in containers. At current market value, that much Grade 1 cannabis could net you a return of R5.4 million a year from export contracts.     

The founders of CanbiGold started using containers because they believe it’s much easier to obtain the necessary certification with a modular unit, than to build an entire factory from brick and mortar.   

 “We started indoor growing in a brick and mortar facility. We struggled to get certification for the setup we had. (This encouraged us) to look at more modular set-ups,” said Armand Redelinghuys, operations manager at CanbiGold. “(With a bricks and mortar facility), if you can’t get certification you have to break it down and do it all over again. The guidelines are very strict.” 

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Armand Redelinghuys, operations manager at CanbiGold. Photo Jay Caboz.

Growing cannabis indoors allows growers to control the environment, making production a lot easier. The advantages of the containers is that they are portable; can be built to regulation and then reproduced; and don’t require modifying any existing infrastructure. You could plonk them on your abandoned backyard plot if you wanted to.  

“Your pest control is a lot easier. That was one of the aims of the 'fortress' (their name for the container). The only thing that goes into it is purified air and water. We try and eliminate any form of fungi or pest from getting in,” said Redelinghuys. 

Photo Jay Caboz
The 'fortress' will be built in this warehouse near Maccasar, Cape Town. Photo Jay Caboz.

CanbiGold want to use the containers to ramp up production under their own cultivation licences, including a contract to export dagga from its farm in Lesotho to Australia, where the product is turned into CBD oils and other related products.

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Ventilation system which ensures clean air comes in and the bugs are kept out. Photo Back2Back engineering.

Their modular system consists of 9 shipping containers, covering a space of 260 square metres. 

“With the modular concept you’ve got an initial cycle roughly between 3-4 months, including your set up and getting your mother plants growing. Thereafter you can add a cycle per month. You’re working on an average of 250 plants with an average yield of 100 grams per plant – it’s a large crop,” said Redelinghuys. 

The module has to be equipped with a single entry and exit point with a biometric system, cameras, alarm and cameras for security.

It will also have a disinfectant room, before you can then go through to the mother plant and clone room, where seeds are germinated. 

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Mother plant and cloning room. Photo Back2Back engineering.

It takes 3 weeks before the seedlings are moved to a vegetation room where they grow for another 3 weeks. 

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Inside the vegetation room of the fortress. Photo Back2Back engineering.

From there, seedlings are transported to 1 of 3 flowering container rooms for 14 weeks. 

“We try and keep our plants as small as possible. 100 centimetres in height. It allows us to manipulate the plant a bit more. At the end of the day it allows you to harvest a lot faster,” said Redelinghuys. 

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A flowering room in the CanbiGold indoor facility, in Lesotho. Photo Back2Back engineering.

The cannabis is then moved to a drying room for three weeks. After that, the product is cut and packaged for export. 

Business is beginning to grow. 

In April, four South African companies obtained licences to supply medicinal dagga from the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA), the regulatory body responsible for granting cultivation and export licences. 

Read now: How to get a licence to grow dagga for the export market

And just last week, the City of Cape Town freed vacant land in the Atlantis Special Economic Zone (SEZ) for the production of medical cannabis

For the 'fortress', it’s still early days.

The factory was inspected a few weeks ago by Control Union, that issues an internationally recognized certification for growing cannabis under its Control Union Medical Cannabis Standard for Good Agriculture Practice (CUMCS – G.A.P.) certification. 

“We will hopefully have our first fortress certified within the next 3 months depending on the audit schedule, thereafter each fortress that lands on-site in Lesotho has to go through the initial audit to get G.A.P. certified.” 

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