Small Business Briefing

Medical pot grower mines opportunity in Michigan

The Globe and Mail

A marijuana plant flourishes under grow lights at a warehouse in Denver on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2010. (Ed Andrieski/ED ANDRIESKI/AP)

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Saskatoon biotech firm wants to grow medical marijuana in former copper mine

A Saskatoon-based biotech firm wants to go underground to grow pot -- literally.

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Prairie Plant Systems Inc. wants to cultivate medical marijuana in a former copper mine in Michigan, The Detroit Free Press reports.

The company, which has been growing and supplying medical marijuana in Canada since 2001, according to the Free Press, "wants to create the state's largest pot farm, with a potential market of 131,000 Michiganders (about 1 in every 75 residents) who hold medical marijuana certificates."

But it would have to clear major U.S. state and federal hurdles for approval to convert the mine into a pot-growing operation in Michigan, which legalized medical marijuana in 2008, the Free Press said.

Prairie Plant and its U.S. subsidiary are already growing other plants for pharmaceutical research underground in the mine, which closed in 1996 and which it bought in 2003, the Free Press reported. For one, it's using genetically modified forms of a legume to produce an enzyme needed to fight severe combined immunodeficiency disease, (SCID), commonly known as bubble boy disease, the Free Press reported in another story.

Growing medical marijuana underground provides security, constant temperature, controllled light and humidity and protection from bugs and diseases, Prairie's president and CEO, Brent Zettl, told the Free Press.

Prairie Plant's Canadian cannabis is grown in an above-ground location that is being kept a secret at the request of the Canadian government, the Free Press story said. Prairie had 2011 sales of $7.6-million, about three-quarters of which came from medical marijuana contracts with the Canadian government, the Free Press reported. It called Prairie the only authorized mass supplier of medical marijuana in Canada, servicing about 2,000 of 17,000 approved patients, according to the story.

As for Michigan, Mr. Zetti said there is demand despite the regulatory hurdles.

“There's a need to bring this under the proper reins of appropriate manufacturing for patient safety and for public safety,” he told The Free Press.

The pot project could open 200 to 300 jobs in an area that the Free Press described as "hard-luck."



FounderFuel grads up for $6-million in BDC financing

BDC Venture Capital, the Business Development Bank of Canada's venture capital arm, is offering up to $6-million in funding assistance to graduates of the FounderFuel startup accelerator program, it has announced.

Forty tech-related startups that graduate from the Montreal-based accelerator's 12-week program will each be eligible for a $150,000 convertible note from BDC -- a short-term loan usually converted into shares later on.

"Entrepreneurship and venture capital investments are on the rebound in Canada; but there will always remain this six- to 12-month critical period for many new companies when the startup capital from the partners themselves, their families and friends starts drying up and before financing from venture capitalists and angels can be secured," said Senia Rapisarda, vice-president of strategic investments and initiatives at BDC Venture Capital said in the release. "Too many promising companies have not made it to the next stage of financing for lack of operating capital,"

FounderFuel, created by venture fund Real Ventures, is among several accelerator programs that have sprung up acrosss the country in the last year to help startups get their ideas ready for business.

MaRS creates new tech accelerator

Speaking of technology accelerators, MaRS Discovery District announced the creation of JOLT, a new Toronto-based tech accelerator aimed at helping high-growth Web and mobile companies.

It will select up to 15 high-potential startups annually, offering space, seed financing, mentorship and access to partners, angel and venture capital investors.

JOLT will tap the experience of more than 70 entrepreneurs and executives from Canadian startups to help the startups. A call for applications will come shortly.

EVENTS AND KEY DATES

T-1: Small Business Summit Calgary

Tomorrow's the big day for the next Small Business Summit being held in Calgary. Brought to you by The Globe and Mail's Report on Small Business in conjunction with Achilles Media, the one-day event for entrepreneurs wil be filled with strategies, sessions and presentations that will offer essential insights to grow your business. For more information, click here.

Start Smart

Want some wisdom on how to get a business off the ground. A two-hour information session will walk aspiring entrepreneurs through the basic how-tos and next steps to opening a business, offering tools and resources to help get a business off the ground. The free event, held by the Centre for Entrepreneurship Education and Development, takes place tomorrow, April 25, in Halifax. For further details, click here.

Business of aging

The MaRS Business of Aging Summit aims to offer companies "entrepreneur-driven solutions" to harness the talents of the aging workforce. The summit will include discussions and strategies to improve the health and increase productivity of aging employees and those caring for aging parents.The summit takes place April 30 in Toronto. For more information, click here.

EDITOR'S PICKS FROM REPORT ON SMALL BUSINESS

Meet the Canadian who invented the modern-day battery

Check out the next in our series on The Innovators: Canadian scientist Lewis Urry used the laws of electrochemistry to develop the first alkaline battery in 1969 - one of the most significant advancements in the battery's history.

FROM THE ROSB ARCHIVES

The name game: How to play it right

What’s in a company name? Just about everything, wrote Jennifer Myers in a story last May. Not all entrepreneurs think so long and hard about naming their business, but they should. After all, your firm's name can boost brand equity, create valuable public relations and marketing momentum and ultimately drive sales. The potential return on investment from choosing an appropriate name should compel any entrepreneur to devote time and effort to getting it right, experts say.

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