One of the most recognisable names in the New Zealand cannabis industry has changed.
The Hikurangi Cannabis company has officially rebranded to Rua Bioscience as it turns to focus on the growing opportunity presented by the global cannabis market.
The original name of the business was derived from the umbrella group Hikurangi Enterprises, which was 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 world-leading expertise in plant genetics and science to create unique, high-value pharmaceutical products derived from indigenous innovation."
The new branding was developed by Auckland-based, independent creative agency Special Group, and it isn't the only change to have occurred within the business.
The company has also announced the appointment of independent chairman Trevor Burt 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 as 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 over a quarter of a century in pharmaceutical experience.
These two appointments complete a board that also includes Hikurangi Co-Founder Panapa Ehau, finance and equity businessman Brett Gamble, and marketing and retail expert Martin Smith.
Caddie made room for Stove by relinquishing his director role to focus on his responsibilities as chief executive, while former board member Fang Liu was replaced by Gamble.
Caddie wouldn't reveal how much each of the directors are paid but did say the remuneration was in line with Institute of Directors market rates to attract "high-quality governance talent".
According to the 2019 Institute of Directors fees report, non-executive directors in companies with fewer than 50 employees earn on average $33,000 while non-executive chairpersons earn an average of $44,000.
Rua Biosciences currently employs 21 staff.
As with all New Zealand businesses operating in the cannabis space, Rua Bioscience is still in the pre-profit phase in anticipation of the launch of the regulated medicinal market 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 earlier 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.
Caddie 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 last 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."
Chairman 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."
While the local cannabis scene has already become inundated with numerous players, Burt said the real competition for the business comes from the global market, which is expected to be worth over $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."