Rob Wirtz Joins the Dime Podcast to Discuss High Tech Extraction (Transcript)

A screenshot from The Dime podcast's YouTube video. The screenshot features the podcast's logo and photos of Kellan and Bryan, the two hosts.

[00:00:00] Unknown Voice: This is The Dime. Dive into the cannabis and hemp industry through trends, insights, predictions, and tangents.

[00:00:11] Bryan Fields: What’s up, guys? Welcome back to another episode of The Dime. I’m Bryan Fields, and with me as always is my right-hand man Kellan Finney. And this week we’ve got a very special guest, Rob Wirtz, president of MACH Technologies. Rob, thanks for taking the time. How are you doing today?

[00:00:25] Rob Wirtz: I’m doing great. Thanks for having me guys. I’m excited to be on. So I appreciate it.

[00:00:29] Bryan Fields: Kellan, how are you doing?

[00:00:30] Kellan Finney: Doing really well. You know, finally someone from the west coast and a bunch of east coast people are in a conversation. I feel like Michigan’s a little more west than the other people we’ve talked to. So I’m going to go with it. How are you doing, Bryan?

[00:00:42] Bryan Fields: I’m doing well, I appreciate you asking. I think Michigan’s kind of like right in that central line and we can kind of dive into some of those concepts a little bit. So, Rob, I appreciate you taking the time. I’m excited to kind of dive into MACH Technologies and some of the benefits. So for our listeners that are unfamiliar, can you share a little bit about the company?

[00:01:00] Rob Wirtz: Yeah, so great. So MACH technologies, we’re really a specialized equipment and technology manufacturer focused on the hemp and cannabis space. So what’s unique about MACH is we design and manufacture all of our equipment and technologies in-house in Michigan. Everything’s made in the U.S. We’re very prideful of that. And we have a really good, unique suite of technologies around ethanol-based extraction, around hydrocarbon extraction, and around solventless extraction. So, we try to tackle all things like potential solvents and methods of extraction, and do everything in-house so we can provide the customer what they want based on which route they want to go. And then on top of that, our core is all about service and making sure we can do everything we can to keep our customers successful. So in a nutshell, that’s us.

[00:01:46] Bryan Fields: So when a customer comes to you and they they’re interested in kind of participating in the cannabinoid experience, do they usually have a technology in mind, or is it kind of a back-and-forth and understanding what their end point is and then working backwards?

[00:01:59] Rob Wirtz: You know, it’s kind of a mixed bag. I would say some people who are very familiar/common, they know exactly what they want. We have other customers who come and have the initial product that they say: Here, this is what I need, but we always, everything in our sales cycle, we try to take a consultative approach to it. So we try to back into it like, you know, how did you get to that? Where do you start? Where do you want to be in a year, three years, five years? And a lot of the times, we figured we kind of help guide them a little bit to try to make it so they’re not spending too much capital up front. They’re getting the right equipment, getting the right technology for the markets they want to play in and the compliance they want to follow. So it’s kind of a loaded question, but some people know exactly what they want, some people think they know and we have to guide them, and some people say, I want to get in but I have no idea where to start—lay it on me.

[00:02:49] Bryan Fields: Kellan, I know that’s your wheelhouse, jump in from there.

[00:02:49] Kellan Finney: Yeah. I mean, I think that that’s the full spectrum, and a lot of times people don’t know, they just want to get in the industry. I always ask them to kind of do a little soul searching and be like, well, what do you want to make? Right? Because each different extraction technology that Rob just mentioned creates a different product and behaves different, there’s different regulations required for each one. There’s different science on how each one functions. So, they’re very different beasts. They all may concentrate the chemicals from the plant, but they all do it in slightly different. So I think, I think that’s a good answer.

[00:03:24] Bryan Fields: Let’s talk about processing safety. Obviously people are diving in there’s some inexperienced operators. Is there different, unique aspects that MACH brings to the table in order to kinda provide that safety level for operators?

[00:03:37] Rob Wirtz: Yeah, for sure. Safety is really big. It’s kind of one of our, you know, our main pillars that we focus on, that we saw, again, gaps in the industry that we thought we could help fill, because, you know, with our experience coming from a lot of other, very highly regulated markets, you know, safety has been a key for these markets that have been around for 50, 60 years, that in new markets, like this, they can be, you know, not at the top of mind to people. So, when we designed all of our equipment, we designed it all around, you know, safety and automation is a big thing that plays into that. And we use basically very nice operator, touchscreen control systems, and we have UL 508A panel shop for control systems. We use all UL-listed electronics. We’re an ASME-certified tank manufacturer. So we take all of these things, we build them all into automation, we put redundancies in there and basically we try to take out the opportunity to let operators forget to do some tasks that will over pressurize discharge on the floor overflow tanks. Let’s take out those air points to really increase the safety aspect of the operation of the equipment. So that’s very, very important.

