Legal cannabis is quickly becoming big business. After hitting $43 million just two weeks after legalization, Canadian sales are expected to top $4 billion in 2019, while total North American sales could exceed $95 billion by 2026.

Canadian entrepreneurs are ready to claim their slice of that pie.

Investors poured more than $8 billion into Canadian cannabis companies in 2018, and U.S. funds controlling more than $100 billion are currently eyeing up investments north of the border.

“Our ventures have not been timid,” says Ying Tam, entrepreneur and head of MaRS Health, which is already helping guide numerous Canadian cannabis startups to market.

“Not since prohibition has Canada faced such a challenge and opportunity. And the innovation community is charging ahead.”

We spoke to four cannabis entrepreneurs to get a better idea of the challenges and opportunities in Canada’s newest growth industry.

Ample Organics

Although the legal market might be only a few months old, Ample Organics already has deep roots in Canadian cannabis.

Many staffers at the Toronto startup have worked in the industry since the legalization of medical cannabis, and founder John Prentice even helped write the first-ever licensed producer application approved by Health Canada in 2012.

Today, Prentice is building his company into a cornerstone of Canadian pot production. 7 out of every 10 licensed growers already use Ample’s “seed-to-sale” software platform, a market share that has investors salivating. The company recently attracted investment from David Thomson, Chairman of Thomson Reuters and Canada’s wealthiest person.

Read our conversation with Prentice here.

Growratio

Indoor cannabis cultivation is extremely energy-intensive. Some estimate that growing 1kg of pot using traditional methods releases the same amount of carbon into the atmosphere as 11 car trips across the United States.

Paolo Pincente, co-founder of Toronto-based Growratio, says that has to change.

“We all know the money and demand is there. But it won’t mean anything if we don’t remember the environment.”

Growratio’s technology is making the switch to lower-energy cultivation a no-brainer for growers. The company’s energy-efficient grow lights and sophisticated monitoring systems can save a typical 50,000-square-foot growing facility $750,000 a year in energy costs.

Read our conversation with Pincente here.

Canopy Health Innovations

Recreational cannabis isn’t the only multi-billion dollar opportunity up for grabs. Entrepreneurs are just as excited about CBD, a non-psychoactive cannabis extract that could hit $22 billion in sales by 2022 according the Brightfield Group. CBD is showing up everywhere these days, from beauty products, to coffee, to yoga. Coca Cola is even rumoured to be exploring cannabis-infused beverages with a Canadian producer.

Excitement around cannabis additives reached a fever pitch last August when Toronto-based Canopy Growth secured an unprecedented $5-billion investment from Constellation Brands.

Marc Wayne, managing director of Canopy’s biopharmaceutical subsidiary, Canopy Health Innovations, thinks Constellation’s investment could help Canopy become a leader in cannabis-based medicinal products.

Read our conversation with Wayne here.

Lobo Genetics

Despite its therapeutic and recreational benefits, many people avoid cannabis because they don’t know how it will affect them. Lobo Genetics founder John Lem wants to change that.

His company’s device, “the Cube,” analyzes cheek swab DNA for genetic markers related to cannabis metabolism. In just 45 minutes, it can tell you exactly how you’ll react to a particular strain of cannabis, alert you to any risks, and determine whether you’re predisposed to any particular side effects.

Read our conversation with Lem here.

Written by Nick Zarzycki

Nick is a copywriter at MaRS. See more…