Pepsi Cola used to tout its brand as being for "The New Generation." That is certainly true with the reuse plan for an abandoned Pepsi factory, that is being turned into a massive marijuana grow operation.
Doyen Elements, a holding company that leases real estate properties out to legal cannabis companies, bought an old bottling plant in Pueblo County., Colorado. Upon completion in 2019, the facility could potentially produce up to 70,000 pounds of marijuana flower a year.
According to a recent report in Forbes, the company is one of a growing number of real estate investment firms that are making money in legal weed without actually touching the plant.
Pueblo, once an economic center of the state's plains, has struggled to recover from the steel-market crash of 1982. Its unemployment rate, at 7.2%, ranks among the highest in Colorado.
The booming legal marijuana industry could save the area from further devastation.
Since the first dispensary opened in Pueblo County in 2014, cultivation facilities, infused products manufacturers, and over 100 retailers have created more than 1,300 jobs in the industry. In 2015, more than one-third of construction projects there were tied to weed.
Pepsi used an air filtration system that sucked carbon dioxide out of the air. Thompson said the same technology can be used to inject CO2 in the grow rooms and feed the marijuana plants, improving yield up to 30%.
Doyen Elements also plans to team up with a robotics company in order to bring in robots capable of uprooting marijuana clones — or plant cuttings used for cannabis breeding — and sending them on a conveyor belt to their destination. The work is ripe for automation.
Thompson, a serial entrepreneur who has worked in real estate and financial services, said Doyen Elements will assist in all operations — without ever touching the plant.
Over the last year, the company has acquired 16 small businesses across real estate, logistics, consulting, financial services, R&D, and green technologies, to help marijuana growers who lease.
Marijuana has full legal status in Colorado, but it remains a controlled substance on the federal level.
Doyen Elements wants to capitalize on the fast-growing market without dealing directly with the Schedule I drug. It hopes to someday list on the New York Stock Exchange.
"We like to say we can do everything for [legal cannabis operators] other than me physically going in there and trimming plants," Thompson told Business Insider.