[00:04:45] Kellan Finney: I want to go back to one thing you said, you just mentioned a lot of acronyms. Do you want to, could you elaborate for our listeners on like what UL is and ASME and all these acronyms that you just threw out there for those who, who aren’t fully educated on what those acronyms mean?

[00:05:00] Rob Wirtz: Yeah! So UL is basically, it’s a regulatory body that really controls electronics. So it’s underwriters laboratory. There’s a number of other, what they’re called NRTLs, so nationally recognized testing laboratories that go into that. It can be NRTAC, which is ETL. There’s CSA. So there’s a group of these that basically regulate and say, the components that are basically listed in certified are reviewed by these NRTLS and they’re certified to be safe for use for the environment. So, if it’s a Class 1 Division 1 environment, a Class 1 Division 2 environment, these are basically one step above a third-party peer review to say these NRTLs have reviewed these and they are safe to use in these environments. So, they’re the top of the line for electronics that are used. Electronics are very important in these environments, obviously, because they have to be classified correctly because with flammable vapors, or chemicals, you know, there’s always risk of something igniting, which we can dive into the ventilation requirements and the safety on that side of it. So that’s that. And then the ASME, basically it’s a pressure vessel certification. So again, it’s another outside body that comes in certifies our welders and our company to say we can make pressure vessels and we can stamp them. And we have an ASME U stamp that basically says the calculations the tanks have been reviewed, which has all the wall thicknesses, all the weld types, and characteristics of the welds, and then you get full penetration welds to make sure that these are safe vessels that are really fit for use for the application they’re going.

[00:06:30] Bryan Fields: These certifications though…are they necessary to operate in today’s cannabinoid industry?

[00:06:36] Rob Wirtz: So ASME absolutely is. So on ASME, that really falls into the hydrocarbon side and the current regulations are kind of split there, as the market goes off of anything that’s bigger than a six-inch diameter vessel has to be ASME-certified. That is not the case for all the operators out there, I will tell you that, but they have a true certified system. And if you have it third-party peer reviewed, that is one of the things that will absolutely make you pass or fail. And that’s done either from an equipment standpoint before it’s shipped or if there’s onsite technical inspections. So that’s very, very, very important. And again, the other side of it, the UL side or the NRQL listing side of electronics, again, I would say that is absolutely critical and required.

Is it always done? Again, the answer is no, but as the market continues to get more regulated, and I think as people become knowledgeable on the process, ’cause a lot of, I think jurisdictions, don’t really know what they’re looking for, don’t know the questions to ask yet, as that builds up and people become more knowledgeable, I think we’re going to see a big shift of people who aren’t playing in that regulated market are going to get pushed out of the market or get closed out.

[00:07:46] Bryan Fields: And to kind of continue on that path, cause we’ve had some of these challenging conversations, so it’s really great to hear you reiterate that for our listeners, and more specifically, some of the prospects we spoken with. Say, they take a more cost-effective approach where they get a piece of equipment that doesn’t have these certifications and regulations instilled in it. How hard would it be in order to, let’s say, upgrade their equipment? Is that even a possibility to go from one of these pieces of equipment that doesn’t have these certifications to that?

[00:08:13] Rob Wirtz: Yeah. So when I guess, great question. When you say upgrade, I kind of take that as replace in our sense, because we do do that right now a lot, honestly. We have customers call us and say, we bought X, Y, and Z either doesn’t work or we try to get it certified, and the certifying body said, “there’s no way we’re going to let you use that.”

So the problem is, is as typically our customers will try to save X amount of money, they’ll spend $30,000 on this piece versus ours being 60, cause it’s $30,000 less. Everybody’s, you know, driven by capital, which I understand, but we always try to explain to people, you know, the purchase gets a lot more expensive when you’re taking that $30,000 piece of equipment and tossing it in the dumpster, and then spending the original money. So, if you’re going to be a serious player in the market, we always advise people, you know, take a serious approach to it, level up from a compliance standpoint. And if your competitors, aren’t they’ll, you know, they’re not going to be in the market long-term, in my opinion. So, that’s the approach we try to take with people.

[00:09:12]Bryan Fields: I think that’s so important. Kellan, I want you to kind of shed some light on that

[00:09:22] Kellan Finney: I have one funny story about UL certification…

[00:09:24] Bryan Fields: Because we spoke about, have conversations, and the story about the guy who referenced his expensive paperweight. So, Kellan, kind of dive in there.

