Photo by George Le Masurier: Turning wooden bowls on his lathe is one of Cannabis Innovation Centre Director Greg Baute’s many hobbies.
Greg Baute, the director of breeding and genetics at the pioneering Cannabis Innovation Centre in Comox, is a scientist. And that means, if you can imagine, every day he will clone plants, phenotype them, explore terpenes, take DNA samples, conduct controlled pollinations and pour over pages of data compiled by a team of bioinformaticians.
Even if you don’t know what that means, you probably envision research scientists as people who eat, sleep and breathe graphs and charts of their collected data, upon which they will apply cold logic and reason. And even a short conversation with Baute, 33, will tell you this is partly true.
He can take you quickly and so deeply down a rabbit hole of information about plant architecture, genetics, sunflowers, or even wood turning on his shop lathe, that before you realize you have no idea what he’s talking about, you had believed it all made perfect sense to you, even though it did not.
But to fully understand Baute, you need to know that there’s another, equally powerful side to his scientific mind: his imagination. He’s dreaming about what’s possible beyond existing knowledge.
And that’s what pulled the Ontario native from a good job in California back to Canada to head up the world’s first cannabis breeding and genetics laboratory.
“In the 1960s, P. Leclecq was the first person to cross wild sunflowers, and he changed the sunflower growing business forever,” says Baute, looking up excitedly from an article on his laptop that he’s using to explain genomic selection.
“He produced 30 percent higher yields … it’s something that won’t ever happen again!”
Baute says cannabis is at that same level of opportunity today. And, because of legalization, Canada is the hotbed of cannabis science.
“Somebody in the next five to 10 years will make a similar discovery and define how cannabis is bred forever,” he said. “It happens only once. And it’s just too much fun not to try.”
A family of farmers
Greg Baute was born into a family of farmers. His great-grandfather started the family farm in an area of southern Ontario where most of Canada’s F1 seed corn is grown. His grandfather also farmed. Then, in 1985, his parents started an independent hybrid seed corn company, called Maizex Seed Inc.
Maizex Seeds initially produced hybrid corn for food grade corn and Canadian food processors, and also for the US wholesale market. Later, it developed hybrids for the Canadian market and entering products into provincial trials.
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