AOAC International, an independent nonprofit standards development organization has announced the appointment of Dr. Katerina (Kate) Mastovska as their new deputy executive director and chief science officer.
Most recently, Dr. Mastovska served as chief science officer for the Eurofins US Food Division. She has been an active member of AOAC for almost twenty years, winning the Harvey W. Wiley Award in 2021, their highest scientific honor. “I’m delighted to join the AOAC staff and lead the team of dedicated scientists,” says Dr. Mastovska. “AOAC has a critical role in food safety, and I’m inspired to continue to be a part of this important work.”
AOAC International works actively in the cannabis industry through their Cannabis Analytical Science Program (CASP), a working group established in 2019 that is dedicated to developing standardized methods in cannabis testing. In the world of cannabis lab testing, AOAC International creates standards under the standard method performance requirements (SMPR®) moniker, which are detailed descriptions of what analytical methods should be able to do.
More recently, CASP launched their own proficiency testing program last year and launched their first round, shipping samples to labs across the country in the Fall.
Every objective has to have a vision and a vector of where you want to go and what you want to achieve. “Winging it” is okay for an innovative artistic endeavor where creativity is spontaneous and one-of-a-kind art is produced. Unfortunately, that is not how one creates a top-quality cultivation operation.
Customers expect guarantees of consistency; quality assurance means a purchase is safe to consume. Medicinal products around the world require Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) certification. These are really just SOPs that document repeatable procedures to guarantee that the most recent batch offers the same results as the first certified effort. This brief covers the importance of documented operating procedures for a successful grow business with high quality customer results.
Almost nobody gets excited about discussing quality, but experienced manufacturers know that quality control reduces waste and improves operations. Everyone learns that they have to implement feedback, improvement and quality control procedures to guarantee profitability and longevity in any business.
So, what is an SOP? A standard operating procedure defines ‘a task’ to be performed ‘at a location by a person or a role on a specific schedule.’ These definitions will include role definition, responsibilities, personnel training, equipment & service procedures, material handling, quality assurance controls, record keeping, approved procedures & instructions, documentation, references and appendices, all of which define your business and how it is to operate.
Now, you might ask, we are just growing plants, is all this really necessary? The short answer is, it depends. If you expect to export globally, do business in Europe and other markets, get licensed by Health Canada or some day be approved to ship to other States, then yes. If you are a regional craft cannabis supplier, maybe not, but there are many tasks that are required to grow where a better documented process can benefit your operation and the quality of the product delivered to your consumers.
We provide a bulleted list of recommendations in the full white paper but to touch on a few highlights that every operator should keep in mind, SOPs define the following structures for your business.
Personnel training is done for ‘this task, in this way’ & ‘this role is responsible’
Job descriptions reduce misunderstandings and increase worker ownership in your facility. Documenting your activities minimizes task overlap and conflicts that can lead to no one executing on something that may be important but not urgent. You want to eliminate employees thinking “I didn’t know it was my responsibility.”
Consultants or visitors must be aware of and follow the same requirements as your employees if you are to maintain the quality of your grow. Specific training should be given to anyone that handles or works around toxic chemicals. Safety sheets are not just paper; They keep people alive.
Equipment & Service Procedures
Be direct and specific in your task definitions, i.e., “Use 5ml of soap, clean until no plant matter or debris remains.”
Ideally, grow facilities, equipment and access will be designed with cleaning in mind from the start. This is not always possible but it is the mark of successful manufacturing or production companies.
Cleaning, cleaning, cleaning: think sterile, food safety and consumer consumption protections. SOPs should define cleaning methods and materials. This cleaning is done on schedule and aligned to your preventative maintenance and calibration requirements. Precise results require precise structure for any long-term operation.
We recommend that you integrate pictures and videos in the instructions for your procedures and training so that nothing is left to chance or misinterpreted.
Material Handling, Containers, Labels, Quality Assurance
Personnel contamination/cross-contamination are the death of any grow operation. Do everything you can to limit stray or wandering plant material, dust or debris from migrating from one grow room or area to another. Isolation is a good way to limit outbreaks to a specific room to minimize losses.
If something nasty happens to one of your rooms. Good labeling enforced by your quality assurance team is a simple way to increase the likelihood that employees will do a task as intended. This adds to your repeatability as people change jobs or roles are redefined.
Approved Procedures & Instructions
Quality assurance is all about repeatability and intended outcomes. Documenting procedures and intended use enables every new employee to follow the experience of the masters and duplicate their success. Testing, sampling and logging your results along the way enables you to know that you are on schedule and on process, so you can predict your results every time.
