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Dragonfly: How a lucky break made CBD brand a high street pioneer

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Dragonfly CBD was the first CBD brand to be available in high street chemist giant Boots. Cannabis Wealth caught up with CEO Regan Saveall to find out more about being in the right place at the right time.

How did you first get involved in the world of CBD?

Like most people, a few years ago I didn’t really know anything about CBD. I was introduced to it by one of the founders of Dragonfly, one of these people who have these crazy ideas all the time, so I didn’t necessarily think anything of it. 

I started out helping with financial planning side, then once I got to hear of all the benefits of CBD, and the anecdotal stories of people it helped with anxiety, sleep issues and chronic pain, I started wondering why it was not more widely known about.

The other element was researching what happened in Canada, where they deregulated earlier, and seeing how the market had matured pretty quickly and became a whole new industry.

For me, part of the appeal was the chance to be involved in a whole new industry, but it was more about how can we have CBD more widely consumed, so people can find out the benefits.

So that’s why I got involved and it has literally blossomed from there.

What were Dragonfly’s earliest successes?

The stigma of cannabis has waned since those early days, and, by the time I joined Dragonfly full time in 2019, you couldn’t open a magazine without reading about CBD benefits. 

However, it was still not widely available. In fact, we were the only brand available in Boots, which is a far cry from where we are now, so it was a very exciting time to be involved.

The Boots situation came about due to luck, to be frank, but it also justified our long-standing approach. 

We’ve always felt that we want to do things properly, to give consumers trust in the product and be absolutely transparent about what they’re getting, to be comfortable that what it says on the bottle is what’s in the bottle.

We also want consumers to be confident that our products contain no THC, so they’re not going to fail a drugs test, or lose their job. 

At the moment, I’m not sure these are things consumers are even aware of, but we’ve started as we mean to go on. 

Our products are ours from seed to shelf, we own all our own land, which is organically certified, we have the highest accreditations for farming and our own extraction facility. 

So, back to Boots – they’d heard about CBD, and actually had another brand lined up to stock, but they came to us as the other brand had failed compliance when they couldn’t prove certain elements of their production chain.

We said, we can, and we have all the certifications to prove it, so Boots said that, if we met compliance, we could take their pace – and we did.

It was a major benefit for us, as it helped us to wave our compliance flag; if even Boots has accepted us, it put other retailers’ minds at rest and we’re now in Tesco, Sainsburys and Cohens pharmacies – it’s provided that benchmark that we are the brand to have.

What are Dragonfly’s other key achievements?

We’ve recently been listed on Amazon, which is great. We’ve always talked about Dragonfly being part of your grocery basket, so, on the high street, we’re keen to be in supermarkets.

Online, Amazon is where people buy things, because they know they’ll get it for the lowest price and get it tomorrow. 

Previously, CBD was never legal in US, so it wasn’t an option, but now, in the UK, Amazon has invited a few brands onto the platform, and one of those was us.

Tell us more about your own extraction facility.

We had originally partnered with a Canadian firm on our extraction facility as a joint venture; they built it, and our crop processed through it. 

However, our partner was recently acquired by a competitor, which is when we thought it would be better to go for full ownership – we don’t want to be reliant on a competitor. 

There aren’t that many facilities in Europe, and a lot of those are add-ons to existing labs, so you’re not getting a high volume. We realised we needed to be prepared for demand to grow exponentially; with deregulation in Australia, and the EU clarifying their stance, those markets will start to open up. 

It’s a key part of our strategy to have this in house. At full tilt, we can produce more than 1,000kg of CBD a month, which is a massive difference from what get with third parties.

And it’s not just for Dragonfly products; we offer white label and wholesale services to other companies too – we have spare capacity, at the moment at least. 

What do you think is going to happen to the CBD industry over the next few years?

I think there will be more and more acceptance of it, and in a medical way too. We’re already seeing a lot more press about the benefits for certain ailments, and obviously the knock-on effect will be that more people will know what it can be used for. 

