Prairie Plant Systems co-founder and CanniMed CEO, Brent Zettl, is one of the true pioneers of Canada's medical marijuana industry, yet over the years he's opted to maintain a somewhat lower public profile than many of his peers. That's why we're so pleased that he's decided to join us and share his insights as a panelist at our upcoming Lift Cannabis Forum in Vancouver.
Brent Zettl’s introduction to cannabis is unique. He didn’t smoke marijuana in high school, preferring to hoist a beer or two. Brent’s story all started with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture degree with distinction, and a Saskatoon berry tree.
In 1991, Brent posed a question – if all external influences were completely controlled, including water, air, light and nutrients, could the plant growth be improved. And what if the same hypothesis was tested on plants that produced pharmaceutical compounds?
This was the first of many R&D programs and collaborations that were tested by Prairie Plant Systems in the Biosecure Underground Growth Chamber I (BUGC1) in Flin Flon, Manitoba.
Brent Zettl co-founded Prairie Plant Systems Inc in 1988 and in 2000 he responded to an RFP put out by Health Canada to see if his underground plant production system would also be applicable to cannabis as a medicine research, which was aligned with Prairie Plant Systems’ focus on the development of biopharmaceutical products.
Prairie Plant Systems was further engaged by Health Canada in 2000 after the MMAR program was announced, propelling the company into a full-blown cannabis production facility. Prairie Plant Systems has held the exclusive contract until the MMAR was repealed on March 31, 2014.
During this 14 year tenure as Health Canada’s growing partner, the main tenants of the MMPR structure were developed. Growing consistency, facility security, product quality testing and anti-diversion strategies were constantly materializing and developing. As a result, when the MMPR was instituted, Prairie Plant Systems was already up and running with all of the requirements necessary – including a 281-point quality control process.
Under Brent’s stewardship, both Prairie Plant Systems Inc. and its subsidiary company CanniMed Ltd. were awarded the first two Licensed Producers licenses under the new MMPR. Brent continues to lead in product consistency as a result of being the only Canadian facility that follows Good Manufacturing Practices, which is consistent with all pharmaceutical products made in this country. With the largest Canadian facility built to date and a license to produce enough capacity for 30,000 patients, Brent commits to patient consistency and product availability.
Brent takes immense pride in contributing to his field through his involvement on the Steering Committee for the Agricultural Biotechnology Industry Conference 1998 and 2010, Chair and Director of Ag-West Bio, Chair of Gravity Brain Learning, a Director of CETAC West, and Chair for Harvest Community Inc. (a centre for assisting individuals with intellectual disabilities). Ernst and Young recently recognized Brent for his leadership, awarding him the Entrepreneur of the Year Award for the Prairies Business-to-Consumer category in 2014.
And the answer to Brent’s hypothesis – Yes – Saskatoon berry trees, tomatoes and cannabis all flourish in a secure and consistent growing environment.