April 6, 2021
Expert Interview: Lenny Karmiol, CEO Perfect Plants
With roots deeply embedded in the horticultural industry and over 40 years of biogenetic experience, Perfect Plants is a global leader in tissue culture production. Specialising in food and pharma crops, Perfect Plants has integrated cannabis into its list of starting materials available globally.
Tell us about the Perfect Plants advantage when it comes to the cannabis Industry.
We believe that 80% of what it takes to achieve success in an agricultural-based industry is core competency, and only 20%, if that, is crop-specific. Perfect Plants has headquarters in Honselersdijk, Netherlands – a town which has the highest level of productivity per square metre for agriculture in the world. A town illuminated by greenhouses focused on high intensity, technology integrated agriculture. Perfect Plants’ facilities all have an extremely efficient level of skill and productivity – something that is quite rare in the cannabis industry.
We entered the cannabis industry with 40 years of experience behind us. We made sure to fine tune our core competencies; a solid production infrastructure and system, excellent human capital, experience at a commercial scale, and only then did we take on cannabis as an additional crop. Between our automated greenhouse and our breeding and lab facilities in the Netherlands and in South Africa, we produce more than 15 million plants a year. These plant starting materials are distributed to every continent on the planet. As a result, we are now the only truly global producer of tissue culture for cannabis in the world.
What is the main benefit that tissue culture offers the cannabis industry?
Tissue culture provides the industry with starting material that is clean, reliable, and re- producible. Our plants are diligently processed to ensure that our customers receive exactly the plants they are expecting at exactly the quality they require – without exception.
Plant tissue culture seedlings significantly outperform conventional vegetative propagation materials in terms of uniformity, yield, pace, and quality. Rising global demand for high quality cannabis has boosted demand for micropropagation methods that yield superior performance, including tissue culture.
When our customers receive our plants, they can have 100% confidence in their growth – and that confidence is the key to producing high quality plants on a commercial scale.
What has been the main challenge of entering the cannabis industry?
One of the most difficult things about the cannabis industry is that it is such a young and immature industry compared to agricultural crops. In addition, the regulatory restrictions seem to compel companies to vertically integrate. Companies often feel they have no choice but to operate from ‘seed to sale’ and on a commercial scale – something we believe is virtually impossible to accomplish while also maintaining the quality required at a large scale.
We challenge that paradigm by focusing on clean, stable starting material; a very specific category of the supply chain. By pouring all of our attention into this initial – but extremely important – part of the process, we set our customers up for success, so they have both the bandwidth and focus to excel in other areas of the growing process. This is where they can create a true competitive difference.
Was it difficult to pivot into cannabis?
Getting started in any new category as a tissue culture company that produces in the quantities that we do, requires a significant investment of time and capital. Just for context, we received our initial cannabis licence in the Netherlands in December 2017. Since then, we have been aggregating, stabilising, initialising and selecting genetics for more than 120 hemp and cannabis varieties. It has taken from then to now (over 3 years) to secure an inventory of starting material that allows us to produce on a commercial scale. Generally, the process for any new crop to be captured and initiated into in-vitro material, and then to be produced and sold commercially takes at least a year, if not longer.
We operate in the tens of thousands of units. If we do not set out with a plan to ultimately reach at least 5,000 plants for a given variety, it is not economically feasible for us to put that variety in vitro. This high start-up cost is one of the reasons for significant barriers to commercial scale growth in the industry. Anytime I have conversations with principals of tissue culture companies in cannabis, my message to them is almost always the same: let’s figure out a way to collaborate, because at the end of the day we will help build the industry and achieve much loftier goals through collaboration than through competition.
Where is Perfect Plant’s future headed?
We believe that hemp and cannabis exist on a continuum of the larger category of Food and Pharma. Perfect Plants is a mature, diversified company able to deliver the highest quality starting material and plant genetics on a commercial/industrial scale. Over the next 40 years, we will continue to apply these essential ingredients of success to the Food and Pharma Industries.
The European Cannabis Report: 6th Edition takes a deep dive on the current social, economic, regulatory and health trends. The report also includes sales forecasts of medical and adult-use cannabis in the US and Canada.
Expert Interview: Lenny Karmiol, CEO Perfect Plants
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