It’s cropping season in the Southern Hemisphere, and one of the biggest medical marijuana harvests in the world is happening in a quiet corner of the South American jungle.
Welcome to Paradise
A large-scale cannabis farm in Latin America has been causing headlines around the world. This grow is a revolutionary project taking place in Chile and powered by 6,500 Paradise Seeds plants! The Dutch seed company provided all of the strains being grown on this legal plantation belonging to the nonprofit Daya Foundation, which has a license from the Chilean government to grow cannabis for use as medicine for patients around the country.
The medical cannabis produced on this farm will be used to treat a range of conditions—everything from life-threatening cancer to arthritis, multiple sclerosis and child epilepsy. It’s an impressive project, and one that could provide a blueprint for cannabis-medicine production and distribution throughout Latin America—and beyond.
The 6,500 plants are being tended by the Daya Foundation’s 13 full-time gardeners, who will be joined by another 17 people to help with the mammoth job of harvesting, cutting and trimming. “The buds are looking phenomenal,” says Daya co-founder and director Nicolas Dormal. “The farm is looking absolutely beautiful, and we’re predicting a great harvest.” Daya expects to harvest over 2,000 kilos of prime bud!
Once the bud is dried, it will be shipped (under armed guard) for processing at a dedicated laboratory. The cannabis oil that is extracted will be used to prepare medicine that will then be lab-tested to ensure that it meets Chilean health regulations, and will ultimately be distributed to patients after a series of clinical trials.
The Perfect Match
While new growers are often seduced by promotions that offer cheap seeds and big yields, experienced growers know to look past the hype and focus on what’s really important. They want seeds that carry the right genetic code to ensure a consistent and reliable crop—three seeds in a pack that will grow into three plants of similar size and yield, instead of one huge, bud-filled bush and two weedy specimens with hardly anything on them.
When setting up a grow, cannabis gardeners do what they can to provide the best environment for their plants, but they also depend on the quality of their seeds to bring the magic. Paradise Seeds has gained a reputation for great genetics over the course of many years. They’ve been at the forefront of developments in the cannabis industry, pioneering the evolution of auto-flowering and feminized strains and improving CBD-rich medical varieties as well. The Daya Foundation’s gardeners quickly recognized the quality of Paradise Seeds’ strains during Chile’s first legal grow in 2014–15, based on their germination rate, stability, and resistance to pests and disease.
The germination rate for Paradise’s seeds (including the massive Daya grow) is around 95 percent—a reassuring statistic for any cannabis gardener. Strain stability is illustrated by the incredible photos coming from the Daya Foundation, which show a forest canopy with plants displaying a striking uniformity of growth. The fact that Paradise’s strains have been organically bred is important too, as Daya is growing marijuana for medicinal use. This also extends to the plants’ in-bred resistance to pests and disease—in short, stronger plants are healthier plants.
As Paradise Seeds owner Luc Krol says, “Since 1985, we’ve been breeding, backcrossing and preserving genetic traits, working with our plants every day to ensure that we control every step of the seed process. Our carefully selected mother plants are of the highest possible quality in regards to pest and disease resistance, and also in respect to yielding large buds with lots of THC glands.” The proof of this focus and attention to detail is a trophy cabinet filled with High Times Cannabis Cups and other major marijuana awards.
The Daya Foundation’s gardeners have been working hard to maintain this impressive grow since it began in October 2015. With many more plants under cultivation than last year, the team has been experimenting with planting and growing techniques—for example, half of the crop is outdoors and the other half is under plastic poly tunnels. The gardeners are monitoring the effectiveness of these various methods.
What’s in the Garden?
Daya chose 16 Paradise Seeds strains to plant, including a mix of medicinal varieties rich in CBD, and some sativa– and indica-dominant varieties as well. Once harvested, these plants will provide a range of THC and CBD levels for testing in the lab.
In addition to the Durga Mata ll CBD and the Nebula ll CBD (adaptations of popular Paradise Seeds strains with enhanced medicinal qualities), the Daya Foundation selected two multiple Cannabis Cup–winning indicas—the legendary Sensi Star and Ice Cream—which impressed with their robust growth in Daya’s first legal grow.
The very popular Wappa variety was also selected alongside two big-hitting sativas, Jacky White and Delahaze. The seed shipment included two original classics straight from the Paradise Seeds genetics vault: Original Cheese and Original White Widow.
Paradise Seeds and the Daya Foundation came together in early 2014, when Dormal and his team were looking for a seed supplier. Dormal wrote to many seed companies but received either no answer or was told that it was impossible to export seeds to Chile. One company did reply, however: Krol saw the potential of the Daya Foundation’s project and the passion of those involved. The rest, as they say, is history ….
What’s Next for Daya?
The foundation’s ultimate goal is to produce cannabis-based medicine that can be distributed cheaply to the people who need it most. Big pharmaceutical companies do not figure into this equation! Daya is working with 20 Chilean municipalities to provide medicine to treat 200 patients in each district. This will be tested by Chilean health authorities and, once approved, will allow medicine to be provided for hundreds of patients.
Dormal says, “We’ve made incredible progress to get this far, but things take time, and we must do everything correctly to satisfy the requirements of the Chilean health authorities—just like with any medicine.” All of the indicators are looking very good, he adds, and Daya’s blueprint for a sustainable medical cannabis model in Chile that provides cheap medicine has huge support from the public and from many politicians.
For now, however, Dormal’s thoughts are on the massive harvest that is coming up at the Daya plantation. “We’re expecting the job to last a month. It is going to be a lot of work,” he says with a smile. “Last week, we had a donation of 30 pairs of scissors. I think we’re going to need them!”
The background of this amazing story is told in the documentary Green Medicine: Chile’s Medical Cannabis Revolution, which can be seen on Paradise Seeds’ YouTube channel. Article & photos courtesy of Paradise Seeds.
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