In the Uruguayan "Campo": farming and medical cannabis
Updated: Oct 2
Discussions about medical cannabis usually revolve around pharmaceuticals, applications, health, wellbeing, legislation, investment, finance and, more and more lately, around international trade. But without farming, we would not have any of this at all. It’s important to remember that cannabis is, above everything, a plant, something that has a life of its own. And it makes a lot of sense to go back to basics some times and grasp the uniqueness and the beauty of the plant that makes so many things possible. With that comes the need and the curiosity to understand farming and those who farm.
It all starts with a seed. We are a bit crazy about seeds – they treasure all the information that is critical to the rest of the chain and to our business here at YVY. This season, we will be using plant genetics from Colombia, Spain and the US. We recently received our first shipment of seeds from the US after a lengthy importation process with the Uruguyan authorities. We do the germination ourselves and then we give farmers the seedlings (tiny little plants) to
transplant to the field in November.
Most of the “material” we work with is high in CBD (a cannabinoid, which is the active ingredient of everything we do) but we are also experimenting with CBG, another beneficial cannabinoid, of which scientists are still investigating.
As you probably know, our business model relies on a network of organic partner farms with standardised production. This season, we are working with 11 farms, representing 4 hectares of outdoor production and 1500m2 of greenhouses.
So what are our partner farmers up to right now? Basically the farms have been preparing the land with a winter crop (“abono verde”) to restore the soil and are now preparing the cantons. We have done water and soil analysis of every farm to see if additional nutrients are needed.
Training farmers is vital to the success of our model: so far we have had 2 training sessions, one focussing on YVY, cannabis and preparing the land and the second was focussed on preparing for the international certifications. Our Quality and Certifications team is already doing inspections to prepare our farms for GACP and organic requirements. We are firm believers in organic
production to minimise environmental impact and ensure sustainability.
Technology is key to farming in general, and critical to those of us working in medical cannabis. We are now ready to implement our software, which helps improve farm management and ensure traceability, helping us collect data and keep track of farms’ progress and stock. We have also adopted an irrigation technology in order to keep track of water usage, which is also a determinant factor in ensuring sustainability and efficient use of natural resources.
Recently, the importance of cannabis production was highlighted by the Uruguyan Minister of Agricultural, Carlos María Uriarte during his speech last month at ExpoPrado, Uruguay’s largest sector show. That in itself shows the agronomic importance of what we are doing. He mentioned that Uruguay predicts over USD 200m of cannabis-based exports by 2024. It is good some times to pause and remember that this all starts with a plant, the natural environment around it, and the people that look after it. And that we should nurture and look after all of them.