Part of your continuous improvement approach will be to deal with exceptions that are not covered by your procedures. Learning about those exceptions and capturing your experience with an improved method will lead to better outcomes the next time around.
Documentation, References, Appendices
You’ve done all of this hard work to capture your operation, so you need a complete library of your reference work and approach that employees can access. It does your operation no good if you capture your methods and no one ever looks at them again. Training cycles and reviewing your defined procedures is key to a consistent high-quality result.
Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), Good Manufacturing Procedures (GMP) and Good Agricultural & Collection Practices (GACP), are all terms that will become more familiar as cannabis production joins into one global market. Professional results will be required and national or international certifications will be the guarantees that any global customer can trust that a product meets the standards they expect.
We have many customers in North America and around the world. but DanCann Pharma is the most aggressive when it comes to meeting international standards and results. Producing flower that is so pure that no irradiation is required for export, the DanCann operation is fully certified for production throughout Europe and they are sold-out of capacity for the coming year. They are currently expanding their operations in Denmark and are a solid example to follow for a well-defined repeatable operation. FarmaGrowers in South Africa is a close second in this race with multiple export certifications of their own. The future looks bright for both of these global operations.
The Cannabis Labs Virtual Conference is back! For eight years now, we have been hosting this complimentary collection of webinar presentations, designed to help attendees better understand some of the more technical aspects of starting and operating a laboratory. We will take a deep dive into cannabis testing, potency testing, regulations, sample preparation, management and much more.
Attendees registering for this complimentary series of webinars will get access to seven veterans of the cannabis lab testing industry, who are all available for Q&A after each presentation. In addition to getting the opportunity to chat with these subject matter experts on February 21, a recording of the presentations will be made available to all who register.
Practical and educational information from experts in the cannabis lab testing industry, all on the same day and all from the comfort of your lab, home or office. Want real inside knowledge on the cannabis testing industry? Stay tuned for more and make sure you’re subscribed to our newsletter to find out when registration opens!
Potency Inflation: The Problem, the Causes and the Solutions
Sarah Otis, Quality, R&D Manager, Anresco Laboratories
Erik Paulson, Ph.D., Lab Manager, InfiniteCAL
THC potency inflation by third-party testing labs has been an escalating feature of the cannabis industry since its legalization. In California, market forces and lack of regulation have allowed potency inflation to intensify in both its flagrancy and its pervasiveness, particularly within the last year. Two third-party testing labs in California, InfiniteCAL and Anresco, discuss how the industry got to this point, the different methods that labs use to inflate potency, and steps that can be taken to combat it.
Shawn Kruger, Senior Vice President of Product & Strategy, Avivatech
The Laboratory Information Landscape in Cannabis Testing
James Brennan, Sales & Marketing Specialist, LabWare
Eugene Olkhov, Data Scientist, LabWare
This presentation will guide attendees through the data continuum in modern cannabis testing laboratories supported by various software solutions. The presenters will describe the business and regulatory benefits of laboratory informatics and system deployment options, challenges, and financial considerations.
The current flow of cannabis testing data
An overview of informatics solutions for cannabis testing labs
Laboratory informatics and regulatory compliance
The impact of digital transformation on cannabis testing data
Cannabis Testing Regulations & Implications for Environmental Monitoring
Sarah Powell Price, Regulatory Expert for Food Safety & Cannabis for North America, MilliporeSigma
Anne Connors Weeks, Senior Field Marketing Manager, MilliporeSigma
Cannabis testing requirements are continuously evolving, as are analyte detection capabilities. This presentation provides a high level overview of the latest US cannabis testing regulatory landscape and how environmental monitoring is an essential component of safety and compliance planning.
With climate and cultivation methods explored, today, we cover the third leg in the primary stool, genetics. Some would say good genetics is all that you need and anyone can be successful with good genetics. We all know that this is not experience talking. Things can go wrong, even with great genetics. Here are some inputs how to pick great genetics so you have them on your side.
Hybrids & Strains
Everything successful cultivators grow is aligned to their consumer audience. This is hard to predict as the desires in your market will migrate over time as one variety will be highly popular and poof, it’s not, so constant change is necessary. Finding the right flower at the right time is the trick.
The first thing to decide in your pursuit of the ideal phenotype (or pheno-hunt) are your target customers. Assuming you’ve made the choice to go “top-shelf” for aeroponic or hydroponic flower, your variety selection comes down to filial breeder seeds or stable strains from suppliers you know.
Filial hybrids are developed by professional breeders. Two distinct inbred strains are repetitively crossed until their traits are highly consistent. At this point, these carefully inbred lines are crossed to selectively mix the two well defined sets of traits. Filial hybrids are stable and you can usually rely on the robust nature of these seeds.