[00:09:46] Kellan Finney: I have one funny story about UL certification. So like, back in the day, when I was an operator, we were buying heating mantles to heat up some round bottom flasks. And round bottom flask heating mantles aren’t. super cheap. You can get, like, the ones from China, and they’re still semi-expensive. And I had a procurement guy who found a really screaming deal on Alibaba for one out of India. And so I was like, why not save a couple hundred dollars? So we ordered it. And like, I literally turned it on when we got it and it caught fire. And I was like, how can you sell something that catches fire when you plug it in? And it’s because, it, they’re just manufacturing these things without any certification and regulations, It turns out that it’s, like, hard to take someone’s word from across the world that like, “No, it’ll be safe. Just plug it in and turn it on.” You know what I mean? And so municipalities don’t take your guys’ word, right, Rob? That’s why you have these third-party facility or companies come in and, and stamp it because they’re just not going to be like, “Yeah. It’s Rob. We know Rob, we’ll take his word that everything was done right.” They have to have it, right?

[00:10:22] Rob Wirtz: No, for sure. And I think that, I think honestly, the manufacturers in this space should think of it more from, you know, outside of, just on top of the municipalities that are going to require it. But honestly, to make sure that equipment manufacturers don’t miss something, it’s always good to have another set of eyes and something. So, for your own due diligence and liability, I think it’s super important. And it’s funny, you mentioned that story about that heating mantle, because I don’t know if you guys heard the other one in this space. I was talking about ASME pressure vessels, that a lot of these vessels were coming from overseas and having ASME stamps, and it came out of the woodwork that the company who were stamping were stamping them with fake ASME stamps, and they actually weren’t pressure vessels. So, it’s crazy the stuff you see in the space for people who are saving money.

[00:11:31] Kellan Finney: Crazy.

[00:11:33] Rob Wirtz: it’s counterproductive to what you’re doing. I mean, the risking safety and the product, which is crazy.

[00:11:13] Bryan Fields: And like you said before, it’s one of those where they spend, let’s say the $30,000 up front, which will likely be on the very, very low end, and ultimately have to put that into the closet as an expensive paperweight as they double down on an equipment purchase, which is obviously something operators don’t ever want to do, to have a double investment on capital equipment. It’s just never a good route to take. So

[00:12:00] Kellan Finney: Right.

[00:12:01] Bryan Fields: When you’re having these conversations, and they’re kind of like, hitting their head up against the wall about the cost to purchase one of these equipments, and they’re wondering about the investment of the upfront opportunity. Obviously, being highly regulated is so important and telling them the future of where to go. Is there a specific fact or statistic that you share with them to let them know that this is the direction the industry is going and these are investments for the long-term approach?

[00:12:21] Rob Wirtz: We try to be very transparent with our customers, to be honest, you know, we don’t have, you know, a crystal ball that says where it’s going, but we basically share our experience in other industries that came up in a similar path. And in my mind, you know, honestly, new emerging industries follow kind of a same path all the time. And I think it’s very clear to everybody when you talk to them to say, you never see stuff that’s coming out, that that stuff is becoming less regulated or less compliant in this space. They’re always stepping up the bar. I mean, even in the NFPA codes and stuff like that, they’re adding more stuff that deals just with extraction. So people are starting to pay attention to it. And if you don’t buy the most compliant you can get at this point, you know, that is the best shot you’re going to have. And making sure you future-proof yourself on compliance. It’s not guaranteed, but buying the most compliant stock today is the best shot you have on being future compliant in the future.

[00:13:14] Bryan Fields: So, perfect quote right there.

[00:13:17] Kellan Finney: Yeah, the future proofing it. I mean, that’s used so, so readily. I mean, if you’re not thinking about where the industry is going to be from a manufacturing perspective in 10 years, then I don’t think you’re building a company for the long-term, personally.

[00:13:28] Rob Wirtz: No, I agree with you.

[00:13:29] Bryan Fields: So, let’s talk about some automation features. Is there a specific technology integrated into the equipment? Can you share a little bit more about that?

[00:13:37] Rob Wirtz: Yeah! So our flagship series, lets say if we touched, like, let’s say on the ethanol side, our flagship series, which is our EES products, they’re fully automated ethanol extraction systems. So, typical labs that require a handful of operators and one guy’s, you know, managing the ethanol chilling system, and the other guy’s doing extraction. Now, the guys, you know, overseeing, let’s say the recovery or the decarb process, and for each of these processes, they’re basically manually transferring solvent into the extraction vessel, they’re operating each stage independently, they’re discharging it out. There’s operator error, there’s labor, and there’s inefficiencies there. I mean, not only from a bottleneck standpoint, but I always talk to people about operational bottlenecks. Even if you have a chilling system and extraction system recovery system, all sized for the cracked throughput, the operators can introduce bottlenecks because they’re basically transferring fluids or turning them on and off at the wrong time. So, you do have inherent operational bottlenecks.

