Growing a head and going strong – 10 years of Cultiva

Date: 01.09.2017

''Last year, we introduced the patients lounges, enabling small groups of people to discuss personal issues with experts and doctors.''

In 1998 I opened my grow shop “Bushdoctor” in Vienna with the big goal to live idealism and economy at the same time. After 10 successful years, I wanted to take the next step to bring the topic hemp to a wider audience. The branch had developed impressively in Europe, so I thought that an expo would set a clear signal, that this was not just a “scene” but a flourishing economy. The congress, that was to be taking place parallel to the fair, had the aim to emphasise the message and give a platform for clarification and discussion.

The Pyramid and I have a nearly 40 year history. In former times, the expo area in the Pyramid used to be an extensive swimming and spa area with sports facilities. Where nowadays the expo stands are positioned, there used to be pool bars and where the congress is taking place, there were four tennis courts. During my years of study, I used to work there as tennis instructor. The large wellness area plus fitness centre as well as parts of the hotel are the only remainder of those times.
It was in autumn 2007, when I drove past the 42m high glass pyramid in Vösendorf, near Vienna and envisioned hemp plants growing under oodles of lamps, illuminating the sky at night. I had visited many fairs and the Pyramid seemed to be the most spectacular place to organise a hemp expo. I didn’t think twice and made an appointment with the Pyramid management to present my idea. The first meeting was a success and hence, the first expo date – 10.10.2008, was fixed. I saw great chances for the expo thanks to new markets due to the opening of Eastern Europe and the expansion of the Schengen Area.  Furthermore, Austria is pretty liberal concerning seeds and cuttings, having a relatively moderate and continuous drug policy. And as Vienna also is one of the top congress cities worldwide and Austria in general, is well worth seeing, all ingredients were at hand. So the CULTIVA opened its doors for the first time on 10 October 2008.

About 80 exhibitors took part in this initial expo and enjoyed being able to build their stands and decoration soaring up, contrary to other fairs. The management of the Pyramid was pretty surprised by the dimension of the fair, as they had been expecting just a few tables for incense sticks and no high-tech exhibition. Even though the number of visitors was moderate, it was a mind-altering experience for many of them. The management of the location constantly changed in the next years, forcing me to do a lot of persuading, to make another fair happen every year. The fair developed well and the management of the Pyramid were convinced by a healthy, growing industry and satisfied with turnover for hotel and expo. The public authorities on the other side showed a very meagre interest in the fair. I always maintained contact to the executive authorities and invited them to the expo. I even lead police offers through the first fair, introducing them to exhibitors and other participants. I can remember Marco Renda – he was the head of a self-help organisation in Canada, then – proudly presenting the licence cards of his members to the officers, who were more than surprised that Cannabis was actually legal somewhere.

In 2008, I had also decided to organise a small congress, parallel to the expo. This was an idea that some other fairs were also working on and I thought, that the German-speaking area had quite some things to say in regard to medical cannabis. I really tried to offer the visitors attractive speakers, but they showed only little interest. In the following years, other fairs had also put more effort into speeches and topics, making the congress an essential part of the expo. In the meantime, the congress has grown and will take place in the conference rooms of the hotel. Last year, we introduced the patients lounges, enabling small groups of people to discuss personal issues with experts and doctors. They were very successful and we are happy to offer even more patients lounges at this year’s jubilee congress.

The Cultiva as well as Cultiva Cannabis Congress have established their position as one of the hot-spots in the industry. When it comes to getting in touch with experts on the fields of medical cannabis, legal situation, alternative raw materials for clothing and building as well as food, the congress is the place to be. The 10 Cultiva Cannabis Congress is focusing on the much discussed and controversial topic of medical cannabis - its fields of use, the developments and findings as well as future perspectives.
The public interest is also pretty high; nevertheless the coverage in media could be better. Many editorial offices outside of the hemp industry have no points of contact with the topic. Apart from a shift in public opinion on the topic of hemp, especially regarding the medical treatment with cannabis, the business has taken up speed, too. To facilitate business networking we have come up with several special services this year. Apart from our well-known Business-Packages, we have a new business meeting tool set up for all experts and exhibitors to use and arrange meetings at the expo or congress.

Regarding the future, I can only say that I had not thought about a second expo when I organised the first Cultiva in 2008. I do not know how the situation will evolve in Europe. How will the market and demands change, if legalisation takes place? With regard to the fair – we still have the expo area in Vienna, which is suitable for fairs with more than 100.000 visitors. Maybe one day, Cultiva will take place there. There are many ideas and perspectives, but I prefer not to give it too much thought and to enjoy the time we have had so far!


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