Business Name: Tantalus Labs Ltd.
Address: 595 Howe Street, Vancouver, BC
Number of years in business: 4
Company motto: “Advance frontiers”
With construction recently completed on SunLab, their massive cultivation facility in Maple Ridge, just east of Vancouver, Tantalus Labs are poised to push their mandate to “advance the frontier of cannabis through sun-grown cultivation” to the next level. Managing director Dan Sutton and creative director Alexander Close explain.
What did you and your partners do before starting this company?
Tantalus Labs was founded in 2012 in supernatural British Columbia, by a handful of agronomists with experience in tech-driven greenhouse production of forestry seedlings, tomatoes, and bedding plants. We might have a bit of cannabis experience thrown in there too. We are a team of scientists, designers, and engineers committed to cultivating world-class cannabis products in technical greenhouses. The experience we draw from technology-wise focuses on environmental monitoring, control, and automation; straddling hardware and software to give the modern grower better tools to control their outcomes.
How did you get into this industry?
Tantalus Labs was born from a realization that cannabis has been traditionally grown in suboptimal conditions. Artificial lighting within indoor environments has become industry standard due to the illicit and stealthy nature of black-market operations. As regulations change, allowing for large cultivation centers, many companies are falling into old habits and choosing to grow indoors. This is causing a large and unnecessary drain of electricity, to produce a suboptimal agricultural product. Tantalus Labs was founded to change this, and shift future cannabis cultivation into high-efficiency greenhouses.
How does your company philosophy translate to opportunities?
The initial decision that Tantalus Labs made to build sun grown greenhouse infrastructure for cannabis was one which took reasoning from first principles. We needed to uncover the fundamental truths in horticulture to end up with our beliefs. This practice has become core to our company operating philosophy. The sun-grown advantage creates substantial reduction in energy use, benefitting both the environment and our cost of production. Tantalus Labs is looking forward to producing our first crops under the ACMPR regulations this spring.
“Tantalus Labs was born from a realization that cannabis has been traditionally grown in suboptimal conditions.”
What were some of your struggles as you started the business and how did you overcome them?
Starting a business is fraught with obstacles. Some days it may seem like pushing water uphill. If there is a deep cause to why the business exists, beyond profit, you will be able to find the grit necessary to push through inevitable periods of struggle. We believe strongly in a bright, sun-grown future for cannabis, and tapping into this core reason makes obstacles seem less ominous.
How did you gain market share and recognition?
The soon-to-be-legal cannabis market in Canada is a multi-billion dollar industry. We are focused on creating the best cannabis products we can, and to share them with customers in ways that highlight our company values. If we can consistently provide products that surprise and delight our customers base, we will be able to increase our sales. We see the world through a special lens, and we have found an early community of evangelists who share our perception of the importance of a sun-grown future.
What are your company’s strengths?
Tantalus Labs has developed a culture with roots in logic and debate. From the early days with our choice to go sun-grown, a commitment to agricultural innovation is baked into our company DNA. We see this as one of our core strengths when we approach important decisions. An ability to view topics rooted in agricultural science, and to openly debate them without favorites, is a strength we work on keeping.
What are some of your proudest moments?
Each milestone that Tantalus Labs passes brings a sense pride. Finishing the construction of SunLab was no small feat, and everyone across the team felt the moment of accomplishment. Recognition for the positive change of the sun-grown movement is also a standout, perhaps best marked by Dan Sutton’s TED talk.
What significant things have you learned so far about the industry?
The cannabis industry moves quickly, and it often leads to extreme oscillation of temperaments, prices, and rules. If, as a company, we stay focused on our long game, and where we want the industry and ourselves to be in five years’ time, we can keep the vision strong. If there is a deep cause to why your business exists, beyond profit, you will be able to find the grit necessary to push through inevitable periods of struggle. Raise more money than you need, and project timelines with substantial contingency, always. The future is sun-grown. Indoor cannabis cultivation will rapidly become undesirable as consumers look to choose sustainable cannabis and producers search for production efficiencies.
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