At CANNA we’re excited to share passionate grower stories from across Canada that resonate with our community and inspire us to “grow big or grow home”.
My name is Alex Gauthier. I'm currently the VP of R&D, Director of Cultivation and also Sales Analyst at Origine Nature. I started in cannabis when I was 14 years old and I was lucky enough to have the right friends to give me the right support like the CANNA team. I got into legal cannabis in 2017 at Aurora Cannabis, then I moved on to Tidal Health Solutions and then I moved on to Origine Nature, which really took my heart. It's the right team, it's the right company, I've evolved there, and I'm quite happy with what we've achieved over the last years.
From tending plants to leading R&D, can you walk us through the milestones of your ascent?
Alex: I started off as a grower at Aurora Cannabis, I then went on to become Master Grower, which is actually leading the grow team to grow cannabis. Now I'm Director of Cultivation as well as VP of R&D. So as far as VP of R&D, I lead the entire department. I'm basically responsible for finding those relationships, finding the right technology, doing in-depth cannabinoid testing, organoleptic testing and how cannabinoids can affect humans. I basically direct the entire cultivation department, so the trim team, the sanitation team, as well as the growers. But even if I have all those titles, I have to say I'm only as good as my team. So they make me look good. They're the real all-stars behind all this and I got to salute them
From novice to maestro, how has your Passion evolved through your journey?
Alex: So I was more hands-on in the sense I was more in the grow room now with being a director, my passion has evolved more I would say to the global industry of Cannabis. My passion is truly now to help the industry move forward, stop the stigma, because we can't negate the fact that there's still a very present stigma around cannabis.
What are the guiding principles of Origine Nature, and how do they shape your daily cultivation journey?
Alex: So with Origine Nature it was a natural fit. We really sat down and figured out what our core values are. So street smarts, passion, family, and social consciousness. So a lot of businesses are gonna try to invent themselves an identity, but if you invent it and you're not living it, it doesn't work. We actually sat down, figured out what we were and we lived. Those core values are how we do business, what we promote, what we hire on, and so we live them to the max. Then those four core values just grew bigger and bigger with the business. We started out being 15 people, we're now 86. We have a 5% turnover rate only, because we take care of our people. We love our people. We do so much for them. We've been awarded the 45th greatest place to work in Canada, also. So that's the secret of Origine, and that's how we grew. We believed in the people. They're the experts doing the job, so they're the ones telling us what they need. The information comes from bottom up at Origine, and not up down. So that's where we really found our expertise. That's how we were able to grow. And with those people that are solidly involved in Origine that believe in the dream with us, well, that's how we can do our best work. And that's how we were able to really produce the right amount of cannabis, never producing more cannabis than what we could sell and making sure we kept being profitable to grow at the right pace. We also took the time to crawl, walk, run. We could have started off right away with 50,000 square feet, but we started off with 25. So we really wanted to establish ourselves. We also took the time to learn about our customers, which are mostly Quebecers and British Columbians, and we really released products and brands that were within their indicated identity. So we strongly respect the consumer. We're always promoting information sharing, knowledge sharing, getting together to become better, to become stronger and to alleviate some of the restrictions on the cannabis industry.
In the context of the industry and your professional journey, how would you define the significance of the cannabis plant?
Alex: Cannabis for me is the plant that could possibly save the world when we're talking about other things than simply the recreational consumption, THC, CBD. There's thousands of cannabinoids. We can do soil decontamination with it, biofuel, textile, and so on. So as a species where we are right now in this era on earth, if cannabis has the potential, I would say, to save us, bring us to, I would say, the next generation of humans and the next era of civilization. So that's what we're fighting for and that's what we wanna see.
Since our last interview, in what ways have your cultivation methods and expertise advanced?
Alex: So we've really owned in on our art, in the sense that there's growing, and there's growing, I would say, for the utmost quality, and there's growing on the commercial level with techniques that are scalable. So we really had to understand how to produce a product that would be consistent time and time again and that every time one of our consumers would buy an Origine Nature product, they would have exactly what they're expecting from within the range of cannabinoids they're expecting, with the taste they're expecting. So it was really being able to recreate a very consistent chain of operations that delivers product quickly to the store so it remains fresh.
Earning GROW Opportunity's Top Grower title, how does it resonate with the young, budding Alex from his early cultivation days?
Well to be honest it's almost a culmination I would say. I'm the lucky new generation. I was lucky enough to get all the OG's, all the old guys that actually took a liking to me and they basically brought me up. So for me it's a little bit like cementing my position as the newcomer with the big guys out there that were nice enough to teach me everything. And today I stand on their shoulders looking this good, right? I was also lucky enough to have the right friends, like CANNA that were there supporting me throughout my whole career. They believed in me. So that's what led me to be Canada’s Top Grower. So for me, it's just cementing everything we've been working on, and I'm just the face of it. I'm just lucky enough to be that face.
“By no means do I deserve this by myself. It's really a group effort.”
What's your next big green dream?
Alex: I would like, I say, to maybe get more involved as far as taking out the stigma. So doing more education, doing more panels to a wider audience, not just staying within the cannabis community. So maybe doing a transition to conferences where it's not a cannabis conference to really educate the general public more. We want to spread more internationally. Canada right now is in a very nice position as far as cost of operation for high quality flower. We can become the cannabis hub for the world. We can supply high quality flower for most of the world that's about to legalize and we need to cement our point, we need to cement our expertise and we need that recognition worldwide so that's what we're striving for.
From nurturing the soil, conditioning the plant, to team collaboration & industry movements, how important is consistency in shaping success?
Well it is the key, so you need to understand that cannabis is a plant that can react a lot to everything that's environmental or outside stimulus right? So to truly understand what you're doing, you first need to have an ultra stable grow room. No variation in climate, no variation in temperature, no variation in fertigation. And from there, once everything is absolutely stable, then you can try doing slow tests. There's a lot of stuff that you think is confirmed knowledge that's actually pro-science that was never truly confirmed in the form of a case study. So a lot of the information out there is often either badly explained or linked to other events that's not necessarily correctly understood. So if you don't have the right setup you can't grow a product that's consistent. And the other reality is cannabis consumers, just like any consumer of any product, when they're buying something, they expect to get the same every time they buy the brand. If you have a variation, it's like if you were buying a cheeseburger and one out of two times you don't have cheese. And it's not a cheeseburger anymore, right? Well, that's the whole concept. If you don't have consistency, how can your consumers start trusting you? And if there's no trust, how can you evolve in this industry to grow to be bigger, better, and please more people? So you need to build that lasting trusting relationship that starts with having the right product in the bag and no deception when they open that bag.
“If you don't have consistency, how can your consumers start trusting you? And if there's no trust, how can you evolve in this industry to grow to be bigger, better, and please more people?”
With the launch of the R&D department, what milestones or innovations are you most eager to pursue?
Alex: So we're working a lot on pheno hunting, trying to find the right phenos for the consumers. We're doing a lot of organoleptic testing, so I'm really trying to isolate some minor cannabinoids. Really, it’s the same concept as having a consistent grow room, having consistent data on consumption experience that's not just revolving around people that I would say are heavy consumers. When we look at a cannabis flower, it's a composition of terpene, flavonoid, cannabinoids, and so on, but what are they doing exactly, what's the entourage effect? So I really wanna dig a little bit more into that, because the reality of things is, for me, the stigma is gonna stop when we have a wide application of medical use for cannabis.