Technology and Challenges in Cannabis Extraction
As an extraction innovator and the company that pioneered the use of CO2 extraction for cannabis plant material, Eden Labs is a leader in the world of cannabis extraction technology. Over the past 20 years, they’ve developed a range of extraction and distillation systems that support the production of everything from cannabis oils to organic pesticides. In the cannabis industry, their mission is to help their customers create clean, efficacious products whilst helping to enhance the legitimacy of the industry.
To find out more about Eden Labs and their cannabis journey, we spoke to their CEO, AC Braddock.
Jack Rudd (JR): Could you provide us with a quick history of Eden Labs and what led you to your current involvement in the cannabis industry?
AC: Eden started back in about 1994 with our founder, Fritz Chess, doing experiments on different kinds of botanicals. From those experiments, he developed equipment based on problems he would run into in getting the right kind of extraction to allow him to get the product he wanted. That’s where our roots lie and that’s what we still do. Everything is based on R&D and product development. We build systems to solve real-world problems and support the production of great extracts. We're pulling the industry along from a product development standpoint, and from our political involvement.
We do all kinds of research on different products. We just helped to develop an organic pesticide for a company that's supplying a large organic farming co-op out on the East coast. We were able to solve their product problem. They'd tried labs all over the world, but we were able to figure it out, and from that, we built a custom system for that product.
We were drawn to cannabis because it is a unique plant material. It doesn't act the same way as other plants do during the extraction process, at all, which is really cool. It doesn't like to be separated molecularly, it's difficult to fractionate out cannabinoids in the process. There've been a couple of companies who have put existing units into the cannabis industry, and they just don't work well. Ours have been developed with cannabis in mind since 1996.
JR: Do we understand why we have these particular challenges with cannabis?
AC: Well, it's extremely resinous and very complex. Research suggests that there are over 400 cannabinoids and terpenes in the plant. Then there’s the tendency in current science of having to produce whole plant extracts. Personally, I think, it's very intricately combined. The trend for whole plants of all kinds and this plant have come together at the same time in our history. As it doesn't like to be molecularly separated, we can do a really good terpene fraction, and we can get almost pure THCA from a Hi-Flo CO2 system. But, to separate out just fats and waxes, and just terpenes, and then another fraction for cannabinoids in line - cannabis just doesn't do that, where other plants do. There are a lot of companies that came in and thought, we're chemists and PhDs, we can come in and everything's going to be fine, it's going to work like this. They found out that it doesn't.
We were the only people doing CO2 with cannabis from 1996 to 2012. We built the space. There are many people who have come in, and we're watching some of them fall off because they haven’t taken the time to understand the plant and the product development involved in it. They just thought they could throw the plant in a machine they made, and it would do what they thought, and that's not the case.
JR: What sets your systems apart in the cannabis extraction market?
AC: We're an R&D company focused on product development. Our entire team are nerdy, science-y types, and problem-solvers. That makes our customer service and systems incredible because they're fast, they are reliable, they're efficient, they're easy to use. They're made specifically for the products that our customers are trying to produce, it's not the other way around.
We're not equipment manufacturers who just put equipment into a place and wonder what's going to happen. We know going in, when we introduce a product, it has been developed for that use. We use the highest quality materials we have multiple return clients because we make their experience easy. We solve problems for them.
JR: As an R&D company are you continuously looking to improve your systems?
AC: Oh, yes. I am challenged, as the CEO of this company, to keep the founder of this company and our chemists from wanting to do more. I mean, that's just how they're wired. They're constantly coming up with new ideas, new techniques. I'm like, you know, we have to produce things. But yes, the founder of the company was the kid who always won the science fair. His brain never stops, ever, and he's constantly thinking about new ideas. He's one of those people. I am extremely fortunate to be alongside somebody who's so in tune with and so good at, one thing, and not really interested in a whole lot of other things. His focus is unparalleled, it's amazing to watch. I feel extremely fortunate to be able to work with this team of people. And especially him, because it's not something he's been asked to do and not something he does nine to five. It's just who he is.
JR: You have a real interest in providing consumers with high-quality extracts, and that's one of the big drivers behind making your instrumentation and systems as good as possible. Why is that?
AC: Well, both the founder's and my drive come from providing humans with whole plant medicinal solutions. Cannabis is helping to promote the natural products, herbal therapy, and organic food industry. I recognized in 2009 that the only way that cannabis was going to become legalized was with healthy, clean, safe medicinal products, States in the U.S. were legalizing on a medical platform, so we gave up promoting other solvents. As a company, we also do hydrocarbon systems, but we gave up promoting those in the cannabis market. We only focused on CO2 and ethanol, so that a high-quality, safe product could be produced. So, the industry could grow responsibly giving the industry a fast track to legalization on a medical platform.
JR: You recognized early on that the hydrocarbon solvent route was just not appropriate for the industry?
AC: Well, I believe that was true at the time, mostly because a lot of it was black market, underground. There are now systems that are safe to use, but the media was annihilating concentrates at the time. They were making it seem dirty, black market - they were throwing all concentrates into that basket. We were never going to move forward to legalize just on flower. It wouldn't happen, there had to be concentrates. There had to be a pure, near pharma grade products that were made safely and could be safely consumed.
JR: That’s the way that it has panned out, and concentrates are now incredibly popular products and demand is still growing, right?
AC: Yes. Now we can start getting a better understanding of the endocannabinoid system and the entourage effect, which we believe requires a high-quality product. You're not going to get that in a distillate, for instance. You're able to separate out a compound, one molecule, but then you don't have the terpenes, you don't have the other cannabinoids.
The real cutting-edge science is whole plant and understanding how all those compounds work in combination with each other, to treat individual people. Eventually, we think we're going to be seeing cannabinoids being used like supplements, to fill voids in our endocannabinoid systems to achieve homeostasis for health and wellbeing.
AC Braddock was speaking to Jack Rudd, Managing Editor, Analytical Cannabis.