What’s awesome about our technology is everything is controlled by one central control system. The entire system is designed and manufactured to work together as one complete unit. So, to operate our system, you have a single operator. He literally puts the biomass in, selects the recipe, and hits start. It does the automatic ethanol chilling to the right temperature and level based on the recipe at discharge, then it performs the whole extraction process, automatically pumps it out, puts it through filtration, puts it in the recovery process. The recovery process automatically turns on and off throughout the day, automatically discharges the oil over to the decarb, automatically runs the decarb process, transfers the solvent back to the front end. So, the whole process is really truly automated, and it’s got level controls, temperature controls, pressure controls, and it’s all recipe-driven, so it makes it super easy to act.

And the consistency of really the output product in there ensures that the recipe or the parameters for every batch are the same. And to really show that from a compliance standpoint, the system automatically generates a PDF report at the end of each day and saves it on the computer. So, you can pick any day, say “I want to see what batches we ran, what recipe parameters were ran, what the machine actually did.” And you can prove that your product is ran in a consistent format all the time.

[00:15:52] Kellan Finney: What record…?

[00:15:53] Rob Wirtz: So that’s huge.

[00:15:54] Kellan Finney: What record is used for standard manufacturing? What acronym does that kind of record work with. It’s CGMP, right?

[00:16:02] Rob Wirtz: Yeah, so it’s, you know, CGMP EU GMP, and it’s really just from a, from a, an overall compliance standpoint. So, for basically, for CGMP EU GMP, everything’s about making manufacturing processes repeatable, making sure that your process is the same every time you do it.

[00:16:11] Kellan Finney: Right.

[00:16:12] Rob Wirtz: And while you can achieve that with manually operated processes, the process control there and the documentation can become overwhelming, should I say? And I think as the market continues to mature, and things continue to move more toward, like a pharmaceutical-style manufacturing operation, those are going to be paramount in people’s success.

[00:16:39] Kellan Finney: I couldn’t agree more.

[00:16:40] Bryan Fields: I think that’s so important to kind of shed more light on because as these small organizations try to scale and they have to go from, let’s say, one key employee to multiple key employees, if that key employee is sick that day, and he usually does a different tweaking to the SOP, I mean, now the end product is going to be slightly different. So, when you’ve automated the entire process, you can adhere to really, really strict QA/QC guidelines, and then make sure that if things do go wrong, you’ve got a detailed record on going back and exactly identifying the parameters that, that went wrong. And I think that’s so critical. And once again, I’ll ask this question, even though the answer is very clear, is CGMP EU GMP necessary now, or necessary more in the future?

[00:17:19] Rob Wirtz: I think it’s necessary now. I do. I think the major players are adhering to that now, and that is our goal. So, I think that’s very important now. I think it’s 100% absolutely necessary in the future. I mean, I, I kind of give, talk to people about, you know, when we’re talking about the pharmaceutical side, I, you know, kind of give them the, the story of, you know, there’s no way pharmaceutical companies are having people dose their ingredients into capsules using a little shovel and pouring it in, you know, that is not the route. So it’s, you know, we have to think along those lines of, sure they could do it, but that is not the route. That is, that is unacceptable. So…

[00:17:58] Kellan Finney: That’s such a good analogy.

[00:17:59] Bryan Fields: The visible, like, thinking about like, actually that experience is so alarming in the same regard and actually what happens in it.

[00:18:04] Rob Wirtz: It is, isn’t it?

[00: 18:05] Bryan Fields: Yeah. And what happens in our space too, from an end product, of course, there’s inconsistencies, there’s human error continually throughout the process, which is always causing issues. So Kellan, kind of expand on that CGMP EU GMP. Obviously it’s really, really strict to get there, but it’s one of those where exactly like Rob saying is the direction of where the industry’s likely headed.

[00:18:23] Kellan Finney: Yeah, no, and I think Rob touched on all of it, and the only thing that I would want to try to, kind of, point out as well would be it’s definitely needed now, because if you’re trying to build a brand around a specific product, it’s paramount that that behaves the same every time you go to kind of display it in front of the consumer, right? Whether you’re in California or Colorado, or hopefully, maybe one day New York, if they ever decide to sell something. You like that little shot, Bryan?

[00:18:55] Bryan Fields: No, no, that’s definitely, that’s definitely getting edited out.

[00:19:03] Rob Wirtz: Definitely, definitely just ruin his day.

