Solvent-free processing is a simple concept at face value. You and your team use heat and pressure in a laboratory setting to develop a spectrum of concentrated end products for the cannabis user.
And while there are many ways to accomplish this task, there are some similarities between all successful solvent-free manufacturers – and some things that you should definitely avoid.
Efficiency is key, says Mallory Tjaden, Marketing Coordinator for PurePressure, and she’s seen how brands of all sizes can save time and money while making world-class products for pharmacies. It’s a delicate and well-thought-out process, but the solvent-free technique gives consumers the full expression of the cannabis plant and you should keep this in mind as you and your team do the day-to-day work.
DO: Develop a five-year plan with step-by-step introductions
Obtaining a processing license can be challenging in most cannabis markets, so it’s only natural that an aspiring business team would want to focus all of their energies on this task. But the brand’s long-term needs are important from the start. With solvent-free products currently recognized as the fastest growing concentrate segment in the US, your team will be keeping a close eye on short-, medium-, and long-term time horizons and plan accordingly.
“You want to know where you want to be at some point,” says Tjaden. “You want to start a lab based on where you think you will be, not where you are.”
This is also helpful when looking for investors. The market can change, but either way you have an adaptable roadmap. And this is not just a one-step process from year one to five; rather a gradual introduction of certain SKUs and brand marketing strategies. What products will you be leading with? Which products would you like to produce and sell in the third year? These are important questions for your schedule.
Plus, you will save money in the long run by growing into the equipment you buy in advance instead of gradually rewriting your business plan every year.
DO: Plan a cold room
A cold room can expand your SKU offering by providing a cool space to work and store products. You want this room to clock in at around 55 ° F or less. Your team doesn’t necessarily need a walk-in freezer to take your product to the next level.
“A cold room can make all of your processes run smoother,” says Tjaden. In fact, she adds, in many cases it is imperative. “If you are working with ice water hash and this is your end product, you really have no choice but to work in a cold room when you want that sandy texture throughout. You have to keep it cold all the time. There really is no way around it. “
Make sure you plan the appropriate space for this cold room early in your planning.
“When you go to the hassle of making ice water hash and a live rosin, people really expect a high quality product, and room temperature washing is one of the ways you don’t get product across the finish line,” says Eric Vlosky, director for marketing and business development at PurePressure.
It is even better to pack your products in a cold room, and this is especially necessary if you are packaging ice water hash. For other SKUs, packaging in a cold store is a helpful example of new best practices.
Similar to the five year plan idea, you should plan this ahead of time. Adding a cold room to your lab when you’ve already started processing is just going to cost more.
DO: Use RO water and plan suitable storage space
RO (Reverse Osmosis) water and ice are key.
Regular tap water can contain invisible elements that can bind to trichomes during the washing process. And even after the water has evaporated, these tiny elements can remain in the product. This is not good. To develop a pure ice water hash product that captures the essence of plant chemistry, clean RO water is required. The base ratio includes: ⅓ cannabis, ⅓ ice, and ⅓ water (although some hash makers have preferences that vary up to ½ ice).
It is also helpful to have a reliable storage tank on site so that you and your team don’t have to wait through the RO filtration process when working on the actual cannabis processing.
“It really depends on efficiency to make sure it is cooled beforehand,” says Vlosky. “These labs have really demanding production schedules. If you are not ahead of that, if you are behind … you are wasting valuable time. “
It’s a common theme in business, of course, and it’s no different with solvent-free: time is money. The efficiency of the soup to the nuts is crucial.
NOT: Assume that solvent-based and solvent-free processing are one and the same thing
As the cannabis market normalizes in the US and elsewhere, “concentrates” tend to fall into one big pile regardless of the processing technique that created them. Even within the solvent category, it is not common for a retailer or marketer to differentiate between butane, supercritical CO2, or ethanol techniques, let alone the wholesale distinction of a solvent-free brand.
But solvent-based processing techniques and solvent-free processing techniques are not the same, and it is a mistake to mix them up in the market.
It’s easier to set up a solvent-free lab, if only because you and your team don’t need to set up a C1D1-regulated room. Other architectural considerations for solvent-based laboratories include ventilation and storage, not to mention what the local fire department might want to add.
If you work solvent-free, don’t confuse the setup strategy with what you know about solvent-based laboratories.
DON’T: Underestimate the storage space
We mentioned earlier the importance of having an appropriately sized freezer for storing freshly frozen material. For laboratories that are part of a vertically integrated company, this is key. Harvest your plants and store the biomass immediately. You can also save ice water hash that your team has not yet used.
As the process continues, keep in mind that small storage spaces are required elsewhere in the laboratory, such as storage rooms. B. in your curing area. Make sure your team has a place to store pressed rosin before moving on to the next step.
And don’t forget about packaging solutions. Pressing and packing in a separate room that contains cardboard boxes and bins and everything needed to cross the finish line. Many solvent-free laboratories are usually small, so the number of square meters is already important in the floor plan. It is easy to overlook the required storage space and leave only enough room for a pallet of glasses, but this is a problem.
Also, plan for supply chain issues: your company may need to purchase in bulk at times. Where do you want to put everything?
All of this space is also great for smoother operations in general. Employees will find it easier to find their way around the laboratory if there is enough space to store everything they need (and a lot more). This saves a lot of time and prevents headaches. Remember, time is money.
NOT: ignore ceiling height
It is important to maximize efficiency in a finite physical space; However, many lab startup teams may overlook the importance of ceiling height. This is a two-sided coin, and it’s important to understand what your lab needs based on its vertical metrics.
Think about your cold room. If the ceiling is too high, you will pay for the extra few feet above your team’s heads. At this point you are throwing money out the window and paying for the chill area that you just don’t use. “For many of these brands this is a game of customs,” says Vlosky. “You save money on your ancillary costs and are environmentally friendly by using less energy.”
It’s all from a single source: The ceiling height plays a role in decisions that are made elsewhere in the device purchase process for your company.
“A very low ceiling in my cold room and the ability to add a pneumatic hash pump, which eliminated the need for platforms and gravity drains while not compromising the quality of a single trichome, was a major factor in my ability to expand as well to meet our growth requirements, ”says Jillian Krall, Director of Hash Production at Papa’s Select.
However, in your main laboratory area, a certain ceiling height can be good for your workflow. Extra space above can be helpful when you and your team are washing your hands and gravity draining when you want your ship to be placed on a platform with a drain down.