Aurora Coast in Comox
Aurora Coast, also known as "That building by the airport" - or by its former name "Anandia" - invited the Coast Range Cannabis crew to tour its Comox facility. We were thrilled to be one of the first to get an inside look at Aurora's initial investment on Vancouver Island.
Our tour took place on a rainy January day in Comox; we pulled up to the 21,000 sq. Ft greenhouse that also houses a 10,000+ research building. Marked by a simple white and black Aurora Coast sign, the buildings are predominantly constructed from metal and glass with wood accents, The drive led us around to the main entrance, where Mike, our Aurora Vancouver Island rep, greeted us.
Mike led us through the impressive interior of the entrance hall. Constructed using cross-laminated lumber from Germany, the lobby is open and airy with a warm West Coast feel. The carbon footprint of cross-laminated lumber is far lower than that of concrete, wood, or drywall. The high ceilings allow for beautiful angles that are defined by the most fantastic light that is let in through the upper windows.
Aurora Coast's primary focus is cannabis breeding. Through plant breeding, Aurora can develop new cultivates that improve yields and reduce losses to diseases and pests, reduce the use of pesticides, and improve flavour. With the past restrictions on research, cannabis has a lot of catching up to do; think about short-season corn, Honeycrisp apples, mildew resistant tomatoes - these plants have had years to develop. Cannabis can now receive the same attention from biologists and breeders - right here in Comox!
Let's not mix apples with - say Arctic non-browning GMO apples; Aurora doesn't plan on using genetic engineering or other techniques that would produce GMOs. They state there is enough potential for crop improvement using conventional breeding assisted with molecular and genetic analysis tools. 90% of the breeders' efforts will be germinating seeds versus cloning plants.
"It's incredible what nature can accomplish on its own without the use of chemicals."
Hemp is all that is currently growing at the facility while Aurora gears up for full cannabis production this spring. Spotting a bean plant in the above picture, we are reminded that Aurora Coast will utilize beans as a vector for pathogens. Yes, we, too, learned new phrases! The bean plants attract undesirable pests, like aphids, preventing them from harming the cannabis plants. It's incredible what nature can accomplish on its own without the use of chemicals.
The greenhouses are designed to take advantage of the natural sunlight while supplementing our grey West Coast winter days with artificial light. The windows have a film that defuses the sunlight, scattering it evenly throughout the grow room. They have automatic roof washer (where do we get one?) and an energy curtain that can insulate heat in the winter and block shade in the summer, reducing the facility's energy use.
With the rain pounding on the greenhouse roof, we asked if the facility will have a rainwater catchment. The design is set up for the catchment of rainwater but uses the water from the Town of Comox. They state Comox's water is excellent quality and will be recirculated in the growing process.
The growers utilize Priva Greenhouse Controls to monitor for optimum efficiency accurately. The Aurora Coast representative
was able to watch the entire greenhouse remotely while in Banff, AB, during the January snowfall in Comox. They used this system
to assist in melting the excessive snow load, keeping the weight
off the greenhouse roof.
"...greenhouses are designed to take advantage of the natural sunlight"
Thank you to the Aurora Coast team for showing us around the facility. It's unbelievable to have this state-of-the-art facility right in our backyard. We can't wait to see what further investment the cannabis industry brings to Comox and the legal cannabis recreational space.