Weekly Regional Business Intelligence

Written by Kieran Delamont, Associate Editor, London Inc.

Motif Labs expands operations with new London facility

Aylmer-based cannabis oil producer Motif Labs is expanding operations with the addition of a manufacturing, distribution and packaging facility here in town, citing “surging demand” for its cannabis 2.0 products. The facility will comprise a 75,000-square-foot site that, when combined with its existing Aylmer production, will allow Motif to triple its current shipment capacity and quadruple its hydrocarbon extraction capacity. The new facility will also allow them to expand further into infused pre-roll manufacturing. While Motif isn’t divulging the exact location of the new facility for security reasons, it said it is located close to major transportation hubs and has the necessary capacity to ship two to three million units each month. “The initial $1.5-million investment sets the stage for further expansion,” the company said in a press release. “The facility is purposefully selected and built to accommodate Motif’s growing needs, with ample space for future expansion, scalability, and installation of flexible automation.”


The upshot: It’s a bit of a growing-up moment for Motif, which has quietly become one of the stronger companies within the Canadian cannabis sector, particularly as they’ve moved more into in-house brands over the last couple years. “We have outgrown our existing facility,” said Motif CEO Mario Naric (pictured in file photo). “This space empowers us to grow our core manufacturing capabilities and deliver on the increasing demand for products from our top-selling brands…with increased manufacturing output, Motif will expand the total addressable market we serve.” 

Read more: Motif Labs

City to get first large-scale OTR conversion

One of London’s largest residential developers is teaming up with the city’s largest housing non-profit, along with the Anglican Diocese, on a $20-million office-to-residential (OTR) conversion project in the downtown core. Sifton Properties will work with Homes Unlimited and the Anglican Diocese of Huron (which owns the land) to convert 195 Dufferin Avenue (pictured) into 94 residential units ― 80 one-bedrooms and 14 two-bedrooms apartments ― with 40 per cent of those offered as affordable units. “It’s a great opportunity,” CEO Richard Sifton told the London Free Press. “This is new and it is different. It is not easy to change the classification of a building.” Sifton has been relocating its other commercial tenants over the past year or so to prepare the building, which is being donated to Homes Unlimited, which will ultimately manage the property. “The building will be totally reimagined and it will be very striking,” said Homes Unlimited’s VP Jim Foote. “It is an exciting project and a fantastic site.” The units will be built with affordability in mind, Sifton said, as they aim to inject housing into the lower-price end of the spectrum.


The upshot: OTR projects have been all talk and very little walk over the past couple years (it makes for timely housing strategy headlines, but developers will tell you the logistics and costs associated with large-scale conversions are often prohibitive), so kudos to Sifton and its partners for getting a project like this getting off the ground. “We did some layouts to ensure the feasibility, and then we approached the partners,” Sifton said. The announcement got a predictable thumbs up from Mayor Josh Morgan, who has made OTR a part of his housing strategy (the project developers are in talks with the city about tapping into a previously announced $10-million OTR conversion grant program to finance office conversions). “We have a desperate need in our community for more housing of all types, and the speed at which this proposal appears to be moving reflects that. It’s admirable and deeply appreciated,” Morgan told CBC News London. Construction is planned to start next year. 

Read more: London Free Press | CBC News London

RHA Ventures invests in harvesting robotics firm

Venture capital firm RHA Ventures Inc. has announced another investment in the agri-tech sector. It is investing in Harvest Corp Technologies, a Tillsonburg-based company focused on robotic harvesting technologies. Its flagship tech is a robotic asparagus harvesting machine, which the company said will be demonstrated this summer and launched commercially in 2025. “We are thrilled to support the Harvest Corp Technologies team in their mission to help farmers harvest their crops more efficiently,” said Joe Dales, an RHA Ventures founding partner. “Their innovative robotics systems, driven by advanced technologies, align perfectly with our vision of investing in disruptive ventures that have the potential to make a profound impact on feeding the world.” Rick Derycke, founder of Harvest Corp, said the investment “not only validates the significance of our technology but also supports us to commercialize at an accelerated pace.” The company added that it will be part of the AgRobotics Working Group Laboratory at The Grove at Western Fair.


