Myrna Gillis

At Aqualitas, our dedication to quality and sustainability is what sets us apart. First licensed in 2018, we have expanded to supply both the medical and adult-use markets, domestically and internationally, with a portfolio of premium in-house brands (Reef Organic and Current), a direct-to-patient marketplace, and a research division dedicated to discovering new opportunities in the cannabis health space. As Canada’s first Clean Green Certified® cannabis producer and processor, our commitment to international organic management practices, compliance, and quality is unmatched, facilitating the distribution of our medical products across Canada and exportation to the EU, Israel, Australia, and the U.S.A.

Tell us about yourself?

I was a lawyer representing individuals and NGOs supporting persons in the vulnerable services sector with a particular focus on persons with disabilities or experiencing homelessness and or domestic violence. I saw the benefits of cannabis with my clients in relation to helping with symptom management for mental and physical suffering. Cannabis was also used as a harm reduction tool for many experiencing homelessness and addiction.

I was very passionate about cannabis access, disability advocacy, and social justice, and I felt I brought a unique and necessary perspective to the emerging cannabis industry.

If you could go back in time a year or two, what piece of advice would you give yourself?

Focus on what you do best and where you do it best.

What problem does your business solve?

We have focused on sustainability to address the adverse environmental impact of the excessive water and energy consumption and packaging footprint of the industry. We are a certified organic producer and generate the majority of our own nutrients using aquaponics (living soil and living water) without the petroleum-reliant extraction required for synthetic nutrients. We also consume less energy and water with our process than with conventional cultivation. All of our packing is sustainable and includes reused master packs, reclaimed ocean plastics, glass, and biodegradable and omnidegrable materials.

What is the inspiration behind your business?

We are inspired to do right by people and the planet. We live and work on the ocean coast as part of a world UNESCO biosphere reserve. We know the health of our planet influences the health and well-being of people. We are guided by two questions in all we do. How will it benefit the consumer and the planet? We have invested a lot of time, energy, and resources to make our product in a way that is environmentally responsible and that is of the highest quality and cleanliness without irradiation or pesticides. We do this for everyone but know our products resonate the most with consumers who share and align with our values.

What is your magic sauce?

Our magic sauce is the passion capital of our diverse and dedicated team, and our differentiation is our organic, sustainable aquaponics system. We are the only at-scale aquaponics producer in Canada, and our sustainable innovation has been recognized with a Spark Innovation Award, a Clean Tech Energy Award, and a Sustainable Technology Award. We are home to Canada’s 2020 Grower of the Year, and we were the winner of Canada’s first Cannabis Cup in 2022 for our Queen Sang flower. We are best known for our exceptional flower and have had number-one ranking products in the market for our whole flower, pre-rolls, milled products, and edibles. Our workplace is also diverse. I am one of the few women founder CEOs in Canada’s cannabis industry, and our workplace reflects diversity, with 46 per cent of our workforce women, 10 per cent BIPOC, eight per cent LBGTQ2S+, and 23 per cent persons with disabilities.

What is the plan for the next 5 years? What do you want to achieve?

The cannabis industry is very tough, with very few companies profitable. We have grown our revenue and distribution year over year since inception and are EBIDTA-positive. Our goal is to be cash flow positive in 2023 and to continue to accelerate our growth by increasing sales domestically and abroad as part of an international entity. It is our vision to be global leaders in sustainable cannabis cultivation and to elevate our brands to delight and align with the values and needs of cannabis consumers and patients. As a disabilities advocate at my core, I will continue to push for broader insurance coverage for medical patients at home and abroad to secure true access to cannabis as medicine.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?

There is no one challenge, as they are interconnected. Our biggest challenge is that up to 78 cents of every cannabis dollar are going to some level of government, depending on what province you are doing business with. Access to capital, pricing compression, a robust illicit market, excessive taxation, excessive regulatory fees, and markups are huge challenges, and we have been impacted by those things in the same manner as our peers. We have run lean and have worked hard to maintain sustainable pricing while continuing to add value to our products for the benefit of the consumer.

How can people get involved?

If you want a diverse and sustainable industry, please support companies like Aqualitas. If you are a consumer, buy our product and encourage retailers to carry our products in their stores. Retailers, we stand behind our product and promise to work with you to ensure your success and ours. If you are a medical cannabis patient, register with us as it is an honour to serve you. International buyers, we are certified and have exported around the world. Please reach out to us at www.Aqualitas.ca or call toll-free at 1833300(AQUA)2782.

Made in CA does not endorse Aqualitas or the use of cannabis products for medical or recreational purposes; this interview is merely for informational purposes. For more information about cannabis product use, speak to your medical practitioner.