[00:19:04] Kellan Finney: I mean, it really, really is important for building a brand that people will come back to, right? If they like this specific product because it gives them this experience. And I mean, we’re talking about derivative products, so it’s a chemical, chemical profile, if you will. And we could get into entourage effects and all of these other things that research scientists are studying right now and figuring all that stuff out for us, but if you want to generate a chemical that creates the same experience time and time again, it’s going to have to have the exact same concentration of chemicals. And the only way to do that is to maintain consistencies through automation, in my opinion, right? Because that’s, that’s the only way that pharmaceuticals have been able to facilitate the exact same product every time. I mean, you go buy Ibuprofen in California and you buy Ibuprofen and France— identical molecules and almost identical recipes. And that’s only made possible because the pharmaceutical companies are following CGMP and EU GMP guidelines to ensure that their processes are the same every single time. So that, I mean, I think that’s the only main point I want to make. As far as CGMP goes, it’s not just to be a taxing event for operators. It’s, it’s meant to help operators monitor their process so that they can ensure trust in the consumers’ minds.

[00:20:22] Rob Wirtz: Yeah, I was going to say, for sure. I agree that I was going to just, you, you touched on it right at the end there just about, I mean, the process is really just to ensure the safety of the product for the consumers, you know?

[00:20:33] Kellan Finney: Safety is a huge part of that as well.

[00:20:35] Bryan Fields: Also, to kind of expand on that when you pick up a product, right, and you have that type of difference, you start to have this off-putting experience in wondering, you know, what was the reasoning behind that? And especially with, with all the legacy markets and all these other products out there. So, sometimes people kind of wonder if there is enough regulations going on and what else is needed in the space. So I agree 100% that it’s so important from an end-consumer standpoint, to have a consistent, safe product so that they can avoid some of these stigmas that have plagued this industry for a really long time.

[00:21:10] Rob Wirtz: For sure, I agree.

[00:21:11] Bryan Fields: Let’s say with the consumers… when they’re making a selection of a product in a dispensary…do you think it’s clear for them to understand the differences in the products that are ethanol extracted or BHO extracted?

[00:21:23] Rob Wirtz: You know, I think it depends on the level of the consumer. I think if the consumer understands the extraction process and knows basically which products are typically processed, let’s say, through BHO, which unique or more connoisseur products that are made there, then they will understand that. I think if it’s a just first-time consumer off the street, walking in, I’m sure they probably don’t know, honestly, that there’s even BHO or ethanol or any of these extraction methods. They’re just looking at the product and probably taking the, you know, the advice of, let’s say the, the budtender, whoever’s there at that dispensary. Here’s what I’m looking for. Here’s kind of the problem I want it to solve. What do you kind of suggest? And they’re probably go through the process of how, how do you want to actually use the, that concentrate? I think it depends on the user’s level of knowledge within the space, you know.

[00:22:11] Kellan Finney: Yeah, and I would even go further and say probably 80% of consumers out there in the cannabis world couldn’t tell you what ethanol is, or what BHO really even means from an acronym perspective. Even if you said butane, they’d be like, oh, like…my lighter? Right? Like they don’t understand the chemical differences in these solvents, let alone what the, those chemical characteristics from a solvent perspective mean as far as the act of chemicals you’re pulling out of the plant. I mean, operators would love to plant their flag and they will all die on those hills. Right? Like the operators will die if you have a really robust or like passionate BHO operator, like he will die on that hill about how BHO is better, and the same goes for ethanol and CO2, in my opinion, you know what I mean? Like they, they fall in love with it. And there’s little characteristics that they kind of hold onto and they, they literally plant their flag and they’re like, no, this is better for X-Y-Z. And they all have those kind of buzzwords, if you will, in terms of what, why they believe one product is better than the other.

[00:23:13] Rob Wirtz: I agree with you. I think there is one thing that I, you know, I hope in the future, the industry gets better at, and that is, you know, you read a lot of articles, you see a lot of stuff, and it seems like companies who manufacture one technology or one solvent extraction technology are bashing the other ones.

[00:23:32] Kellan Finney: Yes!

[00:23:33] Rob Wirtz: And usually there’s not a lot of, I guess, truth to it. I mean, like, you always hear people, we get it all the time of somebody says, you know, I want CO2 cause it’s solventless. They said you don’t want to use ethanol in product. And then we ask them, well, are you going to winterize the product? You’re gonna make a distillate? Yeah, we are. Then, while you’re introducing a solvent at that point, they say, well, no, they, they, you know, I heard it’s different, it’s, it’s not the same. And it’s incorrect information being put out there. So I think people are getting led astray a little bit, and I think it’s, it’s a little bit, you know, shame on the manufacturers that they’re doing that again, to promote their own product in some aspect, rather than kind of give truthful information out there that’s more realistic so people can really understand the different processes and what the difference is between them, you know, rather than I guess, bash the ones back and forth.

[00:24:16] Kellan Finney: I couldn’t agree more. I mean, when I was an operator, I ran as many different solvents as I could, because I was thinking…diversification of products. You’re going to get more consumers and you’re going to build a stronger business.

[00:24:26] Bryan Fields: Yup. The classic same, same but different.

