5 Reasons to Love the Vitalis Implementation Process

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When you operate in a highly competitive landscape like extraction, there are pressures and challenges to deal with on a regular basis. From the market viability of a product, to ensuring optimal capacity for business gains, to ensuring the organization is providing a safe and productive workplace for employees, there can be an endless list of concerns for any business. With multiple projects going on at once, it can be easy to get overwhelmed.

But from the moment a customer engages Vitalis as their extraction system provider, our service and implementation teams step up to the plate to ensure that the process from initial deposit to installation is a positive experience.

With a straightforward and proven plan for implementation, here are 5 reasons to love the Vitalis service and implementation teams.

DEDICATED HELP

Right from the point the purchase is finalized, the implementation team gets working. The account manager makes the introduction to a dedicated project coordinator who starts to work on the plan to get your system delivered and installed efficiently.

While each customer’s business is different, the pathway to installing a Vitalis system in your facility remains relatively the same. It is based on a project plan that has been executed on 4 different continents for numerous other members of the Vitalis family, continually proven successful. From initial kick-off, the project coordinator is dedicated to helping you get your facility ready for delivery and ensuring that you're aware of all timelines and milestones along the way.

Pre-installation documents are prepared to help identify electrical, plumbing, refrigeration and facility necessities before your Vitalis can be properly installed, and the project coordinator works directly with you to ensure that all requirements are met.

Having a dedicated project coordinator as your one point of contact helps streamline communication and move the project along efficiently. This can make the difference between excitement and disappointment as project goals are achieved. Throughout the implementation process, the Vitalis team of professionals are committed to an exceptional customer experience from start to finish.

CHECKLISTS AND CHECK-INS

With so many moving parts involved in setting up an extraction facility, there can be an overwhelming number of tasks and details that need to be addressed. But, with easy-to-follow documentation and checklists, the Vitalis implementation team makes sure that each of these items are documented, catalogued, and addressed with your team.

The project coordinator schedules delivery of the system components including the hot-water heater, refrigeration unit, and extraction system. Working directly with your tradespeople, the project coordinator will ensure clarity and open communication as these units are set up.

Before the first pieces arrive to your facility, exact instructions for installation will be provided to your site team. The project coordinator will also aid with equipment placement – for best workflow optimization, they will drop equipment models into the facility CAD layout you provide. Once equipment arrives on-site and is placed in the predetermined location, the first of two video walkthroughs are scheduled to verify all components before hard utility connections are made.

With all of the coverage from checklists to check-ins, the implementation team helps you stay ahead of the full scope of objectives for a smooth installation.

THE SETUP

Installation and setup of your new Vitalis extraction system is the final process in transitioning from build-mode to processing. From there, your hard work begins to pay off as your system will be fully operational and ready to produce the high-quality extract you need for product realization.

Vitalis equipment will arrive to your site in several large shipping crates. Following the detailed plan provided by your project coordinator, opening the crates and placing the equipment in its pre-determined location is a straightforward process completed by your site team. Once placed, your tradespeople can make the appropriate connections for the electrical, plumbing, and refrigeration following our detailed installation documentation. Completion of these connections moves you into the final step of pre-commissioning where the last video walkthrough is carried out allowing us to verify all installation tasks are complete.

The Vitalis commissioning team is dispatched to your facility following the pre-commissioning walkthrough and checklist verification. Once on-site, they make the final connections, test the equipment, and complete a first-run validation to make sure the system is in perfect working order. With a coordinated and practiced approach, the technicians finalize system installation, get sign-off on the necessary documentation, and green-light the equipment for use.

TRAINING

Once the equipment is fully commissioned, the fun really begins with a comprehensive training program for your operators. From individuals brand new to the industry, to experienced operators, the Vitalis technicians have trained a wide variety of people on how to operate the system safely and efficiently according to best practices.

It can be an intimidating experience working with a high-pressure, high-performance piece of equipment, but the training provided helps new operators gain comfort and confidence in their abilities to use the system. In the first days of training, your team learns best practices for operation, standard maintenance to keep the system running optimally, and how to start recovering rich, broad-spectrum oil extract.

