Alex Pelovski (30) is COO at the production facility in North Macedonia. He has been working for almost four years for PharmaRolly, which is since the establishment of the operational subsidiary in North Macedonia. Pelovski: “We are a pharmaceutical company producing different forms of medical cannabis products.” This is his take on the production process, the product and the industry.
PharmaRolly employs over thirty people, both in North Macedonia and the Netherlands and the company is constantly expanding. Pelovski: “We only produce organic cannabis for medical purposes, both in greenhouses as well as indoors.” The license for production was received in 2018, whilst the first cultivation cycle started in early 2019. “We had some small issues with the import of seeds in the beginning but mainly on the suppliers’ side and especially so because the legislation on this issue is not really harmonized in Europe. However, our team has plenty of experience and I can say that the importation of seeds goes pretty smoothly .”
with the production process. Which and how many cannabis varieties are you
Pelovski: “We began by testing as many different genetics as possibly at our facility in order to see which ones would do best in our microclimate. We are reducing the number of varieties each year but we are also constantly testing new varieties. We currently grow about a dozen different varieties, some of which are still in the R&D phase.”
always grow the same cannabis varieties? How do you decide on this?
We try to stick to the varieties that have proven outstanding for us, both with regards to quality and yields. At the same time, we like to test new genetics because our industry is nascent and fast-evolving and we believe we should be as adaptable as possible and always follow the latest developments.
Which cannabinoids do you grow? And where?
“We are generally focused on THC but we also have varieties with higher levels of CBD and CBG. We currently cultivate on an area of around 10.000 m2 . However, we do something that is called monocropping, which means that we grow each batch of each strain in a different greenhouse with an area of 500m2. This allows us to standardize our product through keeping the same climate conditions, feeding schedules, photoperiods and such for each batch, and adapt all those conditions to the specific variety being grown in a certain greenhouse. We grow 100% organically and use only certified organic nutrients. We cultivate in a proprietary blend of organic living soil that we create internally and enrich with soil amendments every year. We don’t use pesticides and our IPM program is heavily focused on prevention rather than reaction”
“We grow 100% organically and use only certified organic nutrients”
How do you dry and cure your harvest on such a big scale?
“We dry and cure our cannabis in a very large EU GMP drying room. We put a heavy emphasis on the drying and curing process and thus we plan and schedule our harvest diligently in order to avoid running into bottlenecks when harvesting and drying..”
About the product itself… What do you produce and how do you maintain a high standard?
“So far, we have been mostly focused on the production of dry flower but we have recently started diversifying our product portfolio by producing full spectrum crude oil as well as distillate. We test our products in accordance with the strict standards in the European Pharmacopoeia which covers everything from potency to heavy metals, pesticides and microbiology. I must say that so far we have been consistently getting superior results without an exception. It is really hard to say how exactly we achieve this because it is a topic that might require a whole other interview. I can only say that our team has set up a very detailed QMS system that not only covers every single aspect of our operation, from evaluating and auditing our suppliers all the way to packaging and labeling of our products, but it also establishes a culture in the company where every employee is constantly thinking about the effect of every decision they make on the quality of our end product.”
Let’s talk about the industry as a whole. What innovation in the cannabis industry do you admire most?
“There are many different new products that are coming out each day that make our job easier. Many of the flower processing machines are very simple but help boost our productivity tremendously. However, if I have to single out a certain innovation, I would say that the light deprivation equipment is probably the single most important one since it allows for a maximum usage of the natural light while increasing the annual output 2x, 3x or 4x depending on the climate where your cultivation is located.”
How do you
expect the cannabis market will change in the future?
“I believe that the trends we currently see in the most developed markets, such as Canada, where the large LPs are moving away from the high cost, heavy carbon footprint indoor cultivation is soon going to happen everywhere else. Hopefully, we are not going to have to go through the same so-called production capacity ‘arms race’ that caused overcapacity, overproduction and supply glut in Canada. I believe that companies are going to realize that indoor cultivation was only the industry standard because our industry was illegal until only a few years ago and growers had to find ways to hide their grow-ops. It would be totally irrational to base an entire industry on a practice from the illicit market that is really hard to replicate on a commercial scale without posing questions about usage of resources, carbon footprint etc. Once this happens and more countries legalize, I believe that the global production of cannabis is also going to move from the countries where it is inefficient to produce to countries where the climate is right and the main resources, such as power, water and labor are abundant and cheap.”
What advice would you give to entrepreneurs/investors looking to get into cannabis cultivation?
“I think that a lot of the existing companies have a large advantage over such a start-up and it may be more constructive to look for service provider products on any level of the production to assist these companies. Otherwise, think about a niche product that will sell in your local market and build that product or brand organically. Those ‘premium’ products have proven to do well, even against the older, larger players. We feel we are about to start blooming!”
For updates, follow PharmaRolly’s CEO Steve Malloy on LinkedIn