[00:24:29] Kellan Finney: Yeah. Oh, that’s a good one.

[00:24:34] Bryan Fields: So, Kellan, kinda expand on that for our listeners who are unfamiliar with BHO versus ethanol versus CO2 at the end product. Can you kind of give them like a real simplified version of what the differences would be from an end product standpoint?

[00:24:44] Kellan Finney: Yeah. I mean, it’s kind of evolved a lot over the last five or six years, right? Significantly, if you will. When I first got into the industry distillate, it really wasn’t a thing, and people were selling CO2 oil as like, winterized oil is what it was called…it was called Amber at the time, and they were just putting that into vape pens and selling vape pens, and that’s where the majority of CO2 oil kind of found its place.

And then ethanol wasn’t even really on the scene yet—hydrocarbon, BHO (propane, or butane and propane kind of mixtures) has always been the main market for… that has always been, like, your heavy user, your dabber, if you will. And they are going to be the, one of the more robust consumers, in my opinion. Like, they’re the consumer, that’s showing up every single week and buying a gram every single week, if not more, more often, but they’re not going to be buying massive quantities, and you’re not going to have this, this mass adoption that we were seeing with, with like vape pens, where the soccer mom feels more comfortable with a vape pen in her hand than taking a dab because the dab is a very interesting way to consume.

I mean, anytime you got, let’s just…do we just want to touch on that real quick? Like, anytime you bust out a torch, like a glass rig, and you look at someone and you’re like, “no, it’s gonna be fine, like really totally fine.” Like, you’re going to be looked at with some questions, for sure. Like, there’s going to be some people that are not the most comfortable with consuming something with those tools involved, if you will, but yeah. At the end of the day, hydrocarbon has been around forever. And I think, I don’t think it’s going anywhere because it does create some of the most representative chemical profiles of the actual plant itself. If you just look at some of the, the scientific characteristics of how a hydrocarbon extraction is executed, it’s lower temperatures, lower pressures than CO2, the hydrocarbon under those parameters is a very, very, very good solvent, and so it does a great job of capturing almost the entire phytochemical profile of a cannabis plant. So, you’re going to get some of the most accurate chemical profiles from a concentrate to flower perspective that’s unadultered in hydrocarbon extraction.

And with ethanol, in my opinion, I think ethanol is the easiest to scale, right? So I think that ethanol automation and scaling it into like, true industrial processes are where ethanol’s purpose is. And I think that, that’s, that’s really good for lowering the cost of all of these other products, right? Like that chemical profile that’s consumed through a dab in a concentrated form isn’t something that’s the best suited for creating the other, all the other derivative products like topicals and edibles and tinctures, and I think that that’s where ethanol kind of fits in, personally. I mean, Rob, what is your take on all of this stuff?

[00:27:46] Rob Wirtz:  No, I, I, 100% agree with you. The, I mean, any, any time we talked to somebody, you know, what part of the market are you trying to go after? They’re trying to make unique products, obviously like resin/shatter, those types of products, we say, yep, BHO is the way to go. If they’re talking about, I want to process a thousand pounds a day, I want to make bulk distillate, we’re going to sell it to market, we’re going to make, you know, gummies and vapes and these other items, we say, well, you know, ethanol wins every day of the week there. So, I think it depends on what they, what product they want to make. And that’s kind of where we try to take our approach to really understand their business and really the underlying aspects of why they want to make those products. So, it’s not just the first product they read about, it’s why they really want to make those and really what drives them to their business decisions so we can help guide them to make sure they’re making the right decisions. But I agree, for sure. I think every solvent has its place. So I, I, I never take the approach of… it’s this solvent and all the other ones are horrible. It’s well, what are you trying to make? And here’s the actual best solution for that product.

[00:28:48] Kellan Finney: I was a part of a company that was heavily invested in CO2 and like, okay, yeah, CO2…the product was… had its place in the market, but like once I executed that process, I had biomass that still had active cannabinoids in them, and that’s why we ended up going towards ethanol. So like, there’s a place to have both, or even all three different extraction systems in one facility, so that like you do this with it, and then the biomass goes over so you can capture more of the cannabinoids out of it. And is that something that you guys kind of see becoming more common in the industry?

[00:29:19] Rob Wirtz: It is. So, I think it’s very common. I think it’s going to continue to get more common. The most common aspect I typically see, I typically see solventless trichome separation equipment, hydrocarbon equipment, and then ethanol equipment. I typically see those three processes in larger facilities as the three most common as a package that I see.

[00:29:38] Kellan Finney: So you mentioned solventless. We haven’t really touched on that. You want to kind of go into some of your guys’ solventless technology and maybe elaborate a little more on that?