This step is a culmination of all the work and effort put in, from the purchasing team to trades to operators. From here onwards, your lab and operators are ready to start processing, and your company is able to start producing.

THE ONGOING SUPPORT

In many common experiences, people have become accustomed to being left on their own, simply hoping that they have the knowledge necessary to succeed. It's become all too common for people to feel abandoned at this point, pressured to either sink or swim.

But working with a company like Vitalis, that just isn't an option. From initial purchase to install, the team has been by your side helping with preparations and arrangements, managing schedules and timelines, and providing training and education. At this point, there's no other way to raise the bar than to ensure that our service teams are available to assist with ongoing support. And because you're now a member of the Vitalis Family, supporting you is exactly what we do.

With 24/7 access to our technical support team, a scheduled on-site follow up in the first 6 weeks of operation (including additional training time), and the newly launched Vitalis Care program, you are backed by Vitalis’ commitment to customer success and excellence. Multiple lines of communication are available backed by the industry-leading Vitalis service team standing ready to help, so you can rest assured knowing that your extraction system is supported by the global leader in CO2 extraction solutions.

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CO2 Extraction Without Winterization

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Carbon dioxide (CO2) is an excellent choice of solvent for extraction of natural compounds. The technology has been used successfully in commercial applications for over 40 years, including hop extraction, herb and spice extraction, oilseed extraction, and coffee decaffeination. CO2 is non-flammable, non-toxic, cheap, and readily available in large quantities at high purity. The extraction process is carried out at near-ambient temperature preventing damage to heat-sensitive compounds, and small changes in process temperature and/or pressure can result in large changes to solubility.

For these reasons, the cannabis industry has adopted CO2 extraction as an ideal method for cannabis oil processing. Cannabis is an extremely complex plant containing over 550 unique chemicals identified to date, including cannabinoids, terpenes, phenols, flavonoids, fatty acids, pigments, and other miscellaneous compounds. Typically, the cannabinoid and terpene fractions collectively make up approximately 10-30% of the mass of buds. Though the larger residual fraction contains many beneficial compounds, it is the cannabinoid and terpene fraction that the industry is focused on for extraction and purification.

UNDERSTANDING WINTERIZATION

In a typical CO2 extraction, extraction parameters can be tuned to produce crude oil that contains 45-80% cannabinoids and terpenes. The remaining portion will consist of co-extracted components from the feedstock that are either highly soluble in CO2 at the given processing parameters; or, have low solubility but are easily accessible and co-extracted with limited mass transfer resistance. A process called winterization can be employed to remove the co-extracted fraction. In this process, the extracted crude oil is mixed with another solvent and exposed to cold temperature to precipitate some amount of the undesirable co-extracted solids. The solids are then separated from the liquid through a filtration process, yielding what is known in the industry as a “winterized oil.” Depending on the desired outcome of the process, the oil may be further processed or purified or formulated directly into retail products.

Winterization can be a time-consuming process and can be a rate-limiting step in some cannabis processing operations. Because of this, many manufacturers are touting equipment that can eliminate the need for this additional process. However, these claims generally cloud the truth by avoiding discussion of the pros and cons.

Can winterization be minimized or eliminated? The answer is yes, but a better question to ask is should it be? Read on for some tips on reducing winterization in CO2 extraction.

You get what you put in.
In general, extracting feedstock with a high content of desirable constituents will yield an extract with a high content of desirable constituents (provided these constituents are easily extractable). In other words, starting with high-potency, terpene-rich cannabis feedstock will yield a crude extract containing a high cannabinoid and terpene content. Conversely, starting with a low potency low terpene feedstock (i.e. trim or industrial hemp) will yield an extract with a higher content of non-cannabinoid, non-terpene material that will likely require winterization.

Material Preparation.
Reducing particle size will increase the mass of feedstock that can fit into a given volume (increase density) and increase the extraction efficiency by reducing the distance the solvent must travel to reach the center of a particle. However, reducing particle size ruptures plant cells and exposes their interior contents to the solvent. This increases the likelihood of coextraction of undesirables, which require removal using winterization.

