CANNABIS: Top 10 Extraction Facility Tips

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Your extraction facility deserves significant planning and consideration! After completing numerous extraction facility projects across the U.S. & Canada, we’ve got a few tips to help you get started…

1. Determine your preferred Extraction Methodology.

Several viable extraction methods now exist, with a whole industry of equipment built to support them. Whether you want a supercritical CO2 operation, an finely-tuned ethanol operation, or want to try state-of-the-art water sonication extraction, your design team can make it happen. However, you should not make this decision lightly. Get educated on different extraction methods, and ensure they will produce the appropriate end product for your operation. Some extraction operators choose to simply produce isolate and/or distillate, while others want to develop those components into consumer end products like edibles, vape cartridges, etc.

Whichever route you choose, you’ll be dealing with pressurized vessels and chemicals, so you’ll need to engage with engineers at some point. We’re here for you!

2. Specify end products first.

Will your facility produce consumer end products? There are a whole universe of products you can produce – vape cartridges, edibles, tinctures, specialty CBD lotions, etc. Do not set out to “just build” a processing facility without first accounting for which specific end products are to be made. You must design a process train specific to the end goal. We recommend engaging professional process train engineers like the team at Phytologix.

3. Do not “bootstrap” your Extraction Facility!

Often, savvy entrepreneurs come from a DIY background, have bootstrapped successful businesses in the past, and are skeptical of professional services in general. The reasons behind this are understandable! The cannabis and hemp industries are rife with consultants that are big on promises but short on deliverables. However, we do not recommend approaching an extraction facility with the “bootstrap” mentality. A successfully executed, properly licensed and permitted, code-compliant, productive, and safe facility requires input and professional review from several professional disciplines.

Hybrid Tech has brought together a veritable A-Team of architects, mechanical, electrical and structural engineers, extraction experts and process train engineers precisely to solve these complex multidisciplinary problems.

4. Do not build anything without permitting or document completion.

Exuberance is your ally, until you start building without documentation. There are a whole army of code compliance officers employed by your local jurisdictions who exist solely to sniff this sort of activity out and levy hefty fines.

There is a formal plans review process for facilities which must be adhered to. Ignoring the plans review process, or imagining you can get around it will lead to inevitable heartbreak and capital losses. You don’t really need to talk to a General Contractor until you have a fully stamped and approved set of building plans.

5. Engage with the local community, and relevant agencies.

Engage with your licensing and permitting agencies early, and often. Ensure you have the name, email, and phone number of every city, county, and state official which has authority over the regulations to which you must adhere. A good relationship with them can illuminate problems that you weren’t aware of, give you insight into upcoming regulatory reforms, and give your agency a sense of comfort with you as an operator.

Moreover, many operators underestimate the importance of engaging with the local community. There is often a “public comment” portion of the plans review process, and if your local community thinks badly of you, they will let it be known! Engage with the local Chamber of Commerce, donate to a local cause, or at least make your business known through local social media. Ensure your branding is friendly and have a professional scent control plan in place – These small actions can mitigate big risk from neighbors.

6. Have Contingency Funds.

Your budget will reflect your priorities, but sometimes your priorities are based on incorrect assumptions. When planning for a complex facility, we recommend having a sizable contingency fund available. Some reserve funds will allow you to contend with unforeseen licensing delays, equipment failures, and all manner of chaos which might plague your project.

Some variables are real budget killers. We know of at least one project that is non-operational because a single golden eagle was found nested within 5 miles of the facility, which triggered a Dept. of Fish & Game study – Up to a year of delays. Ouch.

7. Hire a local, reputable, and experienced General Contractor.

Most of your budget for the project will be spent on construction. Choosing the right General Contractor is arguably the most important decision you’ll make during the entire process. A good GC will thoroughly review and understand your plans, ask pertinent questions, and offer a competitive bid to win your business.

During the build, the GC will communicate directly with you (or your project manager), as well as the engineers that designed the facilities, to ensure all aspects of the build are being appropriately constructed. Before selecting a GC, make sure to check out their previous work, talk to past clients, and ask probing questions. How many projects do they currently have? Are you getting their full attention? A little skepticism and verification can help ensure you select the right GC for your project.

8. Engage with your Design & Engineering Team

Your input is critical to the completion of your cultivation or extraction design. You’ll need to make numerous decisions about operational methods, equipment selection, budgetary constraints, and other nuts & bolts of your project. Designers and engineers can make recommendations based on experience, but you are the ultimate decision making authority for your project. If you are unclear about building terms, code compliance, or equipment specifications – Don’t be afraid to ask! Your engineers are there for you, and are often all too happy to explain, in excruciating detail, what a widget does and why.

Remember that design changes early on are inexpensive, but design changes as you approach the build phase can be catastrophically expensive, or simply impossible.

9. Know your Inspectors!

Extraction facilities come with a host of inspections and in-depth inspection criteria. Ensure that you know who the local inspectors are, and exactly what they are looking for. Depending on their regulations and disposition, you may be able to acquire a line-item list from your inspectors prior to their arrival.

10. Stay focused!

The minutiae of design, engineering, licensing, construction, inspections, permitting, SOPs, and business administration can make even the most stoic entrepreneurs pull their hair out. While its important to pay attention to the details, its equally important that you refocus on the big picture.

At the end of the day, you want a fully licensed and operational extraction facility – When that day comes, you can be proud of the work you accomplished!

Bonus tip: Engage the experts from the start!

In order to ensure a project has the highest chances of success while expending capital resources, it is crucial to place the experts into the equation from the beginning.  Starting a cannabis business is no easy task and the professionals in the space can provide definition to highly technical aspects of the business plan.  When designing a processing facility it is imperative to include the entire process train into the system.  Any deficiency in this system will cause setbacks down the road.  The best way to mitigate this potential risk is to engage with reliable experts to help guide you through this process from concept to commercialization.

Click here to tell us about your extraction facility project and get a free initial consultation!


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