The Budding Potential of Cannabis Extraction in Europe
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“There’s a huge developing market in Europe, which has created a lot of intellectually fascinating and potentially highly disruptive new technologies,” says Dr Chris Cordier, the passionate head of chemistry research at Grow Biotech, PLC, a biotechnology company developing innovative solutions to challenges within the medical cannabis space.
Providing an exclusive insight into his chemical research expertise, Cordier will be a speaker at Analytical Cannabis’ 2019 Europe Expo, which will take place in London, UK on the 12th of November. In anticipation of the event, Analytical Cannabis caught up with Cordier to discuss the cannabis extraction industry in Europe, specific extraction challenges that are currently prominent, and the future of European extraction.
European cannabis extraction
When compared to the US and Canadian cannabis industries, Europe is still very much in the infancy stage. But that doesn’t mean the possibilities aren’t there.
“I think there is enormous potential in Europe to expand beyond the now-conventional platforms of ethanol, hydrocarbon, or supercritical CO2 extractor paradigms,” explains Cordier.
“The ability to degrade plant matter in a manner that releases bioactive molecules more effectively, to apply engineering solutions to the scale-up of extraction systems, and the complete re-thinking of concepts such as the need for pre-extraction drying protocols are some of the impressive developments I’ve seen in the European extraction industry,” he continues.
Europe is overflowing with talented scientists and Dr Cordier firmly believes that by encouraging their involvement within industry settings and academia, the full potential of European innovation will be accomplished.
“The most impactful means to achieve involvement will be communication of where the state-of-the-art is in the area and what the key challenges are, both practical and economic. Courting the minds of younger scientists that might otherwise be tempting to join more established industries will be key, in my opinion,” says Cordier.
However, education in this area and obtaining the necessary information can be difficult. Especially for a scientific audience.
“There’s never enough cannabis information. I started by buying a few books on cannabis chemistry as I found much of the detail online was not directed to a science audience, but was useful for patients, users, and parents,” explains Cordier.
“Although this information was useful, it was nothing I wasn’t already aware of and didn’t help me directly as a scientist looking to move field. Few sources were providing comprehensive details of the science, the challenges facing the modernization of the industry, or the wide-reaching potential benefits to patients,” he continues.
Yet, Dr Cordier is optimistic that this information provides the general public with a good level of awareness.
“It’s not uncommon for me to meet a stranger with far deeper understanding of the chemical basis for the biological effects of cannabis than, say, university academics,” he confides.
Extraction processing difficulties and future developments
Putting the typical regulatory issues to one side for a moment, there are other challenges that extraction companies are facing, and these can be within the processing side itself.
“It might be showing my own particular concerns, but I think the drying process is one of the biggest hurdles in extraction processes. Harvesting plant matter at 80 percent water content and drying this to the 10-15 percent range is hugely energy-intensive and represents a massive financial burden,” explains Cordier.
“New technologies that are predicated upon circumventing this challenge will have a huge influence in the area. Not only will this tech reduce costs and time but will also allow large-scale growers to reap the benefits of their harvests quickly, without equally large drying and processing facilities,” he continues.
Likewise, extraction equipment and investment can prove to be a challenge, especially when considering future growth and advancement of technologies.
“Investing heavily in infrastructure and hardware makes a lot of sense when trying to hit the ground running and make some revenue quickly, but this could limit your potential for expansion or constrict your potential to adopt entirely distinct new technologies in the future. My thoughts are that the space will change dramatically over the next decade so future-proofing your operation is key,” explains Cordier.
“Collaboration with new technology companies that are thinking outside of the box is a sensible plan. This way, getting an inside look at approaches toward natural product extraction that completely rethink the known concepts can be helpful when planning ahead, both in a financial and a sustainable manner.”
“Lateral integration of new technology with current methods will, in my opinion, be more wide-reaching than designing new methods of optimizing known techniques or integrating new inventions within the current extraction paradigms,” says Cordier.
Regardless of the challenges, it’s clear cannabis extraction is steadily evolving, especially within Europe, and for Dr Cordier the future appears bright.
“In the future, as the technology in the area expands and develops, the ability to separate many of the major components to pharmaceutical grade purity will become commonplace,” says Cordier.
“Longer-term, extractors will essentially be able to take the plant apart entirely and divide it into the individual components and then pharmacologists and medical practitioners will be able to reconstitute an extract comprised of precise and entirely reproducible quantities of analytically pure samples of each cannabinoid, flavonoid, or terpene. This, in my opinion, is the holy grail,” concludes Cordier.
Dr Chris Cordier will present at Analytical Cannabis’ 2019 Europe Expo on the 12th of November at the Radisson Blu Edwardian Heathrow Hotel, London, UK. You can register here to attend.