Rob Wirtz Discusses Automating Cannabis Extraction on TRICHOMES Podcast (Transcript)

[00:00:00] Jason Kitamura: From, I’m Jason Kitamura, and this is Tech and Cannabis. I talk with game changers in the tech community to gain valuable insights into the future of the fast-paced cannabis industry. Today, we are joined by Rob Wirtz of MACH Technologies. They are changing the game of extraction by offering automated systems with the aim of developing products at the same level as medical-grade machinery. Their outlook into the future highlights the new brewing demand for quality, reliability, and safety. We talk about how they have used their company’s long history in machinery production, along with a focus on solving problems for their operators, have created a perfect blend for success. We also talk about the different types of extraction and the outlook on the industry from a behind-the-curtain perspective.

[00:00:58] Jason Kitamura: All right, and today we have Rob Wirtz with MACH Technologies. Thanks for coming out to the show.

[00:01:00] Rob Wirtz: Yeah, thank you very much, Jason. Appreciate you having me.

[00:01:03] Jason Kitamura: All right. So, I guess for the listeners out there that don’t know who MACH Technologies are, just give us a little overview of your company.

[00:01:10] Rob Wirtz: Sure, sounds great. So, MACH Technologies is really a specialized equipment and technology manufacturer who focuses on the hemp and cannabis industry. So, our whole goal and drive is really behind developing and innovating technologies, processes, efficiency, and safety for the hemp and cannabis space for the extraction of cannabinoids from both hemp and cannabis.

[00:01:35] Jason Kitamura: Awesome, awesome. And just by kind of diving in a little bit into your company, it looks like you cater mostly to kind of like large-scale kind of productions. Is that your main demographic, or do you cater to the small ones as well?

[00:01:50] Rob Wirtz: No, it’s really large and small. So, we have systems that do everything from, you know, 10, 20 pounds a shift up to 10,000 plus pounds a shift. So, we really have a really nice set of technology that scales very well and can go for a very wide range of clients.

[00:02:11] Jason Kitamura: Awesome. Okay, so you know there’s always kind of been talks on the different extraction methods, right? So, it looks like you’re primarily using ethanol. Is that the main extraction method that you guys are using?

[00:02:26] Rob Wirtz: Yeah, you know, ethanol, cold or cryogenic ethanol, is really kind of our bread and butter. That’s how we got started in the industry with our kind of our flagship EES series, which is our automated ethanol extraction system, fully turnkey, all integrated in together. But we do have a lot of other interesting technologies that deal with other solvents that we’re bringing out, coming to market. So, you know, that’s about to change.

[00:02:50] Jason Kitamura: Oh, interesting. Can you tell us a little more about that?

[00:02:53] Rob Wirtz: Yeah, so we have some really unique solventless technology that actually just pulls terpenes out of the plant material prior to a solvent-based extraction, which is really nice. So, make sure that the terpenes don’t get degraded by solvent first. So, it gives you a very nice, you know, pure terp, full pro, terpene profile. And then we have some other hydrocarbon and some other ice water trichome separation technologies that we’ll be rolling out to the market as well. So, we’re kind of building ourselves around a full product suite of efficient and very automated and specialized extraction technologies.

[00:03:36] Jason Kitamura: Got it. And that’s kind of the main purpose of what you guys do, is just to make everything more simpler, safer, more efficient. In your experience, what would you say is the most difficult part of the extraction process that you’re kind of solving?

[00:03:55] Rob Wirtz: You know, I think we’re solving, or we set out to solve, a couple parts of it. So, one, I guess on the very front end when people make the decision they want to get into the extraction business, I think setting up labs and getting all the equipment together has been difficult for people because they come from a lot of different places and a lot of different vendors. So, piecing everything together has been a trouble. So, where we wanted to take the angle of, we wanted to do everything in-house and be a full, true turnkey equipment provider for one equipment solution. And that solves a couple of problems for our customers. One, it makes sure all the equipment is sized and works together, so it really reduces operational bottlenecks. Because with traditional systems, even if the individual pieces are sized together, there still can be operational bottlenecks because the operators manually running around and turning valve A, B, C, D, and transferring the solution through the system. Where we wanted to solve that, make it an automated process to remove that requirement for operator intervention and remove those bottlenecks. So, I think we’re really keen on automation and efficiencies and removing bottlenecks. And then that really plays into a higher-grade and a higher level of compliance and data recording and data acquisition around the process to really build this industry and move it toward kind of more of a pharmaceutical style.