So even though we can’t make any medical claims whatsoever, it doesn’t stop people doing their own research into uses and benefits.

The UK set the benchmark on how to give users confidence that they are consuming a safe product, and that will start to be implemented in other countries. 

Australia is a good example. CBD was not already available, but they took the view that they wanted people to be able to use it, so they’re allowing it to be prescribed by doctors and pharmacies under the Special Access Scheme. So if you register your product with the TGA, it can be sold over the counter. 

And Dragonfly is looking to benefit from this opening up; we’ve got our amazing infrastructure in place, we’ve got eyes and ears on the ground in many countries, so want to be at the forefront of that.

International expansion is our main focus this year, aimed at countries like Australia and Poland that are clearly embracing the move to CBD but don’t necessarily have the standard of products available. 

What do you think is key to Dragonfly’s success?

We’ve stuck to our message from day one. 

It has been difficult, and plenty of people suggested we took shortcuts, like contracting out the farming and buying in the CBD.

We could have done that, and the consumer probably wouldn’t care, but the education will come, and when consumers want a CBD product they can trust in, they’ll come to Dragonfly.

We’ve been true to our word since day one, we’re overly compliant, so all this will build that trust in our brand and we’re quite protective of that.

This will also help us when it comes to the novel food regulations compliance; we’ve always come through tests and surveys with flying colours – it’s our USP.

Are you ready for the novel foods regulations?

While the timeline of the novel foods regs being brought in has been a little constrained, we had the data ready to go – we put our application in last year. 

As far as we’re concerned, it’s a good thing – if you’re on the list, great, you’re safe to trade; if not, there’s more work you need to do to be allowed on the market. 

So it provides a lot of clarity and a lot of protection for consumers, although I expect that enforcement may become a big issue going forward. 

In fact, the next stage for the industry is to work on the education side, so consumers can learn how to ensure they’re getting the best product, the right amount of CBD, they’re not wasting their money and it’s actually going to help them. 

It’s still a burgeoning industry, but it is growing up a bit, and those who are keen to take it seriously and be legal and compliant will reap the rewards.

Leadership

Canopy Growth appoints industry veteran Christelle Gedeon as chief legal officer

Gedeon’s cannabis and commercial expertise will further Canopy Growth’s strategy for North American cannabis leadership, the company said.

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canopy growth appoints Christelle Gedeon as chief legal officer

Christelle Gedeon is one of Canada’s Law Department Leaders of the Year and formally served as chief legal officer at the international cannabis firm Aphria.

Canopy Growth has appointed Christelle Gedeon as its new chief legal officer. Listed on the Legal 500 GC Powerlist in 2020 and the 2019 Canadian General Counsel Awards Tomorrow’s Leader, Gedeon is a commercial lawyer and strategist with more than a decade of legal and strategic experience.

Most recently she acted as chief legal officer and corporate secretary for The Metals Company (TMC). Prior to this, she served as the chief legal officer and corporate secretary at Aphria Inc, where she oversaw the reverse takeover of Tilray.

“Christelle is a proven leader in the legal and cannabis industries, and we are excited to have her join Canopy Growth as we continue to build the leading brand-driven cannabis company in North America,” said David Klein, CEO of Canopy Growth.

“As a company, we have set clear priorities including achieving profitability while advancing our competitive positioning through a premium focus in Canada, high-impact CPG brands and the continued growth of our US THC ecosystem. I am confident that Christelle’s commercial and legal acumen will be key to further bringing our strategy to fruition.”

In addition to her expertise in the cannabis industry, Gedeon brings experience with complex regulatory structures, intellectual property management, corporate governance, government relations and strategic acquisitions.

She has also had a direct role in the completion of more than 50 mergers, acquisitions and strategic investments including during her time as a partner at Fasken, a leading Canadian law firm, where she advised life sciences clients on commercial, regulatory and government affairs matters.