Strains, on the other hand, are the cross of two strains but they may not be inbred stable filial strains. Sometimes this results in something amazing, but just as randomly, the traits can morph into something disappointing.
Our advice here is to pay the premium and start with high quality reliable stock.
Consistency? Will you grow one variety or multiple varieties per room and per harvest; will they grow well together? Do they grow and test out in a consistent manner (plant size, color, bud size & yield, tested terpene profiles, aroma, disease resistance or tolerance). Are you growing for top shelf flower or bulk extraction? I will focus this discussion on top shelf flower. Premium seeds from professional filial hybrids are not a guarantee, but they are designed to be stable and consistent in their growth and results targeting high performance.
Here, experience counts and reliable seed vendors tend to be well established with filial lines that are worth the investment. Once you acquire your genetics, how to leverage that investment?
What traits does your consumer want? Initial searches usually target THC or CBD levels and they evolve to special terpene profiles or pleasing aromas. Flower or bud shape, color, size, density, and stickiness are also traits that can differentiate your genetics. As a producer, you also want to target yield including tall or stretching genetics, or short and fast flowering, germination rates (sometimes they don’t) and percentage of likely hermaphroditing (seldom zero). The qualitative aspects (smoking characteristics) of your production flower that deliver a unique customer experience, both real and imagined, wrap up your brand experience.
So, as you can guess, one size does not fit all types of consumers. Very high yielders that are immediately targeted for extraction offer very different values than perhaps a smaller yielding very potent top shelf smokeable bud. It is a good strategy to plan for a handful of strains that you can bring to market so you have something that will hit the sweet-spot when you deliver your harvests.
Seeds with documented guarantees from reliable sources eliminate the characteristic risk, and with the right testing reports, they guarantee no pathogens as well.
The challenge of seeds can be genetic variation, as discussed above, depending on the stability of the commercial breeder. This potential variance can lead to surprises and disappointment. Starting from seed also takes more time to germinate the seeds, exterminate the males, grow mother plants, take cuttings, and start the cycle. This can add 12-16 weeks to your go-green targets for your flower rooms. Be sure to integrate this cycle time planning into your production cycle.
Insourced clones are the fastest way to go green and move through veg to produce flowering plants and bud harvest. Clones are created by taking a branch cutting from a “mother” plant and typically “rooting” that cutting using an aeroponic cloning system. This clone process can take a few days or weeks depending on the grow environment and aeroponics process. A rooted clone maintains the genetic characteristics and phenotype of the mother plant.
The typical way smaller grow shops get started is through buying clones that are made from these rooted branch cuttings. The combination of mother plants, clones, and sometimes “veg” plants are gathered together in a “nursery”. Nurseries need to be stable for long periods of time to produce the veg growth necessary for cuttings. This time delay makes it harder for the nursery provider to keep the area sterile, without disease, and without pests. If the mothers carry a disease, they are likely to transfer that biologic over to the cuttings. If the media that the clones are grown in picks up root gnats, they will travel with the clones into your facility. The short answer is source your clones from professionally run operations. This trust is worth every penny.
Insourcing clones allows you to avoid the cost and complexity of running a “nursery”, but this also moves the pest management and quality of mother stock and clones outside of your control zone. In other words, you depend on the clone supplier for both healthy plants AND availability. No clone available from your supplier means no flower in your grow rooms. Your production revenue depends on the reliability of your clone supplier in many ways.
In some grow operations, the nursery is extended to cover the vegetative growth stage of cannabis plants or “veg.” In other approaches, a flower room is occupied for an additional week or two for veg growth. We at AEssenseGrows are strong advocates of running all cloning and vegging activity in a vertical aeroponic nursery in parallel to your flower rooms
Mothers, clone, and veg stages all grow with a vegetative growth light schedule (18 hours on, 6 hours off). The typical process is to take a cutting from a mother plant, place that in an aeroponic “cloner” for 10-12 days until a healthy set of roots is formed for the cutting. That clone is then typically pinched off at the top of the plant at which point the veg stage can begin. Light intensity is gradually increased and the plants are typically vegged for an additional 2 weeks, at this point, you have a bushy veg plant that is ready for a 12/12 light cycle and flowering.
In aeroponics, all of this is done in nursery space. If you choose to use soil or grow media approaches, a series of increasingly larger buckets or rockwool cubes are needed to manage the veg stage and the transition to flower. This can be done in a dedicated veg room or for the first week or two in the flower rooms
Another method for creating your young plants is tissue culture. This is the method of harvesting genetic material from an existing plant with desired characteristics. These genetic samples can be contamination free and even supplied by a genetic bank. A portion of these tissues are cultured in a gel grow tray and the plant will develop roots with a stalk that reaches upward for light energy.
