“Independent Entity” With Canopy Roots Launches Contract Farming in Lesotho

CANNABIS CULTURE – Highlands Investments (formerly Canopy Africa) has launched Africa´s cannabis contract farming platform called Canna-Tract.

Whether this is canna-colonialism or a secure platform for Africa’s cannabis cultivators has yet to be determined.

Name-changing spree

Canopy Growth, a Canadian cannabis corporation headquartered in Ontario, and formerly called Tweed Marijuana Inc, has now assumed the name Highlands Investments.

Mark Corbett, the managing director of Highlands Investments explained the name-changing spree in an email interview with Cannabis Culture.

Highlands Investments was formerly Canopy Africa, however it is no longer part of The Canopy Group. In 2017, Canopy Growth exited its operations in South Africa and Lesotho as part of a strategic review of its businesses. This resulted in a transfer of ownership of all of its African operations to Highlands Investments in April 2020,” says Corbett.

Canna-Tract is not yet a registered patent but plans are underway to ring fence the trademark in Lesotho and South Africa. The Canna-Tract grow model is only available in Lesotho, added Corbett, revealing the location of the enterprise.

Hopeful contractees confused?

Farmers and entrepreneurs interested in joining the Canna-Tract program might be unsure where they fit in the arrangement because Highlands Investments specialists (engineers, agronomists) are taking total care of the growing, planting, harvesting. It may sound like clients are merely entrepreneurs working for Highlands with no autonomy on how they want to operate.

Corbett, the managing director clears the mist and states: “Our customers appoint Highlands Investments to grow their genetics on their behalf. They utilize our facilities, staff, certifications and license to generate flower to meet their supply needs.”

Still it´s vexing to really know who owns the the medical cannabis planted– clients or Highlands?

“The plants are owned by our customers, however they are only released to the customer once full payment has been received by Highlands Investments,” says Corbett. Customers appoint Highlands Investments to grow their genetics on their behalf. They utilize the company´s facilities, staff, certifications and license to generate flower to meet their supply needs.

Highland Investments Lesotho facility

Growing without license

In a few African countries where cannabis cultivation has been legalized, licensing is strict and laws are still blurred. For example, in nearby Zimbabwe, growers must first obtain authority from government, cough up $40 000 for ´license fee´, $15 000 per annum ´annual levy´ and a further $5000 if the initiative involves cannabis for scientific research purposes.

Despite this general climate of strict African cannabis-cultivation laws, Highlands Investments says that Canna-Tract enables its growers to work without first obtaining a license.

How then can Highland Investments help growers’ plant without licenses in jurisdictions where licenses are required? “Highland Investments holds a 200Ha Medical Cannabis license in Lesotho,” says Corbett. “Our customers are therefore able to grow their genetics in our facility, using our infrastructure and staff as well as our cannabis license. This means that the cannabis is grown under Highland’s 200Ha license in Lesotho.”

Customers pay for contract

The traditional arrangements with cash-crops contract-farming across Africa, (Usually tea, tobacco or cotton) are that foreign corporations or banks from China or Europe lend money to local farmers. Upon harvest, farmers sell their produce strictly to loan-advancing companies for an agree mark-up price.

But Highlands Investments is taking an opposite approach. It won´t offer advance finance to growers joining its Canna-Tract program. “No,” Corbett confirms. “Customers’ pay for the contract grow services by month with final payment being made once the product is harvested, packed and ready to ship.”

Also in the event of the plants getting spoiled before harvest, growers will soak their own losses. As Corbett says, “we do not insure the crops in the ground.”

Guarding against theft

Cannabis plants and flowers are fragile and vulnerable to weather elements or outright theft by organised crime syndicates. In this regard, Highland Investments will individually each plant to make sure there is electronic tracking of each seed through to final package to ensure integrity, quality and traceability.

Canopy Growth loses billions for investors?

Canopy Growth which gives birth to Highlands Investments is quite a storied corporation. Critics say, Canopy Growth in North America has been a total debacle. It has lost billions of dollars in investor funds. In 2020, the respected stocks publication Motley Fool wondered if Canopy Growth will go bankrupt after its investors were astonished to learn that the pot producer had posted a whopping $1.3 billion net loss for its fourth fiscal quarter. In December 2020, the corporation had to let go 200 workers as a cost cutting measure, its chief executive David Klein, told the Canada Broadcasting corporation.

Somehow the company continues to be bailed out.

“I am not in a position to comment on this,” says Corbett. “What I can say is that Highlands Investments is an independent entity, as of April 2020. It is not part of The Canopy Group.”

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