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Montgomery Co. Advances Pitch For Cannabis Production Facility At Former Beech-Nut Site

A render of the proposed E29 Labs cannabis production facility
Image provided to WAMC by Montgomery County Business Development Center
A render of the proposed E29 Labs cannabis production facility

Officials are hoping the site of the former Beech-Nut baby food factory off New York State Thruway Exit 29 in Canajoharie will soon be home to another industry: cannabis production.

Three weeks after Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation legalizing adult-use recreational marijuana in New York, the Montgomery County legislature’s economic development and planning committee on Tuesday advanced a measure that if approved by the county legislature next week, would allow company E29 Labs to pursue a lease-purchase agreement for the site.

Ken Rose, the county’s director of business development, expects the legislature to pass the measure.

“And then within a couple of weeks that purchase and sale agreement with E29 would take place and they would be able to continue to get on site and continue to do their due diligence and get their architects and engineers on site,” said Rose.

The agreement would allow E29 Labs to move forward with its vision to rehab 60,000 square feet of space on the east side of the Beech-Nut property.

“And those buildings will include cannabis cultivation, processing, laboratory, packaging, and would be part of their corporate office functions,” said Rose.

E29 Labs is the name of a company re-formed by President Sheldon Roberts, who in 2019 approached the county under the name Arouca Farms to establish a hemp processing facility. E29 was formed with Roberts, company CEO Shelley Roberts, and Vice President Michael Dundas, an attorney and entrepreneur who founded Sira Naturals, Inc., a Massachusetts-based cannabis company that was sold to a Canadian company in 2019. Dundas has served on the Massachusetts Cannabis Advisory Board since 2017.

Roberts says he shifted his vision from hemp processing to the recreational marijuana market in anticipation that New York would legalize the drug.

Roberts is awaiting New York’s formation of a regulatory body.

“And now they have to form Office of Cannabis Management, do appointees of different and various positions, and then they’ve got to roll out the applications. So, you know, hopefully that will happen sooner than later, but the timeline I would say is probably around two years before the first package goes out the door,” said Roberts.

If a license is awarded, Phase Two of E29 Lab’s plan would involve the development of up to 100,000 square feet of additional facilities, such as greenhouses.

Beech-Nut left the Exit 29 parcel in 2010. Montgomery County and local officials have been hoping to attract a company to the site since before it was acquired by the county 2018.  Millions of dollars have been awarded to remediate the site. Some local leaders have been hoping to bring in a business that would remain tied to the agricultural economy.

Roberts thanked officials he’s been in communication with over the last two years.

“Ken over at Business Development, I mean, even Mayor Baker over at Canajoharie, as well. Like, all have been supportive of this. So I have nothing but love and positive things to say about the process that we’ve been through. Those guys have been an amazing support,” said Roberts.

Arouca Farms acquired property in Canajoharie in 2018. Roberts said he plans on relocating to the Mohawk Valley if his plans for the Exit 29 site get the green light.

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