The upshot: It’s another in a growing portfolio of agri-food tech investments for RHA Ventures ― and a timely one at that. The asparagus farmers of Norfolk County, not far from where Harvest Corp is based, will likely be eager to see more from the startup ― many have struggled with labour shortages over the past couple of years, and the horticulture sector is likely to see tighter labour this season with the feds reducing the availability of temporary foreign workers, many of whom were employed in the labour-intensive work of harvesting asparagus. 

Read more: RHA Ventures

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Westdell Developments unveils residential plans for White Oaks Mall

After purchasing the property last August, Westdell Developments has submitted a proposal for a residential development project at White Oaks Mall. The developer wants to build two large towers, 32 and 30 storeys respectively (pictured in rendering), in unused parking space on the mall property, comprising 568 housing units. The new towers would offer a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments (Westdell hasn’t determined if they will be condominiums, rental units or a mix of both). The proposed towers would face Bradley Avenue at the corner of Wellington Road and would replace the aging ― and somewhat unattractive ― parking garage currently on the property. The proposal has the preliminary support of local councillor Elizabeth Peloza. “It’s a large change to the area, but people love White Oaks and many of them want to age in place in their community,” she said. “It’s the first new apartment building we would have seen in this area for 30-plus years.”


The upshot: If approved, this will be the first step in a much larger housing development vision for Westdell. Its planning vision suggests another 32-storey tower, as well as six others of between 12 and 30 storeys planned over the next 30 years, for a total of approximately 2,100 units on the site. Similar plans to add residential components to shopping mall sites have been floated by Masonville Place and are ongoing at Westmount Commons, and the city seems to see the potential for intensification on these types of property. “As the city continues to grow, and as we continue to address our housing concerns, these types of applications are going to be very, very typical moving forward,” Westdell president Iyman Meddoui told CTV News London. The proposal will go to the Planning and Environment Committee in July, and if ultimately approved by council, Meddoui said Westdell hopes to break ground by early 2026.  

Read more: CTV News London | CBC News London

From the magazine: Bringing the light

He came to London as a refugee. Now, almost four decades later, Sunfest founder and Order of Canada appointee Alfredo Caxaj is set to mark 30 years of bringing the world to our doorstep.

Read more: London Inc.

Reptilia and city reach pending settlement

The city’s long, slithering battle with Reptilia (a five-year ordeal that spanned two council terms and multiple debates) appears to be over, with reports emerging last weekend that the city had reached a settlement with the rogue reptile zoo. The city took Reptilia to court last summer, after the reptile zoo in Westmount Commons (pictured is Tombi, one of its resident Nile crocodiles) opened in contravention of a municipal bylaw; the two have since been hashing out jurisdictional questions in court. But according to Reptilia’s lawyer, Michael Lerner, the two sides have reached an agreement that should put the issue into hibernation. What that agreement contains remains undisclosed at the moment. “There is an agreement in principle that is subject to confidentiality provisions. I am unable to share particulars,” Lerner told Global News, adding that they hope to have the settlement signed and publicized by the end of the month.


The upshot: We won’t know for sure until the terms of the settlement are made public, but at this point it seems unlikely that there will be any major curtailments to Reptilia’s operation, beyond perhaps shoring up some of the safety and insurance concerns; the real winners are likely those collecting the legal fees. The city’s handling of the file has looked a bit clumsy, and zoo safety advocate folks have suggested that London’s bylaw now looks a bit weak. For its part, the city confirmed that an agreement with Reptilia had been reached, but declined to comment, citing the ongoing legal matter.

Read more: CBC News London | Global News

Dispatch: April 19, 2024

A summary of recent business appointments and announcements, plus event listings for the upcoming week.

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