CannabisNewsWire Editorial Coverage: Extraction technology plays a crucial part in the production of cannabidiol (CBD) from hemp.
Sugarmade Inc. (OTCQB: SGMD) (SGMD Profile), a company already established in the hydroponic equipment business, is making plans to add extraction technology to its repertoire. Canopy Growth Corporation (NYSE: CGC) (TSX: WEED) has been researching new medical applications for CBD and related chemicals — medicines for which extraction will be critical. KushCo Holdings Inc. (OTCQX: KSHB) has moved from providing support services to CBD-related companies to running its own store and has recently bolstered its leadership team for further growth. Harvest Health & Recreation Inc. (CSE: HARV) (OTCQX: HRVSF) has expanded swiftly over the past six years, growing from a single operation to a presence in five U.S. states. And in a boost to CBD’s public profile, Aurora Cannabis Inc. (NYSE: ACB) (TSX: ACB) has teamed up with UFC to research the application of CBD and related treatments for mixed martial artists.
- Extraction technology is not normally owned by the cultivators growing the crops.
- The technology uses a range of different methods, utilizing substances such as ethanol and carbon dioxide.
- The need to extract CBD oils allows extractors to take a substantial portion of hemp harvest profits.
- Soaring demand for CBD has added to the profits for those providing extraction equipment.
Turning Hemp Into CBD
In the modern market, CBD is money, a sure seller that can be easily turned into cash by companies with even halfway capable supply chains and marketing. The incredible popularity of this hemp-derived substance has led to its use in medicines, foods, vaping oils, cosmetics and anything else manufacturers can think of.
But just as money doesn’t grow on trees, CBD doesn’t grow in the form of a pure oil that cultivators can just pick and put in a packet. The valuable commodity has to be extracted from hemp plants, a sophisticated process that involves expensive equipment and technical expertise. The need for that extraction work is fueling an important subsector of the hemp industry.
The CBD industry is a complex one, with a range of companies providing different services at different places in the process. Key players include farmers and cultivators, who get most of the press attention; product developers and brand managers, who draw commercial attention onto products; and of course behind-the-scene companies such as Sugarmade Inc. (OTCQB: SGMD), which provides cultivation supplies. Perhaps the most overlooked element of the process — extraction — may be one of the most important in adding value.
All CBD extraction is achieved using a type of solvent. This chemical is mixed with the prepared hemp plants in carefully controlled conditions within specialist machines. The solvent attaches to the CBD and draws it out of the plant. The machinery then separates the solvent-CBD mix from the rest of the hemp remains, and then extracts the CBD from the solvent. The aim is to complete this extraction process as quickly, efficiently and affordably as possible. The ideal extraction system draws all of the CBD from the plant, though it is seldom possible to get 100%; even high-grade ethanol extraction equipment works at 98.5%.
A number of different solvents are used. Carbon dioxide, butane and ice water are among the options. The one favored by many companies, including Sugarmade, is ethanol extraction, in which alcohol detaches CBD from hemp as easily as it extracts common sense from a student on a Saturday night.
Because CBD is essentially useless until it has been extracted, a delicate balance exists in the relationship between farmers and extractors. Growing a crop of hemp takes months, during which the plants are carefully fed, watered and monitored to ensure the best possible harvest. The valuable crop is then taken to the extraction company, which might process the entire crop in a matter of days. Right now, extraction technology is in short supply and high demand, so the extraction companies can take up to 60% of the CBD or its value as a processing fee — a highly profitable outcome for the minority of the work.
This imbalance appears certain to change. While the number of hemp growers has risen dramatically recently, the number of extraction operations has not. Clearly, the time has come for extraction operations to catch up, both in the number available and in the scope of their processing. This obvious need is what Sugarmade is working on as the savvy company makes a move into the market.
As with its previous work in cultivation, Sugarmade isn’t going into extraction itself — at least not yet. Instead, the company is preparing to provide state-of-the-art extraction equipment. Move is designed to allow more companies to get involved in this lucrative piece of the CBD trade. As more companies get involved and existing operations grow larger, supply should push down prices, meaning a better deal for cultivators.
A change looks to be imminent in the CBD industry. But how did this extraction bottleneck arise?
The CBD Rush
The answer lies in the extraordinary growth of the CBD industry. Barely even a novelty talking point a decade ago, CBD has seen its profile soar in recent years. In the health and well-being sector in particular, CBD has become the new wonder ingredient, the elixir that customers want and retailers are eager to provide. The key component is used to tackle problems such as pain, insomnia and anxiety, and is also used in relaxing vaping oils and edibles.
CBD was given a boost in December when the U.S. government legalized its production on the federal level. Previously produced under state-level licenses, CBD was grown in an uncomfortable legal area, with federal constraints making business complicated. With the change in the legal status of this crop, cultivators are making the most of a CBD rush.
But despite the best efforts of companies such as Sugarmade, supply of CBD isn’t keeping up with demand. It’s been less than a year since laws making production easier were introduced in both the United States and Canada, and the industry is working feverishly to catch up. In many areas, companies can’t obtain enough CBD to keep up with what their customers want.
This supply-vs.-demand problem is exacerbating the power imbalance between cultivators and extractors. Working to meet the mounting demand — a demand that appears certain to only continue its upward trend—cultivators are eager to obtain CBD as quickly as possible and move it on to market. This forces them to accept the rates offered by extractors. But fortunately, as is often the case, the trend is forcing change.
The same legal changes that have created greater demand and greater cultivation make it easier for companies to move into or expand their extraction business. Supply chains are becoming better established both for CBD and for the equipment involved in its processing. The provision of more extraction equipment, regardless of the solvent used, will remove the bottleneck and allow the CBD to flow free.
The growth of the CBD market has both encouraged and been driven by the success of companies working in the field.
Canopy Growth Corporation (NYSE: CGC) (TSX: WEED) is one of the largest companies working with CBD, in part thanks to a multibillion-dollar investment from drinks manufacturer Constellation Brands. Already a leading player in the market before the Constellation deal, Canopy Growth has seen its profile and business go from strength to strength. But while that deal drew attention to the recreational side of the company’s work, and it has recently made a move in skin care through acquisition of This Works, Canopy Growth’s core focus is still on medicine. The company’s research division recently provided an update on its work, which includes the development of a whole range of medicines that include CBD.
Like Sugarmade, KushCo Holdings Inc. (OTCQX: KSHB) first moved into the CBD space as a support company, providing packaging solutions. The company has since moved to a more central position, with an online store for CBD and related products. And to ensure continued high-quality leadership, the company recently bolstered its leadership team.
Founded by a former lawyer in 2013, Harvest Health & Recreation Inc. (CSE: HARV) (OTCQX: HRVSF) provides CBD-related products in the United States. The company has shown an eagerness to expand, already spreading from a single location to five states in the space of six years. Harvest also has a focus on education and information that reflects the community-minded approach of many businesses within the sector.
One of the companies that has seen the greatest growth is Aurora Cannabis Inc. (NYSE: ACB) (TSX: ACB), which has profited from Canada’s liberal drug laws. Aurora has become heavily involved in research, looking at new treatments that can be produced with CBD. The company has even partnered with mixed martial arts company UFC to explore how its products and discoveries can help consumers.
All of these companies rely on extraction technology to create products that use CBD. Growth in the extraction industry and better provision of its technology will provide a boost for many of them as the CBD market grows.
For more information on Sugarmade, visit Sugarmade Inc. (OTCQB: SGMD)
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