These plant starts are hardened in a similar method to cloning and typically, these starts are grown into mothers that supply your cuttings for the clone cycle. This is an advanced method, so plan for research and development with expected delays to the front end of your sourcing cycle if you choose this path.
Selecting the best genetics for your market is an art form. Many choices abound. High yielding dense classic strains are Blue Dream, Skittles, Sour Diesel and Girl Scout Cookies. Each of these deliver a typical 18%-24% THC content from fast growing, medium height high plants that yield dense buds. Very potent THC genetics that are popular currently are various “OG” genetics, Bruce Banner, various “Cake” genetics and Kush options. Variants of these run from 25% to 35% THC content.
This Chapter’s Hero Award
Every customer produces great results for their markets but we are very impressed by the genetic selections by 420Kingdom in the central valley of California. Jeffrey Thorn is the owner there and continues to impress with a range of high potency genetics that demand premium prices and sell out regularly in their highly competitive market.
With good genetics for your consumers, you are positioned to be successful. Advanced cultivation methods like aeroponics and hydroponics can give you a lift and the right environment and nutrition helps you tie this all together. Our next and last chapter will cover consistency and repeatability through Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).
Affinity Bio Partners on Working with Zelira Therapeutics to Complete Enrolment for Diabetic Nerve Pain Drug Trial
It’s an exciting time in the medical cannabis community as Zelira, a global leader in the research, development and commercialization of clinically validated cannabinoid medicines, and Affinity Bio Partners, a leading, global clinical research organization, have completed enrollment for a diabetic nerve pain drug trial. The Institutional Review Board (IRB)-approved head-to-head trial read out is expected in Q1 of 2023. Two years in the making, the study’s clinical management, clinical trial site monitoring, subject recruitment, regulatory submissions and review and query of data have brought us to a pivotal point that could pave the way for how future clinical studies are conducted in the medical cannabis community. As someone who comes from traditional pharma and biotechnology industries, heading up a clinical study in the medical cannabis realm has been a significantly different, eye-opening and informative experience that reinforces the dire need for mainstream, medical cannabis education.
Difficulties of Enrolling Subjects in a Cannabinoid-Based Clinical Study
There are a number of reasons that enrolling a cannabinoid study is very challenging. One of the biggest challenges to overcome is creating educational clinical study material that will be approved by the Institutional Review Board while educating potential subjects who are interested in enrolling. In other words, one must fully understand the regulatory landscape that they’re operating in, and we all know cannabis is a tricky one, while still educating potential subjects.
When screening subjects, it is important to be able to thoroughly share facts regarding cannabinoids, terpenes and other ingredients utilized in the study material. Also, sharing information on the endocannabinoid system is important, and a must for subjects to understand. In addition, it is integral to share and contrast between the traditional pharmaceutical products versus the cannabinoid study drug. Meaning, most subjects understand and are familiar with pills and other treatments approved in the traditional FDA regulated pharmaceutical space. Therefore, you must ensure that you create a bridge between a study’s educational materials and the lack of mainstream education about cannabinoid-based therapies.
The Impact This Will Have on Future Cannabinoid-Based Clinical Studies
There is a lot of hope that by working on a study of this magnitude, that we will pave the way for many more companies to bravely enter the clinical trial space as it pertains to medical cannabis. Everything that is being performed in this Zelira clinical study is in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations. The team is utilizing an electronic patient reported outcomes and electronic data capture system to receive data directly from the clinical trial sites as they are seeing the patients. As more patients, groups, communities and organizations learn about this, we hope that other large players in the cannabis industry invest their money wisely and perform clinical studies on their formulated products. Companies are unable to make claims of product safety and efficacy legally without these clinical studies. As we approach 2023, it is time for us as an industry to begin forecasting future clinical studies that will help power the therapeutic benefits this plant has to offer in responsible, controlled settings.
Aeroponic & hydroponic systems can operate with little to no soil or media. This eliminates the pest vectors that coco-coir, peat moss/perlite and organic media can harbor as part of their healthy biome approach. Liquid nutrient systems come at the nutrient approach from a different direction. Pure nutrient salts (nitrogen, potassium, magnesium and trace metals) are provided to the plant roots in a liquid carrier form. This sounds ideal for integrated pest management programs, but cultivators have to be aware of water and airborne pathogens that can disrupt operations. I will summarize some aspects to consider in today’s summary.
The elimination of soil media intrinsically helps a pest management program as it reduces the labor required to maintain a grow and the number of times the grow room doors are opened. Join that with effective automation with sensors and software, and you have immediate improvements in pest access. Sounds perfect, but we still have staff to maintain a facility and people become the number one source of contamination in a grow operation.
