Scaling Up Facilities for Hemp and Cannabis Production: An Engineering Primer

March 11, 2020
Abstract / Synopsis: 

The challenges of scale-up are not insurmountable. Resources are available for start-ups and small businesses to overcome and develop plans to scale-up. This support needs to be a holistic approach. Learning from others and planning can help entrepreneurs avoid common pitfalls of scale-up.
Here, we outline a holistic approach to scaling up.

Now is a time of great opportunity for cannabis and hemp entrepreneurs. Consumers are demanding more choices, and e-commerce is connecting buyers and sellers worldwide. Startups can grow in new ways and more rapidly than was previously possible, but when success maxes out production capacity, the entrepreneur faces a new challenge—scaling up hemp and cannabis production to keep up with demand.

Scale-up is an exciting time with much hope and promise, however, it is also a vulnerable time for new businesses. Innovators who do not plan ahead can make tragic mistakes and suffer losses too great to survive. The challenges of scale-up are not insurmountable. Plenty of entrepreneurs have succeeded, and you can too.

Resources are available for start-ups and small businesses to overcome and develop plans to scale-up. This support needs to be a holistic approach. Learning from others and planning can certainly help entrepreneurs avoid the common pitfalls of scale-up.

This article outlines a holistic approach to scaling up including:

• Understanding and controlling feedstocks
• Navigating regulatory and compliance requirements as it relates to manufacturing
• The importance of the strategic facility methodology for your design with the end products in mind
• Determination of your manufacturing plant’s capabilities, purification levels, and processes
• Utilization of cannabis and hemp-based
scoping strategies

Let’s take a closer look at each of these strategies. Note that some supplementary information related to each of these topics can be found within reference 1.

Understanding and Controlling Feedstocks

Not to get too elementary, but as in all cases of farming, understanding and controlling the quality of feedstock is absolutely essential to delivering a consistent product. In this market, we are growing our feedstock. It is not synthetically derived; it is developed through a series of genetic mutations. We create clones from a mother plant to arrive at optimum characteristics: larger buds, more oil, and stronger, more tolerant stocks.

This is not earth-shattering information. But once you arrive at the feedstock that offers you the best oil or the best isolate (or whatever attributes you require on the backend of the processing), you must be able to control and nurture it, and prevent it from being adulterated.
That’s not always so easy. If a third party is providing the feedstock, you are trusting them to nurture the feedstock, so that when it is introduced to the plant facility for processing, it yields the intended product.

For now, the cannabis market is largely self-regulated and therefore not strong in terms of quality assurance. That can be dangerous in terms of consistent quality of product. It demands that you do all you can to control your feedstock and understand the supply chain for the downstream piece, and to have confidence in the consistency of your final product.

If you are not controlling the feedstock on your own, audit the provider from whom you will get product. Understand how they grow and what their cycles are. Are they able to scale with demand? It’s advisable not to put all your eggs in one basket, but instead to have a group of suppliers that can provide you the same quality of material.

On the other hand, if you’re controlling your own feedstocks, make sure that your mother clone environment is well managed internally. You don’t want to adulterate anything you have in your current facility. Maintain an adequate level of documentation to ensure consistency in growth quality. After all, consistency in your feedstock equals consistency in your product.


About the Author

Charles Jabara is a senior project manager with CRB in Kansas City, Missouri. Direct correspondece to: [email protected].

How to Cite this Article

C. Jabara, Cannabis Science and Technology 3(2), 40–44 (2020).