Gedeon received her Bachelor of Law from McGill University and is a member of both the Ontario and Quebec bars. She is also a registered trademark agent and holds a PhD in Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology from the University of Toronto. Her appointment to the role of Chief Legal Officer at Canopy Growth is effective immediately.

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‘The hemp revolution has already happened, now it needs reigniting’

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hemp farms Australia

Hemp fibre produces some of the strongest and most durable materials in the world and absorbs more carbon than pine trees. Hemp Farms Australia believes interest in the plant needs reigniting.

Cannabis Wealth sat down with Lauchlan Grout, co-founder of the Australian industrial hemp farming agribusiness, Hemp Farms Australia. The company was launched in 2013 by Grout and his childhood friend Harrison Lee to cultivate, process and sell the primary components of industrial hemp.

A dedicated seed supplier, Hemp Farms Australia was one of the first players in Australia’s hemp industry. The company specialises in variations of the plant that perform well in sub-tropical environments, a rare thing for a plant that originated in the icy tundras of Siberia.

Now a leader in hemp seed genetics, the company supplies seeds for growing grain for food and growing fibre for animal bedding, hempcrete and bioplastics. Grout talks about his passion for hemp and its potential to tackle the growing threat of climate change.

How did you get into the hemp sector?

After school, Harrison and I both went to work for his family in their abattoir here in Brisbane. They supply a couple of big grocery stores and supermarket chains with beef. We started on the kill floor and then went to the boning room. That was about five or six years of work experience in the abattoir as well as out on their farm. We learned there are so many facets to a supply chain.

At the time, hemp was being brought up a lot as this wonder crop; there were 70,000 uses for it apparently, but that just didn’t make sense because we hadn’t seen it anywhere. If there were so many uses for hemp, why wasn’t it being used?

So we dug deeper into that side of it and realised that all the different prohibition laws and the fact that hemp was so closely related to cannabis meant both of them, in Australia and many parts of the world, were illegal to grow even as for food or fibre.

But not many people realise that back in the day, the British and Russian naval fleets were all kitted out with hemp sales and hemp ropes because it was the most durable fibre in the world. All that knowledge and all that belief and all that industry were lost so we saw it as an opportunity to bring back something that could actually have a great impact on people and the environment.

Why is sustainability so important to you as a company?

The Earth is not heading in a nice direction in terms of the environment and climate. The climate extremes that we’ve seen in the last ten years here are comparable to what farmers have spoken about over the past 60 years. It seems like the events of those 60 years have repeated themselves in the past ten but double the scale and in a harsher fashion.

Farming is not easy. You have to budget for one in three crops to fail; it’s sometimes a business that can make you extremely depressed and that’s why so many farmers kill themselves; it’s terrible. They just have no water and if you have no water, you can’t do anything.

If I can do something that would not only help potentially reverse climate change or at least stop temperatures fluctuating so heavily by reducing the amount of carbon in our atmosphere, I want to do it.

Hemp is the highest carbon sequestering plant and one of the most sustainable protein-producing plants in the world. Hemp can reduce the amount of carbon in our atmosphere on a scale 40 times larger than a pine forest. Not only does it suck out the carbon, but it also locks it in the plant material so you can then build a car with that and produce fuel. Henry Ford built a car back in the 1940s out of hemp plastic that ran on hemp biofuel.  All this stuff has been around but it just needs to be reignited.

What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced on your journey running Hemp Farms Australia?

The first five years were challenging but also hopeful. Every mistake that we made hadn’t been made before because no one else had stepped that far yet. In other established industries and markets, you can read books or you can speak to people to find out what not to do, whereas in this sector there was none of that.

For example, nobody knew that you have to store industrial hemp at a certain temperature and in a certain humidity once you’ve harvested it, otherwise it will go mouldy within two or three days.

