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READY TO GROW: Irene López-Ubiria and Álvaro Vidiella-Salaberry at their Te Horo glasshouses where they will soon be growing medicinal cannabis.

Photo Ian Carson

A new growing and manufacturing facility at Te Horo offers huge potential in the rapidly expanding medicinal cannabis market – including the possibility of employing up to 60 local workers.

The project in Old Hautere Road is at stage one, with a large glasshouse constructed and close to receiving cannabis plants that are already on site. It is being established by Kāpiti Coast agricultural engineers and plant scientists Irene López-Ubiria and Álvaro Vidiella-Salaberry.

They bought a total of five hectares at the site, allowing for plenty of expansion. They expect to get their first crop into the glasshouse soon.

Up to five crops can be produced every year, with the capacity to produce around 30 kilograms of dried flower a month, which can be sold as such or processed into products like oils. The plants will grow under carefully controlled conditions in glasshouses, so outside conditions and even the seasons make no difference. However, natural light and fresh air are used to full effect.

The aim is to produce a consistently high-quality product that will have consistent results for patients suffering from a wide variety of conditions and ailments.

Initially, the dried flower from the first crops will go to other companies’ processing plants, but the plan is for everything to be done on-site.

While the couple are putting plenty of their own money – and 15-hour days – into the business, they are now inviting other investors to increase their production capacity and develop the manufacturing facilities.

“We’d love to have local people investing – which can be from as little as $500 up to as much as they like,” Irene says. “We believe we will eventually also employ 50-60 local people in all sorts of roles.”   

She says Phytotecnia has several key differences with other medicinal cannabis operations. One is the couple clearly know what they doing, from both a science and business viewpoint. Secondly, they say their business is more than just a concept.

“We’re doing something we know how to do,” Irene says. “It’s something real. Medicinal cannabis is a horticulture based pharmaceutical industry that requires a broad base of expertise. It touches on all we have been learning and working on for the last 20 years, this makes it really exciting for us. This is Phytotecnia’s strength”

Irene was born in Spain, Álvaro in Uruguay. They met when they were doing the same six-year degree course in Spain. The degree was wide-ranging, including not only plant science, but also agricultural engineering and business management. While working in Spain they thought about where to continue with their family project, and decided on New Zealand after talking to a former Kiwi teacher of Álvaro’s.

They came to New Zealand nine years ago, originally working for NZ Avocado, the avocado growers association, and later with Hikurangi Cannabis (now Rua Bioscience) on the East Coast.

Wanting to establish their own medicinal cannabis company, they pored over maps of New Zealand to find the ideal location. The Kāpiti Coast appealed the most, and Te Horo provided the opportunity to move.

Álvaro says Kāpiti also appealed because skilled workers were readily available.

“We know there are good people in Kāpiti, and certainly from Massey University in Palmerston North and in Wellington,” he says.

The couple now have four children and live at Raumati.

• For more information about the company or the investment opportunities, see

Potential for up to 60 jobs at cannabis operation



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