#VSClan Founder Feature: Tantalus Labs

Dan Sutton, Managing Director at Tantalus Labs (Photo courtesy of Tantalus Labs)
Dan Sutton, Managing Director at Tantalus Labs (Photo courtesy of Tantalus Labs)

Canada’s war of weed has sparked a paradigm shift in modern agricultural production of medical cannabis in British Columbia. The approval and development of Canada’s first closed-system cannabis production greenhouse operated by Vancouver’s very own Tantalus Labs (a portfolio company under Victory Square Ventures), has ignited the next phase in agricultural innovation for the production and use of medical marijuana.

In the midst of the political debate on legalizing marijuana Dan Sutton, Managing Director of Tantalus Labs saw an opportunity to disrupt the medical cannabis market. While the selling of marijuana is still deemed illegal in Vancouver, dispensaries are regulated under the city bylaws requiring “retail dealers a $30,000 licence fee?—?the city’s highest permit cost?—?and prevent shops from operating within 300 metres of community centres, schools and other pot shops” (CBC, 2015). Additionally, $6 Billion worth of electricity is required for indoor cannabis production continent-wide?—?which is enough to fuel 3 million American homes (Tantalus Labs, 2015).

With the staggering costs related to growing indoor cannabis, why should Vancouverites care about the progression towards developing sun grown cultivation of medicinal marijuana? We sat down with Dan to find out how sustainable production of medicinal marijuana will help preserve B.C.’s natural environment.

How would you describe Tantalus Labs?

Tantalus Labs is a business that I see existing at the intersection of tech and industrial agriculture, and we happen to be in the cannabis industry, which has been exciting and noteworthy in Canada as of late. We use industrial greenhouses tailored to the cannabis plant, plumbed with some cool software and tech innovation to be able to cultivate quality assured cannabis that is cultivated sustainably through the power of sunlight?—?we call it ‘Sun Grown’.

What inspired you to start Tantalus Labs?

Cannabis is an interesting space?—?there’s a lot of diverse knowledge and a lot of interesting people, but they have been forced not to document any of the work that they have done, essentially for the last hundred years. So there’s this gap, a void of technical knowledge and academic understanding of the cannabis plant that’s been the unfortunate byproduct of this prohibition.

I see it as a sector that’s ripe for disruption?—?if we can take the insights of the thriving software industry in B.C., the insights of the technical agricultural industry and combine those two, we’re going to be able to solve problems that no one has anticipated in this space.

Why is it important for people to talk about sustainable agriculture for medicinal marijuana?

The average British Columbian is surrounded by B.C.’s natural beauty and cool stuff that we’ve got in this province. It prompts a few social prerogatives for the people that live here. As of recently, B.C. has become this tech hub?—?we’ve got so many cool startups, and so many software businesses and applications cropping up here, and it works well?—?much the same way that Palo Alto is a great community for tech in the states because it’s so livable. You can code all day, and then jump out and go skiing in the evening, go hiking, or go swim in a lake. That brings in this naturalism component that people in B.C. are more likely to care about the future of this sustainable environment, and keeping their backyards safe.

Tantalus Labs exists as a social conversation at the intersection of those two points. We find that the people who care a lot about how to do the future of cannabis right, probably care a lot about the technologies that are going to be used to cultivate that cannabis, and they also probably care a lot about where they are going hiking next weekend. So all these things come around and have cemented themselves pretty organically in our cultural values.

Most of my team are born and raised in B.C., and we’ve been faced with the evolving cannabis debate our whole lives. So to be a voice in it, and contribute to it, while anchoring ourselves in the ethos of sustainability is an incredible privilege.

What can Vancouverites do to help push this movement towards sun grown cannabis cultivation forward?

I think Vancouverites, now more than ever are conscious of the products that they endorse, and the products that they purchase. I was privileged to do a talk at TEDxVancouver in November, and one message that I think resonated with the audience and what excited people when I talked to them right after was this idea that we all have the capacity to vote with every purchase we make.

If you’re an individual that get excited about local brands that prioritize sustainability and built things that are beautiful, and approachable, then you have a social responsibility to support those brands and buy the things that they built to help them grow and become successful.

We participated in the BC Tech Summit in January, and we had the opportunity to meet some university students and even high school students. Knowing that these young men and women will be taking courses in cannabis entrepreneurship, cannabis marketing or cannabis agriculture in the next 5–10 years, is an exciting prospect. We’re going to have a whole new lot of minds coming into this sector and helping solve the problems that we haven’t even conceptualized yet?—?and it’s going to be cool to meet those people.

To find out more about Tantalus Labs and their movement towards advancing sun grown cultivation of medicinal marijuana, check out their online resource and blog, the Populace.

*Original article was published in Medium.

Victory Square Ventures

Victory Square Ventures

We create, fund and execute on kickass ideas in sports, health and entertainment.