[00:29:46] Rob Wirtz: Yeah! So we have, we have a couple of different solventless technologies. The first one I mentioned that’s more common, that’s kind of been out there in the industry is, you know, let’s call it ice water bubble hash trichome separation equipment, which is a more historical product that’s been out there; there’s some unique nuances that we have in our products for that type of equipment that we can offer people.

But the other side of the solventless thing, that we think has a huge place in the market, is our solventless terpene extraction equipment, because for people who really want to keep cannabis-derived terpenes, typically in an ethanol process, as you process it through, you hit it with solvent and you put it through recovery. And then if you put it through distillation, you strip those terps out. You’re degrading them throughout that whole process. So there’s a very, very, very valuable part of that plan. And I think as research continues to go down, you mentioned the entourage effect and basically the combination of these compounds together, I think more and more stuff is going to come to light that all of these things, it’s not just, you know, the THC level in the oil that people want. It’s all these other terpenes and compounds that go together to create this full experience with the product. And I think people who really want that, if they have good material and they have the terpenes present, our solution is amazing because it pulls them out, doesn’t decarb—it doesn’t disturb the, any of those cannabinoids. So then you can put those through a typical extraction process and you have two extremely valuable streams that you can either keep separate, or you can put back together. And you’re actually using cannabis-derived terpenes rather than terpenes that come from other botanical plants that aren’t cannabis-derived. So, there’s a whole bunch of stuff that’s going on in the market that I think is going to continue to make that an extremely, extremely valuable process for people going forward.

[00:31:32] Bryan Fields: Yeah, that’s perfectly said. So, I want to switch gears slightly. Rob…what is one concept about extraction that operators or end consumers would be surprised or shocked to learn?

[00:31:44] Rob Wirtz: Honestly, I think consumers would probably be shocked to learn if they understood the level of operator innovation and traditional processes. To be honest, I think they would be very shocked to learn, to watch somebody operate a BHO machine, ‘cause there’s a lot that goes into it. A lot they have to monitor, a lot of valves are turning, and there’s a lot of operator intervention in running that equipment. I think people probably, you know, blow by the actual work that goes into the back end of these products.

[00:32:13] Bryan Fields: I think horrified might be, like, a better way to describe that.

[00:32:15] Rob Wirtz: I’m trying to be, maybe, a little more politically correct.

[00:32:20] Bryan Fields: Yeah, no, you’re, you’re absolutely, you’re absolutely correct. And I’m glad you brought that up because it’s one that, I mean, even I take for granted to think about, you know, how, how many different variables could be going on, but, you know, speaking with individuals like yourself and, and Kellan continually has just made me, you know, surprised for sure to learn, and I’m glad that you shared that.

[00:32:37] Kellan Finney: Are we going to take a quick moment and just show some respect to all the operators out there that are making the products back there in those C1D1 rooms.

[00:32:44] Bryan Fields: Right?

[00:32:45] Kellan Finney: Pulling all those valves because, it’s…

[00:32:35] Bryan Fields: We appreciate, we appreciate them.

[00:32:36] Kellan Finney: …it’s quite the job!

[00:32:47] Rob Wirtz: It is. It Is! And you know, there’s magic back there.

[00:32:48] Kellan Finney: Playing with explosive gases and just cold…

[00:32:50] Rob Wirtz: People are passionate about it!

[00:32:55] **Kellan Finney: …**ice in their veins.

[00:32:58] Rob Wirtz: It is! And that’s one thing….that’s funny that you talk about that, cause we get that question sometimes and people are saying, well, we don’t want to automate the process because you’re taking away our job…you’re taking away our expertise, and you know, my… always my response to all it is: no, I’m not. I’m not trying to do any of that. I’m trying to make the process more repeatable, more consistent, and I want you to be able to use your expertise, to have more value add to the company you’re working for, to your company, to whatever it might be, so your value can be better used somewhere else, rather than monitoring the process that we can automate based on your recipe and your expertise, what you love, let’s simplify, automate that process. Use your knowledge and your skill and your time on other value adds in the organization.

[00:33:41] Kellan Finney: Separating R & D from production, I think is something that is so hard for a lot of operators to do. They just get so attached and they’re like, well, if I tweak it this little time…it’s like, no, we are running this material the same because of how we did it last time.

[00:33:57] Rob Wirtz: For sure!

[00:33:57] Kellan Finney: So like, you can figure out a new way to do it next time we do this.

[00:33:59] Bryan Fields: Since you’ve been in the cannabinoid industry, what has been the biggest misconception?

[00:34:03] Rob Wirtz: You know, I don’t think it’s a misconception anymore, but I will say, I think probably like most people, when you enter the space, I think there was a lot of incorrect knowledge. People are becoming more comfortable with the space, but I think… I think there was a big misconception about…between CBD and THC, to be honest, with consumers. And I think there was a big misconception about kind of the legality of THC and the uncomfortableness of people working on products to deal with that.