Extraction Parameters.
One of the benefits of CO2 extraction is tuneability; solvent power is affected by changes in CO2 temperature and density. Thus, extraction parameters can be tuned to favor the extraction of a compound or groups of compounds with similar chemical properties. For example, Perrotin-Brunel et al (2010) examined the solubility of pure THC in CO2 and found that at extraction pressures lower than 2175 psi, THC solubility decreased with increasing temperature (density-dependent), and at pressures higher than 2175 psi, THC solubility increased with increasing temperature (temperature dependent).

Many cannabis processors choose to use cold (<60 F), low pressure (<1200 psi) liquid CO2, as terpenes are highly miscible under these conditions. Liquid CO2 is very dense, having low selectivity and high solvent power towards high molecular weight compounds. Further, the solubility of major cannabinoids in CO2 at these parameters is low, so more solvent contact is needed and thus, more time is required if cannabinoid extraction is the goal.

Alternative Separation Methods.
There are alternative methods of separation that do not involve traditional winterization techniques. As with many technologies used in the cannabis industry, many have been adopted from other industries. Decantation, for example, can be used to separate immiscible liquids with different densities. In the food industry, a centrifuge is used to separate cream from skimmed milk. Another example would include nanofiltration, which can filter fats from oil without the need to first freeze and precipitate the fats as solids.

Not all products require winterization.
Perhaps the goal of the manufacturer is to make a “broad-spectrum” oil that contains all the components, plant fats and waxes included, originally extracted from the plant material. Such an extract would most closely resemble the chemical makeup of the original plant material. Raw crude extract can either be packaged as-is or diluted with a carrier oil to achieve a desired cannabinoid concentration. Typical products would include capsules, tinctures, and syringes.

Extraction without winterization is possible, but its application to business processes is reliant on the feedstock, preparation, and parameters. Alternative extraction methods provide some options, while product options provide more. However, in the typical day-to-day world of CO2 extraction, companies need to be sure that their end goals are compatible with the requirements and outcomes of a winterization-free process. If somebody tells you that winterization isn’t required, be sure you are clear on the intended results.

If you need more information on extraction, with or without winterization, the Vitalis science team is able to help. Work with a team of experts that can back up their claims with science and data; a team that consistently assists customers in understanding the nuances of extraction and processing.

References:
Perrotin-Brunel, H. et al. 2010. Solubility of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol in supercritical carbon dioxide. The Journal of Supercritical Fluids 52: 6-10.

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Ancillary Selection: Important Decisions For Your Business

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Turnkey is a common phrase in most industries. By definition, it's a complete product or service, ready for immediate use. For many, the "ready for immediate use" is the biggest draw, and in a society that values time and instant gratification, the idea of having a solution ready to go right out of the box is attractive.

But, when moving into more technical areas, “turnkey solution” is just another buzz phrase. In situations with multiple variables and factors, using a cookie-cutter solution can have more cons than pros. As carpenters often say, "measure twice, cut once", and in the case of technical solutions, it is usually wiser to spend time up front to get the right solution, rather than choosing Combo A over Combo B and hoping it fits.

When it comes to ancillary equipment in the extraction industry, this couldn't be more true. From initial grinding to final refinement, there are several different products that could be used, and the combination required for real success isn't likely to be found in a single, pre-packaged solution.

KNOW YOUR PRODUCT

The first question that should be answered when examining ancillary equipment is "what do I want to make". The product decision will have the greatest impact on the type of equipment needed in your processing lab.

Using a CO2 extraction system will result in a crude oil that is generally usable right from the start. Of course, many processors want to refine that oil in order to create other, more marketable products with various concentrations.

Knowing the product you want to create can help guide the ancillary process. The more refinement required, the more equipment will be necessary. As well, understanding exactly where waste can be reduced and where profit is maximized within a particular business can greatly affect what types of equipment should be employed, and at what costs.

VOLUME

Another variable that needs to be taken into consideration is the volume of biomass to be processed. The more volume, the greater the amount of product produced, the more that needs to be processed, and so on.

