Exclusive Interview with Organigram CEO Greg Engel
Organigram (TSXV: OGI) (OTC: OGRMF) found itself at a turning point at the end of 2016. The licensed Canadian medical marijuana producer faced a voluntary recall due to the presence of unapproved pesticides in some of its products. While in the midst of that crisis, the company appointed a new CEO: Greg Engel. Engel spoke with New Cannabis Ventures about how he steered the company through the recall and created a company policy and culture that is helping the company grow and succeed.
Engel spent most of his career in pharmaceuticals and biotech, but he saw immense opportunity in the medical cannabis industry, particularly as it became more structured and regulated in Canada. Before taking up the leadership mantle at Organigram, Engel was the CEO of the privately held medical marijuana producer Tilray. While the business aspect of the industry excites Engel, he also has a more personal motivation, as he saw firsthand the benefits of medical cannabis when his sister-in-law, who ultimately passed away from brain cancer, was able to find relief using it.
Once Engel came onboard at Organigram, he committed himself and the company to quality through a seven-step approach. This strategy ensures all products are tested for pesticides, inputs from outside suppliers are tested before use, all suppliers are screened before working with the company, and everyone who works at the company is formally trained on all safety and quality measures. While a big part of this quality system is regular, rigorous testing, transparency through posting all product testing results to the company website has also become critical to demonstrating how serious Organigram is about its promise of quality. The company is going a step further in its dedication to quality by pursuing Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) certification.
Engel’s vision of quality for Organigram is paying off. In 2017, the company won three Canadian Cannabis Awards, an honor it hadn’t even earned a nomination for previously. The company’s focus on quality is also helping the company expand its physical footprint and its customer base. Organigram’s original indoor facility was 32,000 square feet with three levels dedicated to growing.
By the end of January, Organigram will have an additional 102,000 square feet of space, and by the end of May, the company will add another 40,000 square feet. It already upped its production capacity to 25 million grams, but it expects to expand to 425,000 square feet of indoor growing space on three levels, which will increase production capabilities to 65 million grams. The company, which reported 7404 patients as of August 31, surpassed 10,000 active registered patients as of December 1, 2017, and continues to see a positive trend in patient acquisition, with growth driven in part by its expanded product offering.
Having increased availability of a higher quality product has allowed Organigram to align itself better with clinics and forge new partnerships in the market. For example, the company is adding a 20:1 CBD product to appeal to patients who are new to medical cannabis. In advance of legal adult-use, Organigram has partnered with Colorado-based company The Green Solution, which positions it to bring edibles and derivative-based products to the Canadian market as soon as allowed.
The company raised $100 million through a convertible debenture, which is expected to close soon, and a good amount of that funding is going to be allocated to exploring markets outside of Canada. Engel told New Cannabis Ventures that the company is potentially interested in entering European markets, whether by partnering with an existing facility or building a facility with a European partner. Wherever Organigram decides to go next, Engel is confident that the company is positioned to be one of the top indoor producers in Canada.
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