WORK has been completed on the build of Scotland’s first medical cannabis production farm.
Hilltop Leaf, the firm behind the facility, contracted CambridgeHOK for the construction of the multi-million pound glasshouse at an undisclosed site in the hills of the Borders.
The build took four months in total to complete, with many challenges being overcome in the process – including 70,000 tonnes of stone being transported to the secured location in January in order to level out a site in the hills to build the facility.
CambridgeHOK worked alongside long-term partners and Dutch glasshouse specialists, Havecon. Both firms are members of Atrium Agri, a global consortium of horticulture specialists and companies whose expertise is brought together on such large scale projects.
With construction work now complete, CambridgeHOK is aiding Hilltop Leaf to develop the ideal environment inside the facility to grow and supply cannabis medicines to the UK market.
Noel O’Leary, sales manager at CambridgeHOK, said, “It has been challenging given the secluded, isolated location of the facility, and the weather conditions given the time of year we started, but then again a new challenge is always something we are willing to take on.
“The initial weeks were very tough when we were getting all the equipment and stone to site. We were battling some harsh conditions, and lots of snow which even prevented cars getting to site. We had trucks delivering materials being pulled by diggers. It was a real team effort though and the client was very helpful at all times.
“We’ve essentially built a large glasshouse in the side of a mountain, but as ever our teams demonstrated excellent planning, organisation, problem solving abilities and no lack of skill in ensuring this 1.1 hectares facility was constructed on time, in budget and ready for the client to push on with their ambitious plans.”
The project was backed with £690,000 in support from the South of Scotland Enterprise, and a further £45,000 from Scottish Enterprise to fund the beginning of construction. The owners have also successfully raised over £2 million through a government enterprise investment scheme.
Hilltop Leaf was launched in 2019 by Hamish Clegg, a former investment banker, and agricultural experts Neil and William Ewart. Mr Clegg says the company has had lots of support, and sees it as an opportunity to create jobs and a successful business in a newly emerging industry.
Mr Clegg commented, “I want to help build the UK medicinal cannabis industry and be one of the early movers in that. We’re not in it for a quick buck. We have the desire to contribute to the scientific development of medicines to help people in this country. We feel that as a medicine, cannabis and cannabinoids are very under researched and under explored. The NHS hasn’t adopted cannabinoids as a widespread source of product for patients yet, but I think that’s developing.
“There’s also a big unemployment problem in the south of Scotland and there are many healthcare demands in that part of the country that could be helped by introducing medicinal cannabis as a clinical option. We have tonnes of local support. The community, Councillors and local MPs all wanted to build a medicinal cannabis business in the area we are in. We hope to be a big employer and someone who’s developing the local community in an environmentally friendly way.”