With a turnkey solution, the chances of having equipment that doesn't meet the needs of your capacity is increased. Certainly, having equipment that can’t easily process your quantities of oil can create bottlenecks, impact profits and result in frustration. Conversely, spending thousands of dollars on equipment that is far too big for your needs is just simply wasted spend and will delay a positive return on investment.

When deciding on ancillary equipment, be realistic about your capacity and goals, and work on a solution that will appropriately meet your needs both now and for the future.

FACILITY & LOCATION

Ancillary equipment takes up space. Depending on the size and layout of your lab, you may require different types of equipment, or need to examine options to utilize your square footage in the most efficient ways. Proper layout and design of your lab space can improve opportunities for positive returns and assists with workflow.

More than just your layout, the actual geographic location of the lab can have a huge impact on your ancillary needs. Regulations vary state by state, county by county, and town by town. What works in one location could be illegal in another and create huge obstacles for operations. Knowing the local regulations can impact what types of equipment are needed, the engineering of the room, and even the volumes of solvent that are allowed.
Selecting the right equipment to use in your facilities is an integral step, and a fitting solution isn't likely to be found in an out-of-the-box combination.

MAKING THE RIGHT CHOICE

Working with consultants and experts is a great first step to take when choosing ancillary pieces. A knowledgeable resource can help you navigate the challenges of product, volume, facility and location, and eliminate disappointment down the road. There's no worse feeling than uncrating your equipment, only to find it won't meet your needs or help you reach your goals.

At Vitalis, our ancillary team evaluates and works with multiple vendors to help our clients get the right equipment, every time. By having an idea of your product goals, volume needs, and the local regulations in your area, you'll ensure that our team has the correct information to formulate an optimal solution that will work for you. In an area where cookie cutter solutions aren't appropriate, a real turnkey solution is a custom-planned ancillary program, facilitated by an expert team.

To speak with somebody about your lab design and ancillary needs, contact our Ancillary Sales Team.

5 Tips to Improve Efficiency

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In today’s marketplace there are several products and treatments produced from botanical oil extraction. Outside of cannabis, there are lucrative markets in rose, mint, sea buckthorn, and lavender oil extracts, and the market is continuing to grow and evolve as more research is conducted on their health benefits.

To get the most out of your extraction efforts and maximize the return on your equipment investment, there are a few simple things that can be done. The following five tips will help operators improve extraction efficiency and help keep the equipment in top working order.

1. Preventative Maintenance and Cleaning

Follow regular preventative maintenance (PM) and cleaning schedules. A well-maintained machine will result in better efficiency and less un-scheduled downtime.

2. Testing

Know what proportion of target compounds are extracted and what proportion are left behind. Understanding inputs and outputs allows operators to maximize efficiency and reduce processing times.

3. Pre-Processing: Decarboxylation

Decarboxylation of feedstock material before processing will increase extraction efficiency as non-acid-form cannabinoids have a higher solubility in supercritical CO2. This will also help to remove water from the extraction process which can affect machine performance, efficiency, and output quality.

4. Pre-Processing: Grinding

Reducing grind size will increase the mass of feedstock that can fit into a given volume. Further, the distance solvent must travel to reach the center of a particle is decreased, making it easier for target compounds to make their way into solution.

5. Follow Manufacturer’s Instructions

Operating equipment outside of the manufacturer’s recommended specifications may damage the equipment or lead to downtime. Make sure to familiarize yourself with the user manual published by the manufacturers.

 

As well, education and training are important. Take advantage of learning opportunities provided by the manufacturer to get familiar with the equipment, and ensure you’re following proper operation techniques and best practices.

By following these tips, you are taking steps to get the most out of your extraction equipment. If you have any questions about how your machine is functioning, what you can do to improve operation, or if you’d like to learn more, reach out to the Vitalis Service Department.

The Process from Plant to Product

Understanding the Process

There are a lot of steps required in putting together a successful processing business.

Learn more about pre-processing, extraction, post-processing, and what equipment you'll need in this handy infographic providing a simple overview of the process and equipment involved, from cultivation to final product.

Extraction and Ancillary Process

Still have questions?

Contact the team at Vitalis

We can equip you with the products and resources you'll need to succeed.

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