New name and new board for high-flying cannabis company

One of the most recognisable names in the Kiwi cannabis industry has changed. Hikurangi Cannabis has rebranded to Rua Bioscience as it turns to focus on the growing opportunity in the global cannabis market.

The company’s original name was derived from the umbrella group Hikurangi Enterprises, established to create sustainable economic development on the east coast.

“The name Hikurangi needs to remain with Hikurangi Enterprises and our whanau living in the shadow of the mountain,” chief executive Manu Caddie said.

“With the company poised to enter international markets, the time is right for it to have its own name, Rua Bioscience, which will carry it into the future and can flex with the company as it evolves.

“Rua references the company’s home and roots in Ruatoria. Bioscience underpins the company’s focus on bringing together worldleading expertise in plant genetics and science to create unique, highvalue pharmaceutical products derived from indigenous innovation.”

Auckland-based, independent ad agency Special Group developed the branding, which isn’t the only change within the business.

Independent chairman Trevor Burt has been appointed to lead the now fully finalised board.

Burt arrives with a strong agricultural track record, having served in global executive roles and on the boards of PGG Wrightson, Landpower, Silver Fern Farms and Market Gardeners NZ, and chair of Lyttelton Port and Ngai Tahu Holdings.

Joining Burt on the board is independent director Anna Stove, who formerly worked as the general manager of GlaxoSmithKline NZ and has more than a quarter of a century in pharmaceutical experience.

The board also includes Hikurangi co-founder Panapa Ehau, finance and equity businessman Brett Gamble, and marketing and retail expert Martin Smith.

Panapa Ehau & Manu Caddie founders of Hikurangi Cannabis, now known as Rua Bioscience

Caddie made room for Stove by moving from his director role to focus on his responsibilities as CEO, while former board member Fang Liu was replaced by Gamble.

Rua Biosciences has 21 staff. As with all NZ businesses operating in the cannabis space, Rua Bioscience is still in the pre-profit phase in anticipation of a regulated medicinal market coming in next year.

An amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Act was passed by Parliament in December and submissions on how medicinal cannabis should be regulated closed this year. The law changes are now expected to come into effect early next year.

“You have to ignore the hype and get on with the hard mahi required to be in pole position when we get the green light from the regulators,” Caddie said.

He would not offer further detail on his long-term estimates on when the business might turn a profit, but he did say he sees a wide range of local and global opportunities ahead.

“Over the past 12 months the business has been focused on laying the solid foundations to build a resilient, sustainable, fully integrated business with multiple, diverse revenue streams within the medicinal cannabis sector,” he said.

“We are linking to a high-performing investment and innovation ecosystem from genetics and cultivation technology, to research, manufacturing, product development, pharmaceuticals and marketing.”

Burt admitted there were always challenges with starting a new business, particularly in an industry that didn’t exist before.

“There’s no blueprint for entering a sunrise industry,” he said. “But there is a blueprint for building a sustainable, long-term business. It starts with getting the foundations right, with good governance and good strategy.”

The local cannabis scene has already become inundated with numerous players, but Burt said the real competition for the business comes from the global market, which is expected to be worth more than $100 billion by 2026.

“New Zealand has an excellent heritage in horticultural IP, where we have taken a global leadership position in plant genetics and research to create unique high-value products,” Burt said.

“This company is looking to replicate that excellence in cannabis cultivars to create innovative new health products that carry the highest pharmaceutical-grade certification.”