Powerful In-House Testing and Analytics: 4 Applications for Cannabis Producers

by | Aug 25, 2022

Written by Jessica McKeil

Jessica McKeil is a cannabis writer and B2B content marketer living in British Columbia, Canada. Her focus on cannabis tech, scientific breakthroughs, and extraction has led to bylines with Cannabis & Tech Today, Terpenes and Testing, Analytical Cannabis, and Grow Mag among others. She is the owner and lead-writer of Sea to Sky Content, which provides content and strategy to the industry’s biggest brands.

The global cannabis testing market hit $1.35 billion in 2021. With new legal markets popping up on every continent, plus the promise of US federal regulation, this industry is predicted to expand at 19.8 percent CAGR by 2028 (Bloomberg).

Alongside the more traditional third-party lab testing required in regulated markets, in-house testing and analytics is witnessing a similar rise in service. Cultivators, extractors, phenohunters, and other stakeholders are investing in their own on-site testing capacities.

No one is seeking to replace the mandated third-party testing. Instead, cannabis producers strive to dial in processes, make smarter purchasing decisions, and increase operational efficiencies. The argument for in-house testing and analytics is now stronger than ever.

In the Cannabis Industry, Knowledge is Power

If you purchase cannabis or hemp biomass on the open market, you need to know what you are buying. If you work with CBD, you need to know it’s compliant. If you extract, you need to know extraction efficiency/mass balance to dial in your equipment.

In essence, if you work in a cannabis (or cannabinoid) touching role, you need to know what you are working with.

That’s the argument made by Orange Photonics, one of only a handful of companies bringing accurate testing technology to cultivators, breeders, extractors, and buyers.

Their flagship product, the LightLab 3, is a portable, high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) device that analyzes cannabinoids and terpenes — but without requiring a skilled lab tech.

Dylan Wilks, Chief Technology Officer at Orange Photonics, explained, “If you don’t test, then you don’t know.” For those companies dedicated to efficient production of high-quality products, Wilks says, “It’s really difficult to do that without some kind of in-house testing and analytics — whether it’s a Light Lab or even your own HPLC. Having that testing capability is really good insurance.”

With competition heating up, market prices in upheaval, and the ever-ominous federal regulation hanging over everyone’s head, in-house testing and analytics offers stakeholders unprecedented insight into what they are working with.

4 Applications for In-House Testing and Analytics for Cannabis Producers

1. Pheno-Hunting

In a market constantly seeking new and exciting phytochemical expressions, breeders are always searching for new cultivars worthy of their attention. And the work doesn’t stop with the initial discovery.

Phenohunters then refine their discoveries through cycle after cycle of breeding. As a result, it can take more than a dozen cycles to reach a point where the profile is ready for public release.

Easy access to accurate data on phytochemical profiles can drive genetic selection and subsequent breeding programs.

2. Open Market Purchases

As an extractor, have you ever questioned the quality of what’s available on the open market? One