Cannabis tech

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Drying cannabis can be tricky. Dampness can trigger mold. Too much heat can wipe out terpenes. It needs good air circulation.

It’s a relatively new science, and lots of new farmers are trying to master it — or find where to farm the job out.

Showing off her new drying room last fall, Mitra Sticklen, chief operating officer at OM Extracts in White City, reports they’ve developed software that allows them (and the farmer using their drying room) to set the drying temp and humidity, then an app flags the team (OM workers and the farmers) on their phone or computer if it starts getting out of that range, giving them the opportunity to adjust and keep it on track.

“We try to preserve the terpenes, the aromatics, so we use lots of fans and lower the temperature, which takes longer but preserves the terpenes,” says Sticklen.

Farmer Anthony White, who grows in Eagle Point, Central Point and Medford, says the drying room monitor sends alerts via the app.

“We set our parameters to 90 degrees, and as soon as it gets to 89, the vacuum system sucks it all out (and returns it to the desired temp). It’s an amazing thing. I put four to six acres of hemp in there and have not had mold issues. It still comes out super-terpy, smelly and tasty and looks like good stuff and is still able to be sold as flower.”

White in 2018 used a “bad system,” propane and a conveyor belt, which ran it through several times, overheated it and “the overall loss was pretty intense. It lost a lot of cannabinoids and terpenes. It suffered a drastic loss of 5 to 10 percent in CBD quality.”

Many farmers had similar experiences and could sell it only as biomass at a lower price, he says.

This system, he adds, is “fill up, let dry, pull out, done. If anything goes off, everyone on the team gets an alert, and someone can change all of that by the phone.”

Sticklen shoots for “craft flower drying,” which uses lower temps than flash dryers. OM built racks that expand the surface area of the room, so each run is 20,000 to 25,000 pounds wet and 5,000 pounds dry, which takes three days. OM charges growers $6.50 per dried pound.
In the adjacent room of their long, light-industrial home, they buck for $5 per finished pound and trim in their Triminator machines for $15 a finished pound.

OM Extracts is collaborating with Triminator as an education/sales center for the new bucking, trimming and rosin press technologies. Dana Mosman, founder of Triminator, says, “We get questions all the time about how to properly dry hemp, when and how to buck it, best practices for trimming, and how to make rosin.” At OM, farmers can get free tours and get questions answered.

Justa Phillips, OM facilities manager, says, “Post-harvest handling is what can make or break a crop. Bucking, trimming, training farmers to use the new machines. … This is by far the biggest growing year for hemp in the valley. It’s the professionalism — it’s more and more necessary to have that to stay in business.”

Sticklen fancies her wheelhouse as “craft hemp,” in the sense small winemakers would use the term.

She earned her bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University in environmental farm-based education and her master’s from University of Chicago in anthropology of farming systems, then migrated to the Rogue Valley because she wanted to work in food-medicine and because of our perfect cannabis terroir and the fact that we pioneered a ban on GMO. Her mother was a geneticist at MSU for 40 years, and Sticklen knows that any contamination of cannabis crop in this valley by altered genes would be devastating.

“We in Jackson-Josephine counties have become the epicenter of ganja country. The best cannabis in the world grows in this bioregion. Our region’s appellation will be known around the world as we keep producing the best. We’re famous for our attention to detail and the quality of what we produce. … We’re not reinventing the wheel, just perfecting it.

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