Insects do damage directly to plants as they grow and procreate in a grow room. They also carry other pathogens that infect your plants. For example, root aphids, a very common problem, are a known carrier of the root pathogen, Pythium.
One of the most common ways for pests to access your sealed, sterile, perfectly managed facilities are in the root stock of outsourced clones. If you must start your grow cycles with externally sourced clones, it is strongly recommended that you quarantine those clones to make sure that they do not import pest production facilities into your operation. Your operation management procedures must be complete. If you take cuttings from an internal nursery of mother plants, any pathogens present in your mother room will migrate through cuttings into your clones, supply lines, and subsequently, flower rooms.
Start your gating process with questioning your employees and visitors. Do they grow at home or have they been to another grow operation in the last week? In the last day? You may be surprised by how many people that gain access to your grow will answer these questions in the affirmative.
Developing standard operating procedures (SOPs) that are followed by every employee and every visitor will significantly reduce your pest access and infection rates, and hence, increase your healthy harvests and increase your profitability. Procedures should include clothing, quarantining new genetics and cleaning procedures, such as baking or irradiating rooms to guarantee you begin with a sterile facility. This is covered more in the complete white paper.
Technology is a wonderful thing but no replacement for regimented procedures. Considered a best practice, professional air showers, that bar access to internal facilities, provide an aggressive barrier for physical pests. These high velocity fan systems and exhaust methods blow off insects, pollen and debris before they proceed into your facility. From that access port into your grow space, positive air flow pressure should increase from the grow rooms, to the hallways, to the outside of your grow spaces. This positive airflow will always be pushing insects and airborne material out of your grow space and away from your plants.
Maintaining Oxidation Reduction Potential (ORP)
ORP is a relative measurement of water health. Perfect water is clear of all material, both inert and with life. Reverse osmosis (RO) is a standard way to clear water but it is not sufficient in removing microscopic biological organisms. UV and chemical methods are needed in addition to RO to clear water completely.
ORP is an electronic measurement in millivolts (mV) that represents the ability of a chemical substance to oxidize another substance. ORP meters are a developing area and when using a meter, it is important to track the change in ORP values rather than the absolute number. This is due to various methods that the different meters use to calculate the ORP values. More on this in the white paper.
There are two significant ways to adjust the ORP of a fertilizer/irrigation (fertigation) solution. The first is by adding oxidizers. Examples are chemical oxidizers like hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), hypochlorous acid (HOCl), ozone (O3) and chlorine dioxide (ClO2). Adding these to a fertigation solution increases the ORP of the fertigation solution by oxidizing materials and organic matter. The key is to kill off the bad things and not affect the growth of plants. Again here, the absolute ORP metric is not the deciding factor in the health of a solution and the methods by which each chemical reaction occurs for each of these chemicals are different. This is compounded by the fact that different ORP meters will show different readings for the same solution.
Another wonderful thing about automation and aeroponic and hydroponic dosing systems is that they can automatically maintain oxidizing rates and our white papers explain the methods executed by today’s automation systems.
Another way to adjust ORP is to reduce the water temperature of the reservoirs. Maintaining water temperature below the overall temperature of your grow rooms is imperative for minimal biological deposition and nutrient system health. Water chillers use a heat exchanger process to export heat from liquid nutrient dosing reservoirs and maintain desired temperatures.
The benefit of managing ORP in aeroponic and hydroponic grow systems is highly accelerated growth. This is enhanced in aeroponics due to the effectively infinite oxygen exchanging gases at the surface of the plant roots. Nutrient droplets are sprayed or vaporized in parallel and provided to these root surfaces. Maximizing the timing and the best mineral nutrients to the root combustion is the art of grow recipe development. Great recipes drive superior yields and when combined with superior genetics and solid environmental controls, these plants will deliver spectacular profits to a grow operation.
Another Hero Award
Before closing this chapter, we have many cultivators that are producing stellar results with their operational and IPM procedures, so it is hard to choose just one leader. That said, our hats are off to RAIR Systems again and their director of cultivation, Ashley Hubbard. She and her team are determined to be successful and drive pests out of their operations with positive “little critters” and the best water treatment and management that we have seen. You are welcome to view the 7-episode walkthrough of the RAIR facility and their procedures here.
Ideal cannabis profits come from high demand/high selling prices and low production costs. The spread between those two, or margin, can determine the life or death of your business. We want to share this series of articles so that your next investment can be highly successful and high margin out-of-the-box.
