Winnipeg will soon be home to a new production facility for cannabis.

GrowForce Holdings Inc. announced Tuesday morning it will open its flagship cannabis cultivation facility in St. Boniface Industrial Park.

The Toronto-based company said it will turn the 120,000 square foot former Maple Leaf Foods plant on Warman Road into a cannabis production facility which will employ 150 to 200 people once it’s fully operational in 2019.

“We’re now at the point where we can hit the ground running here in Winnipeg after several months of work looking at various cities including Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg and a few others,” said GrowForce Holdings Inc. Chairman and CEO Rishi Gautam. “We’re excited to get going.”

The company invited media to a ribbon cutting and tour of the facility.

Gautam said hydro rates and a large skilled workforce were factors in selecting Winnipeg.

“There’ll be a variety of jobs here,” said Gautam. “These are full-time jobs that runs the gamut of cultivation: from the techs, to the trimmers, to the packers and then with extraction as well when you’re processing the product so very lab-oriented type of facilities will be built here so a very wide range of jobs available.”

GrowForce will begin work imminently to transform the former meat plant to fit its needs.

Gautam said the company purchased the building for around $10 million and plans to invest an additional $30 million to retrofit the facility.

“The main driving force with respect to cannabis is having a quality, consistent product in a climate-controlled facility,” he said. “This is what this building represents.”

GrowForce executive vice president of operations James Lowe said once up and running the company will produce more than 900 kilograms of cannabis in the Winnipeg facility each month.

“We’ve selected this site and chosen indoor cultivation over greenhouse here in Winnipeg because the energy prices allow us to do so,” said Lowe. “Its previous design lends itself to good workflow.”

The company has already purchased two other facilities, including a licensed facility in Brampton, Ont. and a plant in Dunnville, Ont. which the company called a late stage Health Canada applicant. Gautam said the cannabis license it has for the facility in Brampton will make it easier to get one for its Winnipeg location.

“This is what’s called a second site,” said Gautam. “So we’ll be taking our license that we have in Ontario as a second site here in Winnipeg so we are a licensed producer through Health Canada’s ACMPR,” he said, referring to the agency’s Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations.

“Our distribution method is two-fold. It’s medicinal, which is obviously federally legal today, and we are going to be bringing medicine to patients through our initial batches and then when adult use becomes active, hopefully later this year, we’ll have a distribution through the adult use market.”

GrowForce has partnered with U.S.-based MJardin Group to operate its Canadian cannabis facilities.

Gautam said MJardin Group runs its own university system to train workers.

“We’re able to get people to come in and get trained, so no prior experience necessary and then they move up within the organization by continuing education through our university system.”

Recreational cannabis is expected to become legal in Canada later this year.