Pure Sunfarms CEO Mandesh Dosanjh talks highlighting local makers and carving out a niche in the competitive cannabis industry

His Delta company is one of the province's bigger producers.

His Delta company is one of the province’s bigger producers

On any career path, there are obvious jumping-off points where experience paves the way for someone to move on to the next opportunity. But rarely do said occasions occur as clearly as they did to Mandesh Dosanjh.

The Ontario native had used an engineering degree from University of Toronto to work in the supply chain department for organizations like retailers Target Corp. and Loblaw Cos. But when he joined the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, it unpredictably ended up being a springboard to running a company of his own.

Around 2016, when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was preparing to sign cannabis legalization into law, Dosanjh began visiting many of the licensed producers across the country, as many provinces turned the legal market over to their respective liquor boards.

Having led much of the work for the beginnings of Ontario Cannabis Retail Corp., Dosanjh saw cannabis companies start reaching out to him in the summer of 2018, once legalization became a reality.

He decided to move back to B.C. (he’d done a yearlong stint with Aritzia several years earlier) to serve as president and CEO of Pure Sunfarms in Delta.

“I saw a lot of similarities to what I thought would be required to build a successful cannabis company,” Dosanjh says. “Everything from the location of being Delta-based and greenhouse growing, and the ability to create the organization from the ground up.”

Pure Sunfarms only launched as a producer in late 2019, but it quickly became one of the leading cannabis brands on the market and, last year, was wholly absorbed by its parent company, publicly traded Village Farms International. It’s also made some inroads in the edibles market, offering gummies made with real B.C. fruit. 

“For me, the insight was that we wanted to be a formidable force in the industry and really do something on a larger entity across Canada,” Dosanjh says. “My belief was that being a leader in cultivation was going to be key, and we have arguably the best conditions specifically for high-tech greenhouse growing in Canada.”

So while Dosanjh certainly has his eye on the big picture as a CEO under the umbrella of a public company, he’s also looking to further establish Pure Sunfarms as the grassroots (pun intended) brand that it is.

The company’s efforts in that area led to the creation of Pure Sunfarms Marketplace—slated to launch in the coming weeks—which sees it partner with local makers to create unique products. Examples include a Grower’s Hand Soap created with Nectrous Botanicals, incense sticks from Woodlot and porcelain ash trays from artist Nathalie Paolinelli.

“It’s some really interesting artistry work that’s also going to expand with apparel sets,” Dosanjh says. “It’s exciting with the growth trajectory of where Sunfarms is heading and how it’s resonating with consumers across the country. We think this is going to be another way to connect with them and grow our story.”

That story is only getting started, according to Dosanjh. Even as Canada’s recreational cannabis industry has led to massive IPOs and grown a market worth billions of dollars, the former liquor exec says it’s just the beginning. And with Pure Sunfarms sporting some 500 employees and preparing to hire hundreds more when its second Delta greenhouse is built, it’s hard to doubt him.

“It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” Dosanjh says. “The industry is so nascent still; there’s such a long way to go. Our approach is crawl, walk, run.”