Cannabis extraction science has never been more important. As the industry continues to legitimize consumers are beginning to demand more than just high potency, cheap extracts. The drive for whole plant extracts and products that provide particular experiences or treat specific conditions has taken hold. But, creating cannabis products that reflect the chemical composition of the starting material or with a desired custom chemical profile is far from straightforward. To meet this need, a huge range of extraction techniques and setups are now commercially available and, debates are ongoing about which, if any, is best.
To find out more about a couple of the key cannabis extraction approaches and how extraction scientists are creating great cannabis products, we spoke to AC Braddock, CEO, Eden Labs.
JR: Our ability to accurately genotype and chemotype cannabis are developing and helping to improve our understanding of the plant. How does good extraction science tie into this?
AC: It's fascinating. I love the genetics and chemistry side of the research in this industry. Extraction plays a really important role here. Often, people don't pull all that together because they don't really understand extraction. And that is, what is in the plant? What is the material that you're putting into the system? The system and the extract are obviously limited by the material you put in but, people forget that all too often. Good extraction science plays to the desired end product and is dependent on the plant material and the functionality of the extraction system and solvent.
JR: And how can your customers be confident that they are getting the product they want to achieve?
AC: We tell our clients, on every single lot, to do an extraction on several different parameters, and to pull every half an hour, or hour, to see exactly what's coming out under a certain temperature and pressure. This way they can then utilize the extraction equipment properly. It's crucial for these businesses to be able to understand what’s going on and when to just stop the extraction. Why run it for six hours when you only need to run it for two if you’ve already got everything you are trying to get?
It's sometimes challenging to get people to think about this as a whole process, from growing through to the end product. But you know, it's changing quickly, I think. Unfortunately, most of the population has no idea. They don't even know how their own food in their refrigerator is made, where it came from, or how it was processed. That's another point we have always tried to get across from an early stage too – it's not just cannabis. It's everything that we consume. Bottom line though, our clients are able to utilize our 22 years of experience as well as current extraction technology in achieving amazing results.
JR: As you manufacture and supply both alcohol-based and supercritical CO2 extraction equipment what do you see as the pros and cons of each?
AC: Again, it's based on the product. When someone calls us up and says, we want this kind of unit... We say okay, what are you trying to produce? What's your business model, and how are you going to grow? Different solvents are optimal for different products. It's not really that there's one that's better than another, as an all-in-one. There are benefits to each of them.
The benefit to ethanol is that it's an exhaustive extraction. It will pull everything. That plant material, after it goes through one of our ethanol systems, it looks like hay. There's no smell, everything has been extracted. And, if you do a warm ethanol extraction, it'll pull all the chlorophyll and everything else. Some patients want that.
For others, they want a clear oil, and to get that, then you would do a cryo extraction with ethanol. The problem is, with ethanol extractions, typically, you lose some of the terpene profile. CO2 is the best way to pull terpene profiles. With our units, you can pull monoterpenes, which are extremely difficult to collect in any botanical. CO2 is also by far the most cost-effective method for large-scale, industrial extraction. I believe it won’t be long before the industry is going to stop talking about indicas and sativas and start to label based on the terpene and cannabinoid profile because that is what causes the effects at the end of the day.
JR: Are people looking to combine alcohol and CO2 extracts to get the benefits of both in the final product?
AC: Oh, yes. We have many clients who utilize both to create different products. Generally starting with a CO2 extraction to get a high terpene profile, and whatever other cannabinoids fall out, depending on how you run the system. Then you can stop the extraction and pull it, to save time. Then you run the rest through ethanol for an entirely different product line, and to make sure you've gotten everything out of the plant. You can also use ethanol as a co-solvent in a Hi-Flo system to speed a second stage process.
JR: What other challenges do you see your customers facing in the industry, other than selecting the correct approach?
AC: I think it's just understanding product development, it's an education curve. It's like cars, really. I mean, you want to get from A to B, but what is your reason for getting from A to B? Are you a race track driver? Are you hauling children, do you need a minivan or a bus? There's a parallel there that people need to understand, that they often don't. Not all systems are created equal and when you come at the process from the product, efficiencies are created for high-quality products with lower overheads.
JR: Do you think it would be fair to say that people get into this without an understanding of where they want to end up?
AC: Yes, I would say that's the number one issue. I think that's the edge that Eden has, as we understand this, and we know what the market needs now, and what it's going to need in the future.
JR: Finally, what are you excited about at Eden and across the cannabis industry in general?
AC: Well, I'm very excited about some new technologies that we've been doing in R&D on for a while, around terpene collection. This new technology ties into my excitement in moving forward with the industry. More and more people are starting to understand why a high-THC, inexpensive product isn't the future.
It's like saying all anybody really wants is Everclear when you're missing fine wines, and good whiskeys, and excellent tequila. They all have different effects for people and can be enjoyed in different ways. This high THC, low-cost mentality is further exacerbated by all the components of the plant that create homeostasis in our endocannabinoid system that is missing in these products. However, the level of education in this industry is growing exponentially. It’s also moving away from typical stereotypes where males under 30 are considered the target market. The market is just beginning to focus marketing on the demographics of women, and people over 50. These are obviously massive markets, and generally, women are in control of what they provide in their own households, and in their community. That push and drive for healthy products are driving what's happening now.
AC Braddock was speaking to Jack Rudd, Managing Editor, Analytical Cannabis.