Could kiwifruit growers switch to cannabis?

A New Zealand start-up is proposing a novel way to grow medicinal cannabis - get kiwifruit orchardists to grow dope next to vines.

MediCann says it will rain cash over the Bay of Plenty, but some growers say it's just another fanciful idea.

Katikati kiwifruit grower Ross Hart supports the use of medicinal cannabis. He reckons it could help a close family member who suffer seizures.

"We have attempted to go down those lines and it's been very difficult."

But MediCann says it can help - it wants to recruit orchardists to grow crops.

Mr Hart says it could work on his organic farm, but says other orchards might not be suitable due to possible contamination.

"The kiwifruit industry is not that pure as far as exposing itself to harsh chemicals."

MediCann is preparing for legislation change, and says it could create hundreds of jobs in the Bay of Plenty in the medicinal cannabis industry.

Crops would grow in 1000 square-metre buildings, similar to cool sheds, that would sit on unused land alongside kiwifruit vines.

Managing director Brendon Ogilvey says MediCann would operate similar to Zespri, providing licences to grow certain strains. Mature crops would then be collected, processed and packaged by his company.

"A lot of these people that we've spoken to have 30 years of experience in growing produce," he told Newshub. "What we're talking about is a relatively easy crop to grow and it will be in a controlled environment."

Mr Ogilvey's focuing on kiwifruit orchards, but it's possible any grower with space could get on board.

MediCann's investors are Kiwis, and include doctors, horticulturalists and pharmacists. It says it has 172 licences for patented European plants carefully selected for their medicinal properties.

Mr Ogilvey claims growers would pocket 200 times the amount of cash per hectare compared to kiwifruit.

"That's a very good return," said Mr Hart.

But not everyone is convinced. Michael Franks, chief executive of Seeka - the largest kiwifruit grower in the country - says the figures are "dopey".

He described the idea as just another one of a long list of medicinal cannabis businesses that have approached growers over the years.

"The average age of growers is something like 58-60 years old. Most of them wouldn't have experience in growing cannabis - well, I hope."

Although Mr Franks did say some struggling growers may be looking into medicinal cannabis as a possible extra earner.

Some growers Newshub spoke to say there just isn't enough land alongside vines to grow medicinal cannabis like MediCann is proposing. They also say it could be difficult to get building consents.

It's likely there'll be many more medicinal cannabis growing ideas being touted in future as people look to turn green into gold.

Newshub.

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