Regardless of the grow method (soil, coco, rockwool, hydro or aero), every plant performs best in its own ideal environmental conditions. Experienced growers gained success through hard work, and just that, experience. Many have tried more advanced grow technologies, but shied away due to early trial failures or the complexity of maintaining chemistry across a grow facility. The wonderful thing now is that precision sensors and software controls eliminate the risk to robust healthy plants and harvest success. Growers are now able to both manage production while performing research in line with their operations.
We have learned a great deal working with our grow partners over the last 6 years. Every grow facility and location are different due to local weather, business environment and scale. This series of articles and guide, authored by our expert, Christopher Wrenn, will include recommendations of the most successful approaches we have seen here in North America and all over the world.
Building top-quality cultivation facilities is no simple task. Cultivators are also looking for new help as they shift from older soil or media approaches to more efficient grow methods. One powerful method is aeroponics, which is very good at growing any type of plant in air in a sterile environment, with labor, nutrient and water savings.
Where possible, we will share key vendors that support healthy grow operations and (since it is World Series Time), customer examples that are knocking it out of the park. In today’s competitive business environment, it is critical to do what we can to increase profitability and survival in the face of steep headwinds. We want you to crush it and be “the last man standing.”
So, let’s get to it.
Climate: Environmental Control
We begin with a critical leg in your environment. The process of photosynthesis is more than just light, plant and moisture. We want to do more than just grow plants. We want to grow highly profitable plants. That means we have to accelerate photosynthesis so we are growing faster, bigger and more potent than our competitors.
The Vapor Pressure Deficit (VPD) is the amount of “drying power” available in the air surrounding your plants. This is a useful way to understand the amount of moisture your atmosphere can remove from your plants as they digest carbon dioxide and aspirate water and oxygen into the air around your plants. A higher vapor deficit is a good thing for growth; It is also a measurement of how much nutrient you can uptake into the plant roots and convert into size and potency in the canopy. We recommend that you have resources in your grow rooms to maintain your environment to within 5% of both your humidity and temperature targets for ideal results.
In our Top Quality Cultivation Facilitywhite paper, we review environmental settings for temperature and humidity for mother, clone/veg and flower rooms for day and night light cycles from early cuttings through to end of harvest flush. Day temperatures can be up to 20% higher than night temperatures for example.
Managing temperature may seem straight-forward but the heat generated by LED lights, HPS lights or the sun will vary across rooms, time exposure and with the distance of the light source from the plants. Measurement sensors should be distributed across rooms to monitor and trigger temperature resources.
This is a topic that can be underappreciated by cultivators. It is important to slowly transition humidity as you move plants from cuttings to clones, to veg and to flower. Beginning in a very humid stage to motivate root start, humidity will be stepped down from an opening near 90% down to an arid 50% in your end of flush flower rooms. We detail the transitions in 5% increments in the white paper.
Relative Humidity (RH) and the related VPD are the key metrics to accelerating growth throughout the stages. Not sizing dehumidifiers correctly is one of the most common mistakes our grow partners learn about as they move to full production. In the first phase of turning cuttings from healthy mothers into rooted clones, hitting your target VPD to motivate root growth is the number one success factor. This will require the addition of humidity into your clone room. It is also typical to require raise the humidity of your flower rooms when you transition clone/veg plants from the high humidity clone/veg room into an initially dry flower room, otherwise the plants may go into shock as a result of the dramatic change.
As flowering begins, if humidity remains high, and the VPD is below target, the plants will not be moving nutrients and transpiring moisture. We have seen lowering the humidity from 70% in a flower room down to 50%, results in a yield increase from 50 grams to 90 grams of dry trim bud per plant, so a smooth transition can both accelerate growth and have a big impact on your margins and profitability.
Plants in aeroponics can truly have explosive growth. This means that they will also transpire moisture at an accelerated rate. Fast automated growth in aeroponics means increased humidity output. Sizing these critical systems for humidification/dehumidification are a critical part of the design process.
Fans combined with your cooling/heating/humidity/dehu systems need to mix the air in a room to break the boundary layer at the leaf surface for transpiration. As we covered, VPD is critical to growth success. A dry surface motivates the plants to transpire moisture. We recommend flow rates across the canopy in a 0.5-1.5 meter/second rate to align to your genetics and where you are in the flowering process.
Airflow and flowering means rich beautiful aromas are generated. Every facility has to consider odor control. If you are in a populated area, you will have ordinances and neighbors to satisfy. The best way to do this is to minimize the amount of air that exits a facility. This is also the cheapest approach.
Sterile HEPA filters and scrubbing systems clean air of pathogens and odor but they also need to circulate and “condition” air to the correct temperature and humidity levels before it can be recirculated into a room. Oftentimes, this is a good place to also recapture humidity and reinject it into your pure water cleaning systems.
