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Organic and sustainable – cannabis production through vertical aquaponics at Stewart Farms


Aquaponics is a term that was coined in the 1970’s to describe a method of growing plants that includes a blend of hydroponics (growing plants in water) and aquaculture (raising fish). The fully closed, symbiotic system developed by ancient cultures such as the Aztecs and Chinese involves fish, microorganisms and plants in a process whereby all elements of the food chain are essential, and nothing is wasted.

In other words, our ancients figured out the ultimate sustainable, closed system that utilizes fish excrement to grow vegetables, and also produces fish to feed the community. Vertical farming is typically hydroponic which means plants are grown in rich nutrient-containing water. Vertical farms maximize space and use about 70% less water than traditional growing methods.

Farming cannabis through vertical aquaponics

Derek, Cherie and Tanner

One company that is leaping headlong into growing cannabis through vertical Aquaponics farming (and as a result, developing an organic tilapia business) is Stewart Farms. Co-founders Cherie and Tanner Stewart and Derek Rolston have more than 10 years combined experience with indoor vertical farming experience as well as management and property development under their belts. Tanner and Cherie originally got behind vertical food farming as investors just 7 days after the birth of their son. They recognized that it’s a viable solution to food security, and is a sustainable farming practice that produces organic food that they wanted to get behind.

Knowing that cannabis could also be grown vertically and in an aquaculture environment, they decided they would also invest in growing cannabis. With Tanner originally from New Brunswick, the trio purchased a 100,000 square-foot building on 29 acres in New Brunswick on which to develop a vertical farm in late 2015.

Organic and sustainable cannabis production

The company is in the process now of building the vertical farming facility in New Brunswick, and they anticipate launching medical cannabis products in 2020. By 2021 their full capacity will be 12,200 kgs of organic cannabis per year, along with 200,000 kgs. of organic tilapia.

Perhaps most importantly, through an automation process that enables less opportunity for product impurities, and by having an herbicide and pesticide-free growing environment, Stewart Farms intends to produce 100% organic medical cannabis.

Stewart Farms are on a mission to set a new standard for pharma-grade cannabis production.

Women leaders in cannabis

Cherie Stewart

Co-founder Cherie Stewart came to this industry after many years as a very successful real estate and land developer. When first discussing the idea of launching a cannabis company, the stigma of working in cannabis was a challenge for the businesswomen and mother. She realized she needed to be bold and to commit proudly to the cannabis industry. By developing a product that enhances people’s lives and helps people, Cherie is passionate about being part of changing the stigma around cannabis and enjoys challenging family and friends through education and information.

Ultimately, Cherie believes that more women need to be at the helm of cannabis companies. “Women leaders in the industry need to be vocal about cannabis and help to remove the stigma, the result of which will enlighten and unveil opportunities and attract the best women to the industry”, explains Cherie.

Cherie belives the future for cannabis is super bright. “We’re just touching the tip of the iceberg with regards to the medical side. There is lots of opportunity for new job markets – from retail to technician, medical research, accounting, marketing and so on. It’s only going to go up from here. Cannabis is starting to lead a medical revolution on a global scale and is doing nothing short of blurring the lines between pharmaceutical drugs and herbal medicine.”

According to Tanner Stewart, “Cannabis education is making people look at the drug system as a whole and consider the concept of do no harm, or harm reduction. With almost any version of using cannabis vs. the prescription drug alternative it’s very likely that the list of side effects from the prescription drug will be long versus next to no side effects with cannabis. We see legalization tearing down so many walls – and providing a better understanding of how drugs work.”

Amen to that.


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