Company profile: Bioterra Group

Licenses Obtained: CBD cultivation and fabrication. Quota: TBC ICA forms filed and pending approval. Facility: 3ha CBD cultivation 25ha cultivation. Location:Antioquia

The spectacular lake and picturesque setting of Guatapé, 70 kilometers eat of Medellín, make it a popular weekend tourist destination for Colombians. In the surrounding hills, however, a team of entrepreneurs is developing a new and exciting industry. Local firm Bioterra Group are well on the way to advancing an organic CBD cannabis project: The greenhouses are up, the irrigation, ventilation and security systems are in place and the firm is positioning itself to attract investment and growth in 2019.

The project demonstrates that you don’t need mega-bucks to build a cannabis company in Colombia. The five partners quit their jobs in 2015 to focus on the project, taking out personal loans and overcoming setbacks with permits to win licenses for 3ha of CBD cultivation on their 25ha plot. Following an initial investment of around USD$260,000, Bioterra is looking to raise a further USD$1-1.5m in the coming years to allow it to expand its growing area as well as potentially attracting strategic partners. “We’re like a Mini Cooper: small but attractive, efficient and agile, respectful of the environment,” says Andrés Pérez CEO of Bioterra Group.

ORGANIC OPTION: A key feature of the project is the directors’ decision to prepare their own fertilizers and nutrients in order to have their own traceability protocols and ensure their crop is 100% organic. The firm decided to use greenhouses to protect the project from external factors such as insects, plagues and pesticides from nearby growers. Tests are being run to grow between four and six plants per square meter and each plant is individually potted to ensure that one bad plant won’t contaminate the rest. Advanced irrigation systems use timers to ensure that the crop receives water as and when required. The firm is currently in the process of requesting organic certification and has registered a number of native high-CBD, low- THC cannabis strains with the Colombian fuente semillera, the national registry for domestic marijuana.

STEP BY STEP: Bioterra’s crop will be processed by a third party, at least for the early harvests. The favored method is to use supercritical CO2 extraction with ultrasound pre-treatment, ethanol and a rotary evaporator. “We decided to focus our resources on cultivation in the early stages and work with experienced third parties for the extraction,” says Pérez. “But we’d like to own our own facilities within two years.” The firm has a number of ideas as to where its finished product could end up, with the hemp and food industries seen as complementary sectors to medical cannabis. “The pharmaceutical sector has proven to provide high returns for both CBD and THC products, but we also see a lot of alternatives in the food industry for both humans and animals and the hemp textile market has great potential,” says Pérez. The firm aims to be exporting in under 12 months, with Switzerland, Israel and Uruguay considered attractive destinations in the short term, while Australia, Germany and Spain offer longer term opportunities.