GARDAI have uncovered another cannabis factory house -- the 16th find in just three months.
And officers believe the number of "grow" houses being set up around the country is on the increase since most of the nation's head shops were shut down by government legislation.
The latest discovery was at an isolated house on a stud farm in Co Kildare.
It brings the street value of herbal cannabis seized to an estimated €4.5m since a special garda operation, codenamed Nitrogen, was resumed on July 27.
Officers made the find of 500 plants at Mylerstown, Carbury, on Sunday and the seized cannabis is worth €200,000 on the street.
There were no arrests during the house search, which was carried out by local gardai, but follow-up inquiries were continuing last night.
Last week members of the garda national drugs unit and personnel from the Wicklow division raided another "grow" house on a stud farm in Ashford and found plants with a potential street value of €500,000.
The Mylerstown property, which had been rented out for the past three months, had been converted into a sophisticated cannabis factory with elaborate lighting and irrigation systems.
Officers are satisfied that the organisers had already managed to remove one crop of cannabis from the house and this is expected to fetch between €180,000 and €250,000 when sold.
The second crop was under way when gardai raided.
Officers said last night that the organisers now appeared to be moving away from urban locations, such as the big "grow" house found in Grangewood, Rathfarnham in south Dublin, to more isolated areas.
They are focusing on property owners, who are anxious to generate rental income, and present the owners with false documentation when negotiating a rent.
They are renting out the houses at up to €2,000 a month and spend another €2,500 on setting up while "gardeners", who keep regular watch on the cannabis, are being paid an average of €100 a day although some are reckoned to be commanding €1,000 a week.
Gardai last night warned property owners that the profits they were likely to make from renting out the premises would be severely dented by the cost of refurbishment afterwards.
They pointed out that the cannabis left a strong pungent odour on the walls while the huge surges of electricity necessary for full growth also caused major damage to wiring.
Tell-tale signs that rented houses were being used by cannabis growers included condensation on covered windows, uncut lawns, plastic pots scattered around the grounds, the electrical hum generated by the filtration system and evidence of tampering at electricity meters.
- Tom Brady Security Editor
Tuesday November 02 2010
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Gardai find 16th cannabis factory in three months