One of the most common questions that we’re asked at Precision® is, “How much material will my lab be able to process per shift?” While the question may seem simple on the surface, the answer is much more complicated with a variety of factors coming into play.
The easy part of the analysis begins with the size of the extractor, solvent being used and power of the recovery pump, which is pretty straightforward. Thereafter, the two most determinative factors of production capacity are i) input material density and ii) operator experience.
INPUT MATERIAL DENSITY
Cannabis input material can vary greatly in its inherent traits and characteristics. Densities range from a fluffy as a cotton ball to almost as dense as a rock, with the majority of material falling somewhere in the middle.
Add to this matrix of characteristics varying moisture levels (which can add or up four times the dry weight if fresh frozen) coupled with different methods of harvesting and material preparation, and you can see how the answering the question of yield and throughput becomes compounded into more of an analytical matrix.
The moisture content of fresh frozen material will be as close to 100% as you are going to get. This will not only make the weight of the material 4 times as heavy as dried material, but the yield to weight ratio will also be effected. Very specific processes for live resin production need to be followed in order to have an efficient production, and since most labs have multiple output products from multiple input materials, calculating the total production of a facility becomes more complicated.
Most labs also take in a variety of other input materials such as dried flowers (with greatly varying densities) and dry trim. General moisture levels from these products can range in the 5-30% range with greatly varying densities. However, with the proper material preparation (which may consist of grinding and drying) a more universal stability is reached with dried material. It is crucial to have an operator who is experienced and fully understands these variables.
Looking at the above data from an objective standpoint, one must intimately understand the input material of an operation to accurately calculate throughput. Because material changes harvest to harvest and batch to batch, it is always prudent to play it on the safe side and invest in more production capacity than is needed. The initial upfront cost will pay for itself ten-fold over in the first year of a professionally run operation.
Trying to define the experience level of a cannabis extraction technician operating your lab seems like a simple and clear-cut process. You just take them at their word when you hire them right? Wrong. The skill sets of a highly competent operator need to be refined over time, and as technology and methodology develops, so must their skillset evolve, or be left behind. So what does it take to be considered an “experienced operator?”
The first thing to look for is general experience level. It is best to find an operator with at least 2,000+ hours (a year of full-time extraction) operational experience on professional closed loop extraction systems.
This doesn’t mean just turning valves. You should look for someone with a vast variety of competencies including column packing, material preparation, and post processing procedures. Unfortunately, such birds of a rare feather are increasingly hard to find in such a demanding market, and highly experienced operators will command a commensurate salary to match their skillset.
Short of finding a rare and highly qualified operator. The absolute best alternative is professional extraction training for your staff. Failing to provide the very best training is paramount importance to achieving your company’s goals. The bottom line being, skilled operators are crucial in the success of your extraction business.
To put the above pieces together in a simplified format, the entire technical team at Precision® sat down with the nation’s top lab operators to come up with a yield matrix chat to make sense of production capacity. Please use the following as a general guideline for starting or planning a lab with Precision® PX equipment.
As can be seen by the above, startup operations need to not only understand material density, but also have highly trained personnel to have a full understanding of production capacity to achieve operational goals. Consequently, as much effort should be put into building a highly competent production team as choosing the highest quality professional extraction equipment for your project.