300-plus jobs foreseen as former Nestlé plant switches from coffee to cannabis

IDP Group's Hamed Asl during an October 2016 tour of the Chesterville factory site. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

Nelson Zandbergen
Nation Valley News

CHESTERVILLE — More than 300 jobs will be created over the next three years as the former Nestlé plant here turns over a new leaf to marijuana production, says a principal with the firm that owns the 171 Main Street North facility.

In an email sent to local media yesterday evening, Hamed Asl of IDP Group Inc. explains that a job fair will be launched for “multiple different positions” once the company completes due diligence on its tentative deal with Cannabis Wheaton Income Corp.

Both sides expect to ink a “definitive agreement” within 60 days, according to last Friday’s announcement by Wheaton. The publicly-traded, Vancouver-based entity intends to invest $12-million to put an initial 100,000 square feet into pot production in Chesterville. A new IDP subsidiary, CannabisCo, would run the large-scale, legal grow operation.

Constructing the first phase will take a year to complete, he says, and will see the hiring of “roughly” 40 to 60 production employees plus 20 to 30 construction workers who will remain with the company as a ‘facility team’ for future expansions.

Asl says that training for employees will be handled in-house, and that future production will also include overnight shifts.

He also revealed that his firm currently possesses a “proprietary indoor vertical growing technology and design” capable of “much higher yields per square foot of space while increasing efficiency when compared to other production facilities currently.”

It’s among the key IDP Group advantages at the Chesterville site touted by Asl (who is otherwise very cautious about revealing details related to the technology.)  He also highlights:

  • IDP’s “in-house construction company with a ton of experience, which will carry out the build, this will allow us to be more efficient in terms of cost and speed and increase overall performance.”
  • The fact the project “is taking place within our own buildings, which we have been working in, renovating, studying and repairing since mid 2015 in anticipation for this.”
  • The former Nestlé site’s “ abundance of indoor space and industrial land for future expansion.”
  • IDP’s experience being “part of the community in Chesterville,” having “already hired local.”
  • A staff and corporate team “second to none” in their commitment; “the hard part was working and pushing hard (24/7 for the first eight months) of the project to clean up and bring the plant back to life [and] that’s already done.”
  • Indoor growing systems currently deployed at the factory that are “already being used to grow multiple different cultivars and leafy greens and will have huge future potential for indoor vertical farming for food production.

On that last point, Asl emphasizes he can’t discuss “any details in regards to the technology and the design due to its competitive and proprietary nature … when we are ready we will release more information …  in regards to this.”

Canada is rushing to supply marijuana to market with the country set to legalize recreational use of the drug on July 1.

Previously headquartered in Ottawa, office-furnishing and warehousing firm IDP purchased the empty factory building in November 2015, becoming the third owner since the world’s largest food company shut it down in 2006. The previous owner, a mortgage company, wound up holding the property a few years after Nestlé disposed of the site in a $500,000 sale to a Mississauga-based family trust. Nothing happened at the plant for the better part of a decade, although the first post-Nestlé owner did briefly lease part of the building to a local firm specializing in assembling building materials for the Nunavut Housing Corporation.

Since acquiring the factory  for $750,000, IDP has hosted a number of interesting projects within the 373,000-square-foot complex, conducted an extensive overhaul and clean-up of the facilities, and hosted the North Dundas Chamber of Commerce annual wine and cheese event in its revamped offices last September. The Chesterville site was Nestle’s first Canadian factory, specializing in production of instant coffee and chocolate syrups until the multi-national pulled out of the village in July 2006.

The IDP Group’s factory property in Chesterville, the former Nestlé plant.
Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News



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