As a licensed producer of cannabis in Canada, James E. Wagner Cultivation Corporation grows high-quality medical cannabis using a proprietary growth system called GrowthSTORM™ which is based on the technology of aeroponics. The system offers unique advantages for agriculture of all types, and it results in a cleaner, more consistent, first-class finished product while guaranteeing a low cost of production.
JWC currently only sells to medical patients and only provides dried cannabis products. However, it will be moving toward the recreational market in the upcoming months, and it is in the process of expanding into oils and extracts.
President and Chief Executive Officer Nathan Woodworth was the original grower and first patient of the company. In 2007, he began growing cannabis for himself under the Marihuana Medical Access Regulations (MMAR) put in place in 2001. Years before, on a farm in Tillsonburg, Ontario, his grandfather James E. Wagner taught him about agriculture and how to cultivate a variety of plants. Nathan began collaborating with other growers, and his brother, a Ph.D. candidate in plant biology, also joined the team to help discover the optimal way to maintain the highest-quality output regardless of the variations that can occur when growing a living organism.
“Under the MMAR, we expanded our collective to quite a number of growers and dozens of patients, and we studied virtually every cultivation technique currently in use for cannabis growing. In the end, we settled on aeroponics, and in aeroponics, the roots of the plant hang suspended in the air, so there is no substrate to encase the roots,” explains Nathan. In the process of watering or fertilizing the cannabis plants, the roots are misted with a proprietary nutrient solution that creates consistent, ideal conditions for growth to maximize the potential of the plant. This gives JWC an unprecedented degree of control over its product.
The government’s first attempt to commercialize the production of medical cannabis in Canada in 2012 with the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) was, initially, daunting to the small group that had grown to become very involved in the local medical cannabis community. However, it quickly realized that it had all the necessary tools to address the commercial production of cannabis, so by the fall of 2013, it incorporated as James E. Wagner Cultivation after Nathan’s grandfather.
JWC began the application process to become a producer of cannabis in 2014 with the Canadian government and finally received its licence in 2017 to grow medical cannabis at its pilot facility in Kitchener, Ontario. Today, JWC is a publicly traded company on the TSX-V under the ticker symbol JWCA.
It has grown rapidly from its five original family members to nearly eighty employees today, and it is well on its way to becoming a significant presence in the cannabis industry. The company is in the process of building a second plant only five minutes’ drive from the first at the former Lear Corp. manufacturing plant. The new, full-scale facility is 345,000 square feet, and the company has completed the first phase of the retrofit of the building. It has now launched into the second stage, and once it receives its licence from Health Canada to cultivate at the new location, it expects to employ over 450 people to grow over 30,000 kilograms of dried cannabis every year.
JWC wants all of its employees to take pride in the expanding business since Canada has provided the opportunity to explore an exciting new industry. It genuinely cares about its employees, and for the last two years in a row, won the employer of the year award from Lift & Co.’s Canadian Cannabis Awards.
In addition to being a cannabis cultivation company, JWC is a technology company and is always striving to innovate. “The GrowthSTORM system is a technology that we have been developing over the last decade, but very recently, we filed patents on a fundamental sea change in the way we think about aeroponics in general, and we’re calling it the GrowthSTORM Dual Droplet System,” says Nathan.
With this dual-droplet modification to its aeroponics system, the nutrient solution is aerosolized at a particular droplet size, which allows JWC to optimize conditions for the plant and provide it exactly what it requires to thrive. The idea is similar to the high-performance diet used by athletes that involves eating certain foods at the right times to reach peak performance.
“We’re moving forward with our technological development. We have come up with a new solution in which we aerosolized two separate nutrient solutions at two separate droplet sizes in the same growth chamber allowing the plant to uptake the correct nutrients at an even more efficient ratio,” says Nathan. JWC is excited at the prospect of applying the proprietary Dual Droplet System at its new facility within a month.
There are only a couple of other companies in the cannabis industry that are using aeroponics, and when the second facility is in operation, JWC will become the largest aeroponic grower of any crop anywhere in the world. Aeroponics is a difficult technology to master, and the company has spent years developing technology that works with cannabis.
“We know that there are a lot of challenges that face the implementation of that technology, and we believe we’ve come up with solutions to all of the major challenges that aeroponics growers will face,” says Nathan. JWC is also interested in licensing its technology to other cultivators because it believes it has created the best option for growing cannabis.
This research-and-science-oriented organization is continually refining its processes and evaluating its efficacy. “Aeroponics is where we began to differentiate ourselves, and in the years to come, we will continue to maintain that difference through further research and careful attention to the elements that go into making great cannabis,” says Nathan.
There are a variety of ways to grow cannabis, yet not all are created equal, and it is best to buy the best product from the most responsible cultivator in this brand new industry. Gone are the black market days when consumers purchased whatever cannabis product was available. We are entering a new era when it is essential to be aware of the quality of this product, just like any other consumable good.
“I’ve been a part of the cannabis industry for a long time, and the challenges I’ve faced over the years are a constantly changing set. These days, it’s about giving people confidence in what this industry can do, but years ago, it was about the stigma around participating in this space at all, and I’m happy to say that that has largely changed,” says Nathan. Cannabis is no longer a quasi-legal industry and has moved out of the shadows, which is a great accomplishment for Canada.
Legalization has created a tremendous opportunity for cannabis businesses to reach a wide consumer base, and it has also been a great opportunity for Canada to establish itself as a leader in this important issue. “Canada has gone in a new direction and established a new way of thinking about cannabis and about prohibition in general, and I think, in years to come, history will look back on this time period as being significant in terms of Canada’s contribution to the global stage,” says Nathan.
“I love the aspect of developing new technologies and new solutions, and here we have a whole industry’s worth of puzzles that we’re just now getting the resources and the toolset to truly begin to unravel,” says Nathan. The new, exciting nature of the cannabis industry is inspiring all sorts of agricultural development that can be used to efficiently produce different types of plants and possibly help to solve hunger and malnutrition problems worldwide.
The family business aims to be a responsible member of the community that provides a valuable service. “We hope to prove that the set of solutions we are proposing will be the right long-term solution not just for the production of cannabis, but for the production of a variety of crops. Our goal is to have a lasting impact on the way we view agriculture, and we start with cannabis because that’s what began our journey, but that’s not where the story ends.”