[00:34:29] Kellan Finney: Really well said.

[00:34:30] Bryan Fields: Before we do predictions… we ask all of our guests, if you could sum up your experience in a main takeaway or lesson learned to pass onto the next generation, what would it be?

[00:34:41] Rob Wirtz: Gosh in this space, you know, it’s honestly, this space has been a wild ride. It’s…

[00:34:43] Kellan Finney: Amen, amen!

[00:34:47] Rob Wirtz: …changing so quickly. It’s crazy. I guess my experience is… don’t ever take your foot off the gas. Always make sure you’re looking forward to what is next from a compliance, from a regulatory. How can you help drive the industry forward rather than try to milk off what’s there?

[00:35:04] Kellan Finney: Love it.

[00:35:05] Bryan Fields: All right. Prediction time. Rob, it’s 2025. What has changed with extraction technology?

[00:35:12] Rob Wirtz: In 2025? I think that manual intervention will be almost eliminated. I think the extraction technology in all the major players is going to be more of a cleanroom environment. It’s going to be more CGMP-driven. And honestly, I think there’s going to be like, he kind of said before, I think it’s the… R & D is going to be out. It’s going to be more production. And I think that’s going to be split into two different sectors. I think there’s going to be production facilities that produce very repeatable products. I think there’s going to be R & D facilities to try to develop what’s next for products.

[00:35:44] Bryan Fields: Kellan?

[00:35:13] Kellan Finney: I mean, I couldn’t agree more. I think automation is coming faster than people realized, and I think that the methods that more established manufacturing industries have employed to move themselves forward, like pharma oil and gas, food and bev…I think that they will find their way into cannabis manufacturing quicker than anyone anticipates, and we’re going to see almost fully automated, really, really, really finite, like really heavily controlled extraction processes that are generating products that are predictable and consistent. So, I mean, it’s kind of the same thing Rob said, but I… like, you know, if you believe it, like, why not just keep pouring it on top? What do you think, Bryan?

[00:36:26] Rob Wirtz: One thing just on top of that…that you mentioned that I like is, you know, I always tell people, cause people are always afraid of, you know, the big food and bev companies coming in, pharmaceuticals companies coming in, and I agree, I think they’re definitely going to enter the market. But on the other side of that, I always talk to people on is… yeah, you know, depending on when they’re going to enter the market, is depending on when there’s going to be a need for them in the market. If consumers continue to go down and kind of do more of the unregulated processes, that they don’t get on board with automation, they don’t keep trying to level up the industry, they don’t drive that? Somebody will come in and make a major shift. So, I think it’s on the people within the industry to keep pushing it forward. I think the more the people who are in it now can push that…push automation and keep pushing compliance, will start to make more barriers of entry of other people and less requirements for big players to come in and sweep everything.

[00:37:19] Bryan Fields: I think that’s so important, right? Because we have a chance, since you’re in the space now, you’ve got a substantial start and a lead, and if you can adhere to where the industry is going, you’re right, you can keep yourself in striking distance or at least give yourself a real chance to compete. When these big players come in, because if they do come in, they’re going to have two options, right? They can either buy people up in the space, which they’ll likely do in order to expedite the process into the industry, or they got to start from square one, and we’ve talked about that today…it’s challenging. There’s a whole bunch of opportunities, and let’s say, a learning curve that goes into the industry, that if you haven’t operated in cannabis, you kind of sometimes don’t recognize the massive hurdles and the challenges that just come from just by operating in this space. And to kind of take my swap at the predictions, I would say the regulations and the certifications, like we’ve talked about today, where people have that choice between like, going with the cheaper option or with the one that’s more forward-thinking, I think by the… 2025, those options will be really heavily swayed towards the more certified piece of equipment. I don’t want to have conversations with operators where…. I’m not interested in having conversations with operators now who are looking to kind of save money now and figure it out later, because those are the type of partners that are making the industry more challenging and also hurting the end customer, I think, in the long-term. So, my hope is that by 2025, everyone is onboard with regulations. We’re a little closer to kind of the distinct route of where we need to go and the path is cleaner, and everyone’s kind of adhering to that.

[00:38:47] Rob Wirtz: No, that’s great. I agree.

[00:38:51] Bryan Fields: So Rob, for our listeners who are interested in learning more and getting in touch, where can they connect with you?

[00:38:56] Rob Wirtz: Yeah, so they can, they can visit our website. It’s or they can email me. My email is, or our phone numbers on our website, they can call in and talk to our sales or technical team, and see how we can help them.

[00:38:43] Bryan Fields: Appreciate the time, Rob. We’ll link it all up in the show notes, talk to you soon.

[00:38:46] Rob Wirtz: Awesome. Thank you, guys!