Leading the Way – Eden Labs Brings Precision and Safety to the New Cannabis Era
For almost 25 years, Eden Labs has been a pivotal innovator in botanical extraction and distillation processes. Now the company is in the perfect spot to drive more advancements in the emerging cannabis market.
It’s a brave new world for botanical extractions and in particular, cannabinoid extractions. With Canada’s recent legalization of cannabis, there is now a large and growing new market of consumers that would have been unthinkable just 10 years ago.
As products move into the mainstream and demand is on the rise, it’s the extraction processes of cannabinoids and their distillation that is driving the variety and complexity of cannabis-related products available today – everything from edibles to perfumes and cosmetics.
At the epicenter of botanical extraction and distillation is the Seattle-based Eden Labs, the industry trailblazer, designing precision equipment for producing plant-based therapies for over two decades. More than an equipment manufacturer, CEO A.C. Braddock explains, Eden Labs is a full-on R&D company that makes top-of-the-line equipment for speed, purity and high yield to support product development for botanicals.
“Our engineering reflects the optimal methodology for extraction and distillation of targeted botanical compounds,” Braddock says. Clearly, it’s all about the science.
As the cannabis industry ramps up, producers are also scaling up their operations and looking for larger volume equipment. Eden Labs is becoming the go-to for industrial-size equipment, like its Hi-Flo™ FX2 2 x 20-liter model. In fact, it’s Eden Labs’ capacity to scale up its equipment to larger volumes – without compromising on precise measurement – that puts the company firmly in the sweet spot of the rapidly growing industry.
Founded by Fritz Chess, a former science writer, in 1994, Eden Labs is the result of his pursuit to refine how botanicals could be extracted and purified to cure disease. Chess started conducting experiments with different plants and his own extraction methods but found that the equipment on the market was not nearly precise enough, so he developed his own to help propel his research.
His trademarked Coldfinger™ tabletop distillation device revolutionized the processing of botanicals and turned the industry on its ear by making extraction and distillation much more efficient while maintaining the purity of the product. That was the beginning of Eden Labs’ ingenuity for high-quality extraction machines – including the introduction of supercritical carbon dioxide (CO2) devices for clean, safe and efficient extraction.
A.C. Braddock joined Eden Labs in 2007 with a background in environmentally conscious construction and a deep interest in the healing properties of botanicals. She took the company forward in 2009 as concentrates were becoming more common. The unregulated market was looking for the most inexpensive extraction methods, like using butane, which was often unstable. “There were explosions and maiming, and the end products were not being properly purged to take all the solvents out,” Braddock says. “It was a very dirty, dangerous process and the media was having a field day with it and making all concentrates look dangerous and unsafe.”
She saw it as a crossroads where Eden Labs could lead the way with scientifically tested and precise equipment to provide not only a better end product for consumers, but a safer method for people on the production side. That meant a move to only market Eden’s CO2 and ethanol systems. Unlike toxic solvents that can take many hours to purge the solvent trapped in the oil during extraction, CO2 delivers a clean, quality oil with little-to-no post-processing. CO2 is also a sanitizing agent that prolongs shelf life and, with the proper system and environment, yields food- and medical-grade oils.
Back in 2009, Eden Labs was the only company producing large scale and industrial equipment, so the move set the direction for the industry. As Braddock says, “Legalization on a medical platform won’t continue unless producers work together to put clean, safe practices in place throughout the nutraceutical industries.”
Now Eden Labs has been recognized as one of the top 10 fastest growing women-led companies in Seattle, and Braddock chairs the National Cannabis Industry Association and serves as VP of Washington state’s largest trade organization, The Cannabis Alliance. She sees several lanes of opportunity for the industry, but also some important challenges that need to be faced.
The first lane will be medical, driven by research into disease prevention, cures and pain management. The second is recreational or, as Braddock likes to refer to it, the lifestyle path. We are already seeing the impact and growth of this lane in Canada and in states that have legalized recreational cannabis. The third lane is the nutraceutical supplement lane. “And the thing that will drive all of those will be women and people over 50,” she says.
Women alone make up to 86 percent of the decisions for their families. And what’s very interesting is that both women and people over 50 care very much about how something was made and where it was made. “They want to know the mission behind a company and they are also willing to pay more to support one that has ethical business practices. So hopefully that will reinforce the industry as a whole to go down responsible pathways,” says Braddock.
The biggest challenge in cannabis is the role that women will play in leadership positions. In 2015, women represented almost 36 percent of the CEOs and ownership in cannabis companies. That number has dropped by nearly 10 percent in the past two years. Braddock points to research done on the correlation between the $58M to $1M disparity in investment money given to men over women across all industries and the role of women in leadership. As markets for cannabis products receive new windfalls of investment money, the opportunity for women decreases as more capital is required to enter the market. “Unless people start supporting these women, the balance in this industry is going to go away.”
Now that Canada has taken the game-changing step of becoming the first G7 country in the world to legalize recreational cannabis, pent-up demand is so strong that in some regions, suppliers can’t keep up. Eden Labs, with a diverse team of about 30 employees, is helping close this supply gap by supplying the large-scale equipment producers need – including the high-volume 6,000-liter supercritical CO2 extraction equipment – which none of the company’s competitors can do.
And while there is a lot of enthusiasm about this large-scale growth, there are also growing pains, Braddock says. “Some people get into this industry, and they think, ‘Wow, let’s grow some pot!’ But once they grow all this pot, they don’t know what they are going to do with it. You would not believe the number of people who say, ‘we’ve got two tons of cannabis and we need to extract it.’ I’ll say, ‘Great, when?’ That’s when they tell me, ‘We just harvested, so right now!’ It makes for an exciting life.”
While the pace of change continues to speed up, it’s nice to know that customers are still looking to the same things they always have: quality products and confidence in the people behind them.
When you ask Braddock about the one thing she is most proud of, she will say it is Eden Labs’ reputation. “For me, my proudest moment is when someone comes up to me and says, ‘someone told me to call you because Eden has the most reliable systems that make the best oil and your customer service is legendary.’ I live for that.”