Key vendors to talk to about sizing air treatment systems are SURNA, Quest, Desert Aire and AGS. Each of these vendors have specialties and tend to be superior partners in different regions of the world. We would be happy to introduce you to excellent support resources for air management systems.
The cannabis laboratory testing market has undergone a lot of changes in the past ten years. With those growing pains so common in such a new industry, come plenty of challenges driven by market dynamics, new regulations and scientific advancements.
Julie Kowalski, a cannabis testing consultant at JA Kowalski Science Support, has seen these changes firsthand. For twelve years, she worked at Restek as a senior chemist, helping to provide expertise and develop analytical solutions for their cannabis testing partners. She also worked as chief scientific officer for Trace Analytics, a cannabis testing lab in Spokane, Washington. Between being an advisor, consultant, trainer and accreditation assessor, she wears many different hats in the space. We sat down with Kowalski to learn more about the evolution of the marketplace, the importance of product safety and some of the common challenges that labs face.
Greg Kozadjian: Tell us a little about yourself and how you came to be working as a consultant in the cannabis and hemp testing industry?
Julie Kowalski: I began working on gas chromatographs when I was about 20 years old, added liquid chromatography to my repertoire in my early 20’s, and have been in the lab nearly every day since then.
My consulting business launched in early 2020 after I received numerous requests from my network for help and advice regarding cannabis testing. I am passionate about helping people, talking science, and promoting growth and innovation in the cannabis industry.
Speaking with individuals and businesses who potentially received conflicting advice or felt somewhat overwhelmed by the complex and rapidly evolving cannabis industry, I realized I could help. So, I decided to utilize my experience and knowledge to promote trust and expertise within the cannabis industry and champion science over profit.
Kozadjian: Why do you think it’s crucial to test cannabis and hemp-based products in today’s market?
Kowalski: The way I look at it is that cannabis and hemp-based products are like any other product in that the consumer has the right to have some assurance that these products are safe, and that the labeling information is accurate.
Then, there are the increasing number of people seeking to use cannabis for medicinal reasons. Again, the industry should be able to assure them that the products they are using are safe to help them with their health issue.
Kozadjian: How has the market evolved over the last five years to meet the current testing regulations, and which of those regulations focus more on the safety of cannabis and hemp-based products?
Kowalski: In the past five years, more states have been coming online domestically. So, we are dealing with a regulatory environment where different states may have different regulations, a situation that will continue to exist for the foreseeable future. There have been efforts on the regulatory side, if not to coordinate efforts directly, to at least connect and communicate, and hopefully, out of those communications comes increased coordination.
I am hopeful that scientists, myself included, can do our part and provide additional data and information about testing that works, testing that doesn’t work, and that the regulators will consider and incorporate much of that information into changes in current and future regulations.
It is important to note that many state agencies were put in the position of creating a regulatory system that they were perhaps not familiar with, or accustomed to doing, particularly from the testing standpoint. There are no federal programs to model against, so programs are being developed from scratch and need to address all aspects of the market. It is a complicated task. It made sense to borrow from similar existing markets, but there is now the opportunity to use what we have learned to improve regulations.
For example, adopting certain criteria and practices from environmental, food, and agricultural testing was a great place to start. Now, we better understand some of the unique challenges associated with cannabis testing, it is time to set our fit-for-purpose best practices.
I hope that we, as an industry, can increasingly provide more data to help guide the regulators so that their goals are achieved and based on a growing body of data. I am optimistic that there will be much more interaction and coordination between regulators and scientists. This would greatly help with some of the struggles some cannabis labs are feeling in the current market.
Kozadjian: What are some of the challenges that testing labs face?
Kowalski: The cannabis and hemp-based products market is competitive with multiple sources of pressure. A definite challenge has been the gold rush mentality. Folks want to enter the cannabis business, and establishing a testing lab is attractive and perhaps perceived as more comfortable because it is not directly growing or producing a product.
There is a burden to set up a lab and open as quickly as possible because while the lab is being set up no money is being made. It can be stressful, and sometimes shortcuts are taken while developing technical programs. These shortcuts can ultimately cause disruption, stress, and risk. I saw this ten years ago, I saw this five years ago, and I am still seeing it now. I am still waiting for people to come into the industry with more realistic expectations of what it takes to establish functional technical programs and laboratories.“There are fundamental knowledge gaps that this market as a whole needs to address.”
Inadequate technical programs resulting from poorly vetted and insufficiently validated methods do not function well in the real world, changing regulations, as well as changing matrices, can result in chaos in the lab. A lab will fight fires daily if it does not plan for and build well-vetted, robust methods. Unfortunately, I have seen many new testing labs rush through development, and then when they open their doors for business, they realize their methods do not function properly.
Daily, they may be faced with deciding whether they should pass a sample batch because technically, it did not meet the criteria, but the client is waiting. Or labs constantly needing to retest may lose confidence in their ability. This is a high-stress situation, and quite a few labs are probably operating in this mode in the market right now. Substandard testing is becoming riskier as we see scrutiny, mainly due to test lab shopping increasing. I do want to make it clear and be fair to point out that the economics of cannabis testing is challenging. Pricing in most markets is too low to allow high-quality testing.
Kozadjian: How do you think this testing era will evolve in the next five years?
Kowalski: I think we will start to see more involvement and recognition of standards organizations like the AOAC, USP, ASTM. They have existed and have been working for at least a few years, and now are publishing methods, guidance documents, and providing education. That will be very helpful, and I invite testing labs to join in and participate in these efforts. Your voice is critical. We need more knowledge in the market, whether it is knowledgeable people entering the market, or people currently in the market who are willing to invest the time to learn analytical chemistry, for example. There are fundamental knowledge gaps that this market as a whole needs to address.
PARSIPPANY, NJ, October 17-19, 2022 – The Cannabis Quality Conference & Expo (CQC) took place in New Jersey last week. The agenda featured three tracks of educational talks, panel discussions, keynotes and breakout sessions.
Highlights from the 2022 CQC
At this year’s event, the conference featured three different keynote presentations, each on different days as well as Lunch & Learn sessions, led by Matthew Anderson, CEO of Vanguard Scientific. He sat down with two experts in cannabis law for interviews during the lunch hour on Tuesday, October 18.
Investigations & Enforcement: A Former Federal Prosecutor’s Perspective
Matthew Anderson spoke with Barak Cohen, Chair of the Cannabis Industry Group at Perkins Coie, to discuss federal investigations, Justice Department prosecutions and white-collar offenses.
Compliance is Key: Best Practices for Your New Jersey Cannabis Business
Anderson interviewed Casey Leaver, Director of Regulatory Compliance at Vicente Sederberg, to discuss compliance culture, quality controls, New Jersey regulations and more.
The conference began on October 17 with a keynote presentation led by Commissioner Maria Del Cid-Kosso of the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission. Commissioner Del Cid-Kosso highlighted the progress the state has made so far with respect to cannabis legalization as well as their goals for the future of the state’s new market.
On the second day of the CQC, Toi Hutchinson, President & CEO of The Marijuana Policy Project, kicked things off with an inspiring keynote discussion where she discussed racial disparities in the industry, social equity, progress and reform efforts.
What People Are Saying About The 2022 CQC
Below are some testimonials we found from this year’s event:
“What set the Cannabis Quality Conference apart from many others was the intentionality and focus on high value substance from the presentations.”
“Once again, excellent panels today at the CQC here in Jersey! Have I mentioned how much I love to learn? This industry is forever evolving and being able to observe and watch it roll out from infancy in New Jersey has been tremendous.”
“What an informative and motivating event!”
“I feel fortunate to have been in attendance for such inspiring, informative and REAL discussions being had by industry experts from all across the country.”
“It was so great to listen, meet and speak with so many industry influencers!”
Coming Soon For 2023
After a successful event in New Jersey, the conference begins its planning for next year. The Cannabis Quality Conference & Expo will be returning to New Jersey in 2023. Stay tuned for important announcements, like the dates and location, coming soon.
Scenes From The 2022 CQC
Below are some snapshots of what this year’s CQC had to offer.
About Cannabis Industry Journal
Cannabis Industry Journal is a digital media community for cannabis industry professionals. We inform, educate and connect cannabis growers, extractors, processors, infused products manufacturers, dispensaries, laboratories, suppliers, vendors and regulators with original, in-depth features and reports, curated industry news and user-contributed content, and live and virtual events that offer knowledge, perspectives, strategies and resources to facilitate an informed, legalized and safe cannabis marketplace.
About the Cannabis Quality Conference & Expo
The Cannabis Quality Conference & Expo is an educational and networking event for the cannabis industry that has cannabis safety, quality and regulatory compliance as the foundation of the educational content of the program. With a unique focus on science, technology, safety and compliance, the “CQC” enables attendees to engage in conversations that are critical for advancing careers and organizations alike. Delegates visit with exhibitors to learn about cutting-edge solutions, explore three high-level educational tracks for learning valuable industry trends, and network with industry executives to find solutions to improve quality, efficiency and cost effectiveness in the evolving cannabis industry.
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