Top medicinal cannabis company moves headquarters to Byron

Australian Natural Therapeutics Group  chief executive Matt Cantelo.  Picture: ANTG
Australian Natural Therapeutics Group chief executive Matt Cantelo. Picture: ANTG

Along with Hollywood superstars and wannabe influencers, the Instagram-worthy Byron Bay region is now also attracting burgeoning Australian businesses searching for a home.

Australian Natural Therapeutics Group (ANTG) – one of the country’s leading medicinal cannabis companies, which recently announced a merger with Canadian cannabis firm Asterion – is one such operator.

ANTG is in the process of moving its Sydney headquarters to a leased unit in an industrial estate in Byron Bay, where the commercial and residential property markets are in overdrive, thanks to the closure of international borders.

Founder and chief executive Matt Cantelo said Byron Bay appealed because of its proximity to the company’s medicinal cannabis crop, which is planted at an undisclosed location near Armidale, just over the dividing range. He said the unit was secured through a local agent.

Founded in 2015, ANTG produces four strains of medicinal cannabis flower and is about to start production of four oil combinations.

This year, the company was granted the first license in New South Wales to produce large quantities of medicinal cannabis oil for commercial use and signed a $92 million, nine-year deal with German company Cannamedical Pharma to export commercially-grown Australian medical cannabis flowers to Europe.

Australian Natural Therapeutics Group is moving its headquarters from Sydney to Byron Bay to be closer to where the product is grown. Picture: Getty Images

It also partners with various research organisations including the CSIRO, University of Newcastle and University of Western Sydney to study the potential of cannabis in the fight against cancer, dementia and inflammation.

Mr Cantelo, who has already made the move north, said ANTG had plans to set up medicinal cannabis manufacturing facilities in the Byron Shire, too.

Across all its sites, which include a processing plant outside Sydney, the company currently employs about 60 people.

That number is set to rise sharply after this week’s announcement that ANTG will merge with Canadian Asterion Cannabis Inc and its wholly-owned subsidiary Asterion (Australia).

Together, the companies are going to develop one of the largest renewable-powered medicinal cannabis-growing, manufacturing and R&D facilities in the world, in Queensland.

Construction on the $400 million facility on the Darling Downs, near Toowoomba, is scheduled to begin in the coming months.

Mr Cantelo said the 75-hectare facility will produce more than 500,000 kilograms of medicinal cannabis a year and create some 1000 regional jobs, “with highly trained and trainable potential employees familiar with the agricultural and horticultural sector in the area.”

The first 10-hectare glass house and manufacturing facility is due to be up and running by the end of next year, with phase two, another 10-hectare glass house and phase three, after that an additional 20-hectare one.

Mr Cantelo described the merger as a “golden opportunity” for Australia to reach its full potential in growing and cultivating medicinal cannabis and serving domestic and export markets.

“We see Australia becoming the global leader in medicinal cannabis production,” Mr Cantelo said.

“We have the gold standard in regulatory framework, depth of research and climate for growing excellent produce, but what we haven’t had to date is the option of scale. Once we get the scale we need, we will be working to ensure medicinal cannabis is more accessible to Australians.”

In coming years, Mr Cantelo expects demand to “absolutely” outstrip supply. “Through this new partnership, we will be able to expand our range to meet the growing number of conditions being prescribed by doctors.”