A Johannesburg-based medical cannabis cultivation company is assisting a community garden in increasing the size and quality of its vegetable harvest by donating its nutrient-rich coco coir medium.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has backed initiatives to modernize the regulatory framework that governs South Africa’s fledgling cannabis industry. Following the landmark 2018 Constitutional Court ruling decriminalizing private, personal cannabis use, commercial interests among private sector players have increased in recent years.

Medan is one such company that specializes in the cultivation of high-THC, high-cannabinol, and high-terpene cannabis flowers for the pharmaceutical industry. Although planning for the business began in 2016, it will not begin operations until the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority grants a cultivation license in 2020. (SAHARA).

After MedCan’s indoor cannabis cultivation facility received the European Medicines Agency’s coveted Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) certificate, it took another year for the company to begin shipping high-THC Isando flowers to the United Kingdom. Growers who want to break into the lucrative European export market must have this certification.

We’d like to supply flowers to the local market, but we’re still researching the rules and regulations. “We never intended for this to be an export-only business,” said Micael Zollmann, founder and CEO of MedCan.

“Fortunately, we have demonstrated that the flower is of high enough quality to be exported. When we can supply the local market, I believe the local market will be very happy, and the patients will be satisfied with the product.”

And, while South African lawmakers debate the relative merits of recreational and medical cannabis use, MedCan’s facility is making a unique contribution to the health and well-being of the local community.

MedCan’s cultivation procedures are highly standardized and optimized, and the building is managed more like a medical laboratory than a farm, so all materials entering and leaving the premises, as well as the plants, are carefully monitored.

This fine-tuning includes the cannabis growth medium. Due to the inherent variability of what is essentially living ground with its own microorganisms, minerals, and nutrients, MedCan does not use standard potting soil. Instead, they use a medium made of coco coir, which is the fibrous layer between the husk and the meat of the coconut.

The garden was started three years ago as a subsistence project to feed unemployed community members, including former inmates and those with substance abuse issues who tended the crops.

Since then, the community garden has thrived, and its members can now profit from the sale of their produce to the general public.

Scotch told Business Insider that one of the company’s goals is to train gardeners in permaculture.

“We are looking at producing garlic and ginger because that is a good market,” they say, to ensure they have enough to eat and the means to provide for themselves, as well as save and invest.

Scotch claims that by combining the soil in the community garden with the used MedCan medium, they can increase water retention and oxygen content, yielding higher-quality vegetables.

“The use of donated coco coir medium improved both water retention and soil assistance,” the authors write. Because it contains nutrient-rich leftovers for the plants, some of the most beautiful vegetables you’ve ever seen were grown in coco coir.

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