With our first crop, we harvested 40 tonnes of seed, we put it in an aerated silo which had heaps of fans running through it, but it was partially in the sun in a big metal container. We came back to check on it two days later and you could smell the mould from where we parked hundreds of metres away.

There were 40 tonnes of seed there worth every bit of $10 a kilo. That’s $400,000 worth of seed.

How have things changed since the early days of setting up Hemp Farms Australia and what have you learned?

We’ve got great advisors now and our key cornerstone investor is a very wise and smart agricultural businessman, so the last three years have been a lot different to the previous five.

I’ve learned that if you have something of value, then it’s worth risking a lot more than you think you would ever risk. I was questioning myself in the early days. I was doing it because I believed it will have a good impact on the world and the environment and the people living in it, but is it going to make me any money? Am I going to be able to build a family off of this? Those things were running in my head so much because things were ticking but they weren’t ticking the way we thought they would.

But I think the biggest thing I learned is If you believe something and you know in your gut that it will happen or it should happen then do not stop; the maths doesn’t need to line up. If money is the only thing that’s stopping you from keeping on the grind, then you shouldn’t be grinding it.

You run the business with a close school friend. How do you find running a business with one of your best mates?

Harrison and I have been very close friends – pretty much best friends – since year seven at school. We weren’t very fond of each other to begin with. He was very much into gaming. I was very much into sports. But he taught me the world of gaming and I taught him the world of sport and we became very close friends after that.

Never ever get into business with your best friend is what everyone told us. I will admit, we’ve been through some pretty bad times, to the point where we were not talking to each other, but you get over it, you harden up and you laugh about it.

We suddenly just said to each other ‘business is business and friendship is friendship’. We both have to pull our weight and we can’t be bickering at each other just because we know each other in and out.

Why are you proud to be part of the hemp and cannabis industry?

Not only can you heal people medicinally, but you can also house people through the fibres, you can clothe people through the fibres. There’s so much that hemp can do for people. Hemp revolutionised things back in the day, it’s now about reigniting it to a level where we can make a change.

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Gerardo Gorostiza joins team at Linneo Health

Linneo Health has appointed Gorostiza as chief financial and strategy officer.

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Gerardo Gorostiza joins team at Linneo Health
Home » Leadership » Dragonfly: How a lucky break made CBD brand a high street pioneer

Gorostiza will be bringing experience of corporate finance, strategic planning, business transformation and corporate development to the Linneo Health team.

Medical cannabis research and cultivation company Linneo Health has welcomed Gorostiza as Chief Financial and Strategy Officer.

The company has stated that Gorostiza possesses a track record of success leading the financial and strategy functions of a number of multinational businesses, both private and publicly listed.

Read more: Linneo Health explores trends in medical cannabis

Linneo Health CEO, Don Bellamy, commented: “We are delighted to welcome Gerardo to Linneo Health as chief financial and strategy officer. 

“He brings a wealth of experience and knowledge, and his strategic mindset and leadership skills will be invaluable to Linneo as we continue to build on our success and growth as the leading provider of medicinal cannabis, for the benefit of patients.”

Gorostiza’s previous roles include Uralita, Adveo and Grupo Costa Food, as well as having worked as a consultant with PricewaterhouseCoopers. 

Read more: GMP certification allows Linneo Health to continue cannabis research

Most recently, Gorostiza was CFO and subsequently CEO of Juan Luna, a leading Spanish food processing company, where he played an integral role in the professionalisation of the company and its subsequent sale to a top industrial player.

Gorostiza holds an Executive MBA from the IE Business School in Madrid, Spain, and qualified as an Industrial Engineer with the Universidad del País Vasco, Spain.

Gorostiza commented: “Linneo Health’s fully integrated platform, enabling the research, manufacture and supply of the highest quality medicinal cannabis, puts the company in a prime position to grow at scale as this market matures.

“I am looking forward to working with Don and the team to maintain Linneo’s leading position and continue its expansion.”

Gerardo Gorostiza joins team at Linneo Health

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