An open letter to our CO2 cannabis extraction colleagues

Image of Jeremy Diehl

(Editor’s note: This story is part of a recurring series of commentaries from professionals connected to the cannabis industry. Jeremy Diehl is co-founder and chief technology officer at Pittsburgh-based Green Mill Supercritical.)

It’s an amazing time to be in the extraction technology business.

New opportunities seem to be in endless supply, with the growing popularity of botanical extracts and increasing use of hops extraction in brewing.

In the cannabis industry alone, increasing demand is creating huge growth potential for extraction machinery manufacturers as well as exciting reasons to innovate.

We truly are pioneers in an industry full of pioneers.

Trust building

But the complexities of CO2 extraction and the cannabis industry itself require a great deal of trust among partners, vendors and colleagues.

This is particularly true with the supercritical CO2 extraction business, where complex machinery is often purchased and managed by industry professionals with little to no extraction experience.

Customers depend upon our expertise and our technology to drive their business forward, but they also depend upon our trustworthy, honest and sound advice.

Too often, we have seen examples of industry colleagues betraying that trust. We have heard sales messages and capability promises that overreach and exaggerate.

In some cases, we have heard performance claims that simply are not true. For example:

  • Automation. Many companies make claims about automation that are flatly false. It is not enough that the operator can enter its run parameters into a computer interface. If the operator must then intervene during the extraction for any reason, true automation does not exist on that system. This is not picking nits. Automation is a massive efficiency generator and its presence is highly valuable; a false claim of it is therefore a large, costly deception.
  • Throughput. The varieties of misinformation possible in this area seem to multiply on a regular basis. From the use of “daily biomass processing” amounts based only on the volume of the extraction vessels, to shady claims about flow rates, to extract mass yields that do not account for what is in the crude, such numbers are always suspect when used to represent the performance of a system because they are just too easy to fudge.
  • Downtime. There are brands of CO2 extraction machinery that include pump replacement and rebuilding in their warranties (for a limited time). But even with the parts and labor covered, what is not included is the opportunity cost of having a system sit idle and broken. Machine breakdown stemming from poor engineering of this type is something the industry should have moved past by now, and yet it is still a major contributor to stress on the bottom lines of countless businesses.

It seems that rather than actually innovate, some companies would prefer to obfuscate. Sadly, the hopeful recipients of this misinformation can be easily led down a primrose path.

Improvements needed

We must collectively do better.

Customers need real innovation that saves money, increases productivity and enables the development of new products.

Customers need an honest approach to complex technology and a sincere partnership with machine manufacturers.

Finally, customers need respectful education to trust that their concerns are being heard and their needs are being met.

Our sales rates mean nothing if clients are confused and ultimately dissatisfied with the performance of their machinery.

The reputation of the entire extraction industry is at stake.

No one wants us to become the cannabis equivalent of the used-car salesman.

So make bold claims, but only when you are able to back them up.

Innovate your heart out, but ensure customers understand how to fully use the technology. And, above all, use honesty and respect to gain sales and customer trust.

If we all advance the industry with creativity and honesty, we can do it in a way that benefits everyone.

Jeremy Diehl can be reached at jeremy@greenmillsupercritical.com.

The previous installment of this series is available here.

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