[00:05:22] Jason Kitamura: I see. And yeah, I guess there’s a lot of advantages from doing everything yourself, in-house. And I’m assuming every client’s kind of different. There’s not like a cookie-cutter machine out there. You have to have setups and kind of based on their workflow. So, do you work hand-in-hand with each company as you put in the machines?

[00:05:41] Rob Wirtz: We do. So, we work very closely with our clients, you know, on the front end to really understand their business, their problems, where their bottlenecks are, where they need solutions. We then develop and tailor solutions for each individual client. And then we kind of are with them throughout the whole process of designing and manufacturing the equipment that we do in-house, and then installing them and training them and supporting them, and just really doing everything we can to ensure they’re successful.

[00:06:10] Jason Kitamura: Got it. Now, there’s a lot that goes into this. How did you guys get into this industry, especially on the cannabis side of it?

[00:06:18] Rob Wirtz: Yeah, good question. It’s kind of an interesting story because, you know, we’ve been in specialized equipment manufacturing, which has really been our life and our bread and butter. And, you know, our company’s been around for almost 90 years at the core. So, you know, when we looked at this space, we saw that there was, I guess, a lot of opportunities, and we saw a lot of the technology and the processes that were out there and available to clients or to potential extraction or processors. I guess wasn’t up to the level where we thought it should be as the industry continues to be more commercialized and take on a more industrial feel. So, we took on the pledge that we were going to be set out to develop the solution that if we ourselves were going to get into the industry from our experience in other commercialized industries, here’s what we would want. That solution wasn’t there, so we said we will create that solution for the market, bring it to market, and continue to try to advance the industry.

[00:07:24] Jason Kitamura: I see. So, where you’re saying you’re actually kind of using the technology that you’re creating, or are you talking more for, you know, like the service side?

[00:07:33] Rob Wirtz: No, yeah, we don’t use… we’re just a capital equipment manufacturer, so we manufacture the… But we took the view of, you know, if we were going to get into it from our experience in building out industrial facilities for a lot of other industries we work in, what type of process and what type of equipment would we want? And what kind of a package would we want for that? So, that’s what we set out to develop.

[00:07:58] Jason Kitamura: Got it. Now, you know, there’s a lot of machinery out there that kind of do the same thing. I mean, you guys focus a lot on the automation side of it. I mean, how much more efficient, like how much quicker can you actually produce using one of your systems versus somebody who’s kind of doing it the old-fashioned way? What would you say, just a ballpark?

[00:08:17] Rob Wirtz: So, I mean, that’s kind of a hard number to, I guess, quantify per se. I mean, what I will say is, with good automation, you have better repeatable results. So, basically, every step of the process, from through the extraction process where you’re actually stripping the cannabinoids, through the recovery process, with all of that being automated, you know, each time you run a batch, it’s repeatable, and it’s consistent. I will say in the manual processes, there’s really no way to get that level of consistency that we have in our process. So, that’s really a really nice major advantage in the system, right? The repeatability, you know, subtracting the human error side of it.

[00:08:55] Jason Kitamura: Right. The repeatability, you know, subtracting the human error side of it. For sure.

[00:09:01] Rob Wirtz: Yeah.

[00:09:02] Jason Kitamura: Who would you say is kind of your perfect client? Like, who’s the people out there that are using your systems the most right now?

[00:09:10] Rob Wirtz: You know, it’s both on the hemp and cannabis side, and honestly, it’s a wide array of clientele. So, it’s everything from, I guess, farmers who are using our equipment on their land to process their material, to big MSOs who are using our equipment in their large, state-of-the-art facilities. So.

[00:09:39] Jason Kitamura: Now, in your industry, on the extraction side, you know, we’re talking about technology here. What do you think’s kind of the next step in technology on the extraction side?

[00:09:48] Rob Wirtz: You know, I personally think that the technology is going to continue to push and move in the direction that we moved in, from an automated system to a consistent system, repeatable results, data acquisition. And I think the equipment is going to have to kind of step up or level up to really become more of like a pharmaceutical-style standard, from not only the process but also the manufacturing of the equipment, the material testing, and the data sheets on it, and all of the internal finishes and all that stuff goes with it to make sure that you have a very consistent output product. I think the industry is going to continue to push in that direction, and I think automation’s going to play a huge role in that because I think that’s going to allow people to process more material faster and then use their best resources on other value adds for their business rather than, you know, a team of people and you’re turning knobs on the extraction system to get out, you know, crude or distillate, whatever they may be producing.

[00:10:53] Jason Kitamura: Now, I know you guys are touting everything’s made in the U.S. in your facilities. Do you think that type of level of sophistication and quality, like medical-grade, could be achieved by going offshore, or do you think everything pretty much has to be built here to get that achieved effect?

[00:11:12] Rob Wirtz: No, I mean, that’s kind of debatable, I’d say. You know, we’re really big on doing everything in our facility for a couple of reasons. We want to make sure we control the quality of it. We want to make sure we have the ability to do everything in-house so we can service our customers very well. There are good overseas manufacturers, I would say, but from a standpoint of having a repeatable product and serviceability and all that stuff, I think being a domestic manufacturer and a domestic supplier is going to play a big role in that in the future.

[00:11:52] Jason Kitamura: Absolutely. And I’m just assuming as, you know, legalization gets more widespread and larger companies start being involved, they’re going to want higher-quality products and services. So, it makes sense for what you guys are doing.

[00:12:07] Rob Wirtz: For sure.

[00:12:08] Jason Kitamura: And, you know, just from talking to people in the industry, and, you know, there’s some are kind of going back to the idea of CO2 extraction and solventless, and saying, you know, new technologies are making that a little more efficient. What’s kind of your take? Because I know there’s always kind of debate with, you know, solventless. What do you guys kind of take on that?

[00:12:25] ]Rob Wirtz: Yeah, I mean, I guess I split up solventless in my mind on two things. I hear a lot of people saying, you know, CO2 extraction being solventless, but really the CO2 process, once you do the actual baseline crude extraction, most time it’s put through, and it’s mixed with a solvent, let’s say ethanol, then it’s winterized, and then it’s filtered, and then it goes through solvent recovery. So, most of those products, if you’re taking it to a distillate or any more of a refined end product than a baseline crude, really goes through and touches the solvent. So, I think you lose a lot of efficiencies there using the CO2 process because I think it just adds more processes downline and more further processing and refinement that’s needed to get to the same end product that if you started with ethanol. And I mean, it’s… I know a lot of CO2 companies now are actually, you know, kind of advertising that they use a co-solvent, and they have CO2 and ethanol in there to really get that efficiency of ethanol and then still try to use CO2 to pull some other components out of the plant material that they see as benefits. So.

[00:13:37] Jason Kitamura: Yeah, I mean, I’m not an expert on it, but I just know, you know, from what people are telling me that ethanol seems more fitting. Just, you know, it just extracts better, and you have to just do a lot more manipulation with the CO2 after the fact to get everything where you want it to be.

[00:13:53] Rob Wirtz: For sure. And CO2 can be an expensive process. I know, like, for our equipment, I mean, for a CO2 machine versus an ethanol machine, typically an ethanol machine is, you know, 25 to 50% of the cost for a much larger throughput first. So, as the industry continues to scale up and people are ramping up capacity and ramping up throughput, I mean, obviously, that’s part of our core business. We really truly believe ethanol is and will be the future of the industry.

[00:14:23] Jason Kitamura: Yeah. And also, I’ve heard kind of like the, you know, there’s the pressurization that’s required on CO2 is makes it a little bit more dangerous to operate and on large loads and stuff like that as well. You know, also, you know, what about like the smaller batches? I know ethanol is primarily, you know, the kind of the go-to for large quantity, but you know, some people are using like butane and things like that for the smaller batches. And I know you guys are diving into other solvents. You know, what’s kind of your take on that?

[00:14:52] Rob Wirtz: Yeah, I know. I think butane definitely has its place in the market. So, butane is really good. You can make a lot of really high-end niche products that you have more trouble making with ethanol. I mean, even on a small scale, it really depends, you know, what is the goal? What is the end product you’re looking to make? Even on a small scale, if your end goal is to make, let’s say, distillate to make, you know, vape cards or gummies or any of that kind of stuff, I think ethanol will win, you know, every day of the week, regardless of the scale, whether it’s 10 pounds a day or 3,000 pounds a day. But I think where, you know, hydrocarbon really has its advantages is if you’re making some of these more boutique products. You know, if it’s, you know, live resins or shatters or butters or waxes, some of these other products, and, you know, hydrocarbon does a really nice job there.

[00:15:47] Jason Kitamura: Got it. You know, another thing like we like to talk about is, you know, kind of the future of the industry, and, you know, you guys are kind of on the forefront because the demand of your machines is kind of telling us like how much is being produced out there. I mean, what’s kind of your outlook on, you know, the next few months versus the next, you know, a few years in the industry?

[00:16:06] Rob Wirtz: Yeah, so I think the industry is honestly really just at its beginning stages. I think there’s going to be huge growth, especially as more states legalize, you know, recreational and more states come online. I think the industry will continue to grow. I think when, you know, federal legalization starts coming around, you’re going to see a lot of consolidation. And I think even at that point, you’re going to see another big wave where companies are starting to, you know, make a lot of acquisitions, and then they’re going to start standardizing their process and their processing centers to a certain level of technology, and they’re going to want to start pushing for more efficiency and a lower final cost to produce a product. And, you know, all those things align greatly with our equipment and our technology. So, I think it’s…I think the industry has a very, very bright future.

[00:16:57] Jason Kitamura: Well, that makes sense. I mean, just curious, I know, you know, there’s a lot of people that came from the industry that have been in there for forever, and they’re more the old-school people. And I’m assuming kind of the old-school players in the game, you know, they have their processes. They kind of already like, you know, what they’re doing. How, in your life, what you’re seeing, do you see a lot of them kind of converting to more, you know, the more modernization, trying to get a little more medical-grade, you know, machinery like what you are providing? Or is it more kind of like the new players that are coming? Because a lot of these new companies are coming from like people that are not in cannabis, you know, they’re brand-new players, but they got a lot of money behind them. They’re more, they’re younger, they’re more kind of tech-savvy. Is it more that side of it that’s kind of going towards, you know, the product that you guys have?

[00:17:41] Rob Wirtz: Yeah, you know, it’s honestly, it’s really both sides. So, I would say that, you know, it’s kind of, you know, the people who have been in the industry, you know, the OGs of the industry, let’s say, honestly have a really good appreciation to the technology that we’re bringing. Because I think as we went through, we talked to a lot of people, we understood a lot of people’s pain points, and we wanted to solve a lot of people’s problems. So, you know, when we explain our technology and the way it works and our automation, it’s people who have been at it, they’re like, “Oh my gosh, man, why didn’t I have this, you know, five years ago? This is amazing. This is what I’ve dreamed of,” kind of thing. So, I think people take a really good liking to it, and I think have a lot of appreciation because even more that they’ve been in the industry, and they’ve seen, you know, the troubles, and they have seen, you know, the struggles that you have to go to or the things that they’ve had to overcome, and then they see technology helping with those struggles, I think they have a good appreciation for that.

[00:18:44] Jason Kitamura: Yeah, and I can see kind of how where you guys came when you started it. You know, some of these companies out there, they already have their process set, and they kind of like see how it should be, and they build a product for that. But it seems like you guys are more, you know, finding out what the need is in the industry, you know, talking to people, finding, you know, where the bottlenecks, you know, finding inefficiencies, and asking people, and developing the product based on that feedback. So, I think, yeah, you guys are doing an awesome job in that, and it looks like it’s paying off. Yeah, I mean, I guess before we let you go, what do you think is the next step for your company? Where’s, where you guys headed?

[00:19:21] Rob Wirtz: You know, it’s…We have a lot of innovation and a lot of product development on the horizon. So, we have a full research and development and a really, really strong engineering team, mechanical, chemical, controls, engineering group that is very aggressive every day that we’re looking and testing and developing new technologies and looking at patenting processes and technologies to really continue to advance the industry. So, we’re excited to continue to push the envelope for innovation and really plan to be the driving force in the industry that keeps moving it forward.

[00:19:59] Jason Kitamura: Oh, awesome. And if somebody listening wants to learn more about your product, what’s the best way they can reach you guys?

[00:20:07] Rob Wirtz: Yeah, so they can visit our website,, or they can email myself direct, which my email is And then I can be happy to talk to them, put them in touch with somebody on our technical sales team, and start the conversation from there.

[00:20:30] Jason Kitamura: Awesome. Thanks. Thanks for joining us today.

[00:20:33] Rob Wirtz: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks for having me. I appreciate it. It was a lot of fun.

[00:20:36] Jason Kitamura: All right. All right.

[00:20:37] Rob Wirtz: Thanks, Jason.

[00:20:40] Jason Kitamura: Once again, I want to thank Rob Wirtz with MACH Technologies for joining us today. And for all your cannabis news and for other podcasts like this one, visit us at If you want to reach out to the show, you can email us at I’m Jason Kitamura, and thanks for joining us.