Cherry Valley native Emily Mutch is thrilled she’s able to pursue a career in the field that she’s truly passionate about.
And, it’s icing on the cake that the 28-year-old is doing it with an emerging leader in the cannabis industry.
Mutch is the tissue culture manager at FIGR East, the Charlottetown medical and recreational cannabis production plant in the BioCommons Research Park that was once known as Canada’s Island Garden.
Mutch completed her degree at UPEI, specializing in environmental sciences. Her true passion was to be working in the sciences with plants.
“I was lucky enough to become really close to one of my professors at university and got a job right out of university in my field doing field research on a low bush blueberry farm,’’ Mutch said. “I gained lots of really good experience there on data collection and working in the field.’’
Mutch then moved on and gained even more experience working in a laboratory in the quality assurance department.
She was hired by FIGR East in June 2017, starting in the quality assurance department. With more time and more responsibility, Mutch was eventually given her present role as tissue culture lab manager.
“Tissue culturing is a form of micro propagation so propagating very small plants,’’ Mutch says when asked what she does. “It’s a form of cloning so through tissue culturing we’re able to take a very small piece of plant material where growth naturally occurs, like a little nodule section, and we’re able to take that small piece of plant material, clean it and put it into sterile media and it’s able to grow into a little plant itself.’’
And when that turns into a little plant, Mutch and her team are able to cut it into little pieces and put those back into fresh media and they’re able to grow little plants and that’s how they’re able to multiply the plants in their lab.
It’s a significant step forward for the future of cannabis production in Charlottetown.
“Right now, we’re still in ... like a research mode in the lab, still kind of perfecting all of our techniques and our procedures.’’
Scientific research like this is typically dominated by men but that’s not the case at FIGR East.
“We have women working in every department,’’ Mutch said proudly.
She also jokes that, in a way, women dominate at the FIGR East plant.
“The one thing that people should keep in mind is that this industry is based on the plants and all the plants are female plants so it can’t really be dominated by men,’’ she laughs.
While Mutch and her team perfects their research inside the plant, construction crews are busy outside helping to expand the facility to nearly 200,000 square feet.
“It’s really incredible. The amount of changes that this company has gone through since I started has been fantastic.’’
FIGR East employs about 50 people now, a number that will grow beyond 200 with the expansion.
“I got into this company at the perfect time. I’m working in the lab but I’m pretty hands on in planning for our new lab. It’s exciting. It’s a crazy industry to be in ... it’s cool being in this industry.’’
Just the facts
FIGR East is in the midst of a $35-million expansion
- The plant will hire between 100 and 200 people once the expansion is complete.
- Phase one of the expansion involves a 166,000-square-foot greenhouse and a 54,000-square-foot warehouse and processing area. It’s expected to be completed with cannabis produced by August.
- Phase two involves an additional 90,000-square-foot greenhouse for growing cannabis.
- The overall expansion project is expected to be completed by 2020. The company then expects to produce between 25,000 and 35,000 kilograms of cannabis a year, which will allow the company to supply nationally and internationally.
- The warehouse will provide space for trimming, drying, packaging, oil extraction, propagation of cuttings, storage of the final product and FIGR’s administrative offices.