Making the trek through the winding Canadian backroads to Tantalus Labs leaves one feeling as if they are on the cusp of a unique experience. Upon arriving at the sprawling 120,000-square-foot facility of greenhouse revolution, there is an immediate understanding that the people and processes here involve nothing but game-changing conversations regarding cannabis cultivation.
The environmental impact of cannabis cultivation too often goes undiscussed, and often over-discussed sits the reputation for greenhouse and outdoor cultivated cannabis being inferior in potency and bag appeal to their indoor-grown counterparts. At Tantalus Labs, the team refers to the latter claim as “categorical BS,” and has been keeping their eyes focused on innovation in the sun-grown and greenhouse world.
Tantalus Labs is currently on pace to be the fourth largest cannabis production facility in the world. While that alone is impressive, combining that with progressive technologies poised to change the cannabis cultivation game qualifies the lab as obviously ahead of its time. The Sun Lab, as they call it, took approximately three years to design and another 20 months to construct—its staggering size a testament to the big ideas being brought to life on this discreet patch of British Columbia wilderness.
“[Tantalus Labs is] North America’s first cannabis-tailored industrial greenhouse,” said Dan Sutton of Tantalus Labs. “What we mean by that is that it’s the first time someone has built a greenhouse from the ground up that has the closed-system environmental controls that this facility has. All our intake air is filtered. All of the exhaust air is filtered. Every environmental parameter is controlled.”
At the essence of the culture of Tantalus Labs is their understanding that cannabis cultivation is an agricultural conversation. The massive carbon footprint left by indoor cannabis grow operations—which were founded on outlaw mentalities and a need to conceal the gardens—are no longer acceptable or sustainable alongside current options to approach the situation anew.
Basically, now that we don’t have to waste energy hiding cannabis, we can invest energy in how to optimize plant health while keeping environmental factors in mind.
It is also important to note that the team at Tantalus Labs functions legally under Canadian law. They have been operating as one of Health Canada’s licensed producers, where medical marijuana is dispensed via an e-commerce platform rather than the dispensary model known in the United States. However, there are numerous cannabis shops lining the streets of Vancouver that operate illegally, but do not pose as enough of a public threat to cause law enforcement to pay too much attention. Nevertheless, these fractured gray areas remain.
“The future belongs to those who build it,” said Dan Sutton as we sat chatting in the modern, yet rustic, living room of the mid-century home that overlooks the enormous facility. This stylish hideaway serves as the occasional home base when team members are on site, but could just as easily one day be a swagged-out Airbnb destination for cannabis cultivation connoisseurs.
Dan Sutton and Alex Close both bring strong professional backgrounds to the table at Tantalus Labs. Once college roommates, Dan went on to work for what he described as the “dark side of the force” in careers in finance, nuclear fuel, and high-field magnetics. He now focuses on the operational end of the spectrum at Tantalus, while Alex’s focus is in the branding arena, where his previous work in digital marketing undoubtedly comes in handy. Their choice to reunite in the name of advancing the frontiers of cannabis cultivation now manifests in cutting-edge technologies.
Admittedly “obsessed with systems,” the team here is regularly crunching the numbers and interpreting the data associated with large-scale technical agriculture. Robust systemic planning is the name of the game here, with a strong focus on standardizing environments that can later be replicated to produce quantifiable results—and likely industry-redefining progress.
As energies in the cannabis movement find room to shift from more fight to more function, the ideas at Tantalus Labs are poised to be pioneers.