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How BioHarvest Sciences Solved the Key Constraint Facing the Cannabis Industry

Ilan Sobel
Written by Ilan Sobel

No one denies the scale of the opportunity of cannabis. When an increasing number of U.S. states embraced the use of cannabis for medical purposes in 2018, and Canada voted through broad legalization, eager investors quickly followed. European, Asian, and African countries signaled their intention to relax restrictions, and more than $14 billion was raised in the course of the year – nearly $10 billion on public markets. And when Constellation Brands took a $4 billion stake in Canopy Growth in August 2018, it seemed like every major food and drink company and main street healthcare brand was looking at the potential of cannabis and cannabidiol products. Molson Brewing, Heineken, Diageo, and Coca-Cola all confirmed they were considering cannabis-based products.

 

So, what happened? 

It didn’t quite work out as hoped. Publicly listed companies in the U.S. and Canada dropped by a third in 2019, in a market that actually had risen by a similar amount. Sales of legal cannabis have increased, but nothing like expectations. Longer term analysts remain optimistic.

The U.S. cannabis industry is currently said to be worth $17.6 billion annually. It could exceed $40 billion in the next five years, and looking further out there is talk of a $100 billion opportunity in the U.S. and $200 billion globally. But the prospectors of the 2018 Cannabis Gold have, so far, little to show for their endeavor.

There are plenty of theories around what went wrong: continuous delay of federal legalization, finance and banking hurdles, poorly managed operations, over-hyped stocks, or fraudulent fundraisings. There is some truth in all of them. But the fundamental reason is the product itself, grown as a crop in thousands of small-scale facilities across the country.

Many cannabis producers are selling products that are very similar to what was on offer before regulatory frameworks were in place. Product quality and consistency are relatively poor when compared to other consumer product industries. There is risk of contamination, production costs are high, environmental impacts are massive, and there is very limited ability to produce at scale.

BioHarvest (CSE: BHSC), a publicly listed Canadian-Israeli biotech company, developed a plant-cell based technology platform that helps solve these problems by enabling industrial-scale production of virtually any plant biomass or plant-based ingredient, without the need to grow and process the plant itself.

Using this technology, BioHarvest is the first company in the world to produce full-spectrum cannabis with the highest trichome densities, all without growing the plant.     Not only does it create a superior product, but BioHarvest’s technology employs a fraction of the resources and infrastructure which are otherwise required by conventional cannabis production. It is non-GMO, and it is pesticide, solvent, toxin, and pathogen free.

This technology solves the problems of product consistency, product quality and safety, production costs, scale and supply chain constraints, as well as major sustainability issues.

1- Product Consistency: Due to the very nature of the cannabis plant and of conventional cannabis cultivation, variability between and within batches is significant. As an example, even when growing cannabis under the most controlled indoor cultivation environment, there’s variation of up to 50% in cannabinoid concentration among different flowers/branches of a single plant – within the same plant. In addition, there’s also significant variability between batches. When it comes to greenhouse or outdoor cultivation, the variability between batches is even greater due to variation in seasonal and environmental conditions.

This is especially a challenge for medical cannabis patients who are looking for a consistent and reliable medical product, but also for adult-use consumers who expect consistency in the products they purchase. BioHarvest is able to produce the same consistent product, 100% of the time.

2- Product Quality, Safety, and Cleanliness: Cannabis grown through conventional cultivation – be it indoor, greenhouse, or outdoor – is exposed and highly susceptible to harmful concentrations of bacteria, yeast and mold, Botrytis, Aspergillus, and other fungi. To control and reduce the concentrations of these plant pathogens, cannabis producers must use pesticides and fungicides and/or irradiate the finished product.

Ultimately, the consumer may be either exposed to harmful plant pathogens, their toxins, and/or to pesticides, or will need to settle for an irradiated product which is generally regarded as a product of lower quality. There is a high incidence of product/batch recalls in the industry, due to either high pathogen or excessive pesticide levels. This is a real problem for product quality and safety. BioHarvest’s production processes and finished product do not require or involve pesticides, fungicides, solvents, or irradiation.

3- Production Costs: Most cannabis production in North America is based on greenhouse or indoor cultivation. This is capital, resource, and labor intensive; in fact, it leads to a cost per gram that is higher than that of almost any other commercial crop or agricultural commodity.

BioHarvest grows and produces only targeted cells of the cannabis flower – which contain and produce the highest concentration of cannabinoids in the plant. It doesn’t need to grow the entire plant, or any of the other plant organs for that matter – no roots, no stem, no branches, no leaves, etc. As a result, the process requires significantly fewer resources, and takes less time. Consequently, BioHarvest’s production costs at full scale are expected to be between 10-20% of the cost of indoor, greenhouse, or outdoor cannabis cultivation in North America.

4- Resource Use & Sustainability: Cannabis production in North America is not environmentally sustainable – in fact, it is the exact opposite. Indoor cannabis cultivation is extremely energy intensive as it employs high intensity lighting, and requires heating, cooling, and dehumidification almost 24 hours a day. For example, total electric power consumption in Colorado has been reported to have substantially increased due to the state’s cannabis sector. In certain cases, indoor and greenhouse cultivation also generate significant non-organic waste resulting from single use, hydroponic cultivation systems and disposable materials. Lastly, all commercial cannabis cultivation, be it indoor, greenhouse, or outdoor, requires substantial land and water resources. In contrast, BioHarvest’s technology requires at least 80% less land versus indoor cultivation and at least 90% less land versus greenhouse/outdoor; produces zero greenhouse gas emissions (Scope 1); no hazardous waste; and produces 100% biodegradable wastewater.

BioHarvest’s groundbreaking technology addresses several of the key issues with long-term, scalable, sustainable cannabis and cannabinoid production. It can deliver a superior product at a lower price. In addition, BioHarvest’s bio-farming technique does not require the intensive use of electricity, water and land, meaning that cannabis products created using this technology will be the most sustainable on the market. It also takes less time, so you can produce more product per year per square foot. It takes BioHarvest 3-4 weeks to fully complete its cannabis versus 12-14 weeks to grow cannabis plants from plantlet to harvest in the most efficient and intensive indoor cultivation systems.   It does all of this using a non-GMO, plant-based GMP [good manufacturing practice] certified biotechnology platform in laboratory environment conditions.

 

Interested in learning more?  Then please visit www.bioharvest.com.

About the author

Ilan Sobel

Ilan Sobel

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