One of many largest threats to the cannabis trade, much more so than regulation and large enterprise, is microbial contamination to the cannabis crop itself. Why? Effectively, and not using a wholesome crop, growers, dispensaries and the complete provide chain endure the implications.
Enters Jill Ellsworth and Willow Industries, founder and CEO.
When a batch of cannabis fails microbial testing, it can’t be bought till is remediated or decontaminated. This course of is extraordinarily disruptive to an organization’s provide chain. It creates delays, forces producers to show their flower into concentrates (a sort of remediation that cuts into revenue margins), and typically results in destroying the product outright…
Jill Ellsworth of Willow Industries
Jill: Broadly talking, microbial contamination refers to cannabis merchandise which have been uncovered to a microorganism, corresponding to micro organism, yeast, mildew, fungi, or their toxins and by-products.
There are numerous causes microbial contamination is such a giant downside in cannabis. From a client security perspective, it’s extraordinarily essential that customers, particularly these with compromised immune methods, aren’t being uncovered to those microbial and their harmful by-products. As we lately realized from California, when a 66-year-old man died after contaminated cannabis result in a deadly fungi an infection in his lungs, these points will be lethal.
Along with these tales being heartbreaking, they set again the trade as an entire, particularly relating to federal assist for legalization. After all the reply to that is obligatory microbial testing, which we’re seeing grow to be the norm, however this creates one other set of issues for cannabis enterprise.
When a batch of cannabis fails microbial testing, it can’t be bought till is remediated or decontaminated. This course of is extraordinarily disruptive to an organization’s provide chain. It creates delays, forces producers to show their flower into concentrates (a sort of remediation that cuts into revenue margins), and typically results in destroying the product outright. All of those elements result in microbial contamination being one of many largest rising points in cannabis.
Jill Ellsworth at Pure Greens Greenhouse in Colorado
How massive of an issue is microbial contamination in cannabis?
Jill: Any cultivator will inform you microbial contamination is certainly one of their largest issues.
When it comes to the numbers, roughly 10-20% of commercially grown cannabis fails microbial testing, and that’s fairly near what we’ve seen from working with cultivators over the past three years. The explanation the quantity is so excessive is that it’s nearly unimaginable to make sure no contaminants enter a facility. So we don’t view it as a problem solely sure cultivators have to deal with.
Whether or not it’s post-harvest dealing with of the flower, the cumulative results of recent pallets and containers coming in-and-out of a facility, or airborne spores coming by way of an HVAC system, ultimately these tiny microbes will discover their manner in.
After that, all it takes is a small catalyst, corresponding to an influence outage resulting in a humidity spike throughout drying, for a 100 lb batch of cannabis to develop mildew and fail microbial contamination testing. Because of this we’re such robust supporters of cultivators that acknowledge it’s not a matter of “if it would occur” however slightly “when it occurs,”, and are proactive about preventative measures.
We consider client security finally relies on having a kill-step within the manufacturing course of, and the trade is already beginning to development in that path. In the event you take a look at the place the consolidation is going on, for instance, it’s by the businesses working with most of these requirements.
Are you able to inform us a bit extra about Willow Industries’ WillowPure expertise and the way it works?
Jill: Within the easiest phrases, we use ozone fuel to decontaminate post-harvest cannabis.
Ozone (O3) is a powerful antimicrobial agent produced from oxygen that makes use of oxidation to destroy microbes on a mobile degree. As a result of ozone quickly decomposes into oxygen, it may possibly decontaminate the flower with out making a buildup of inorganic waste, which implies ozone doesn’t create any residue on the flower.
The actual worth of our expertise, nonetheless, pertains to ozone concentrations and publicity instances, which is our proprietary info. With the WillowPure answer, a cultivator can resolve microbial contamination points with out altering the vegetation medicinal properties, saving their product with out sacrificing its high quality.
One of the vital attention-grabbing features of our expertise transferring ahead pertains to knowledge. Our place within the trade provides us the distinctive skill to gather knowledge regarding contamination ranges, regional points, problematic strains, and a number of different metrics which might be essential to cultivators.
Though we now have solely been amassing this knowledge for 3 years, we have already got one of many largest knowledge units within the trade regarding microbial contamination, and this helps us to repeatedly refine our recommendation to purchasers and guarantee we are able to deal with their product with out affecting high quality.
What’s your background and the way did you resolve to enter into the cannabis trade?
Jill: I come from the pure meals and beverage trade and am additionally a Registered Dietitian with a Grasp’s in Meals Science and Vitamin.
Having been an entrepreneur for a few years – launching, working after which promoting a cold-pressed juice firm and a pure beverage distribution firm, I really feel snug as an innovator.
After promoting the distribution firm, I began trying on the cannabis trade and was discovering most of the meals security requirements that I needed to adhere to as a beverage operator, have been non-existent in cannabis.
Necessary state microbial testing was slowly beginning to be required in Colorado, nonetheless, there have been only a few client security rules in place.
Extra particularly, there was not an answer for cultivators to verify they may get rid of microbial contamination, which might defend their crop and reduce income losses, nor have been there any firms taking a look at security requirements for the tip client.
That was my lightbulb second and the inspiration for Willow Industries. I used to be pulling a web page out of the extremely regulated meals & beverage trade, with a powerful deal with client security.
What’s Willow engaged on now and what’s the next step as an organization?
Jill: We lately closed a $2 million institutional financing spherical, which was our very first fundraise, as we now have been totally self-funded since inception. This capital gives us the horsepower to speed up our nationwide decontamination enterprise.
At the moment, we’re working in 9 states, renting and leasing our WillowPure machines to cultivators by offering a cell, turnkey answer to get rid of microbial contamination and produce clear cannabis for shoppers.
We’re rapidly increasing our gross sales and advertising crew for continued development in bigger markets corresponding to California, scaling our engineering and manufacturing departments to proceed innovating inside our WillowPure system, and searching in direction of securing a foothold within the worldwide market
Jill, this has been superior! Really respect your time and I do know our viewers will discover this info extremely helpful!
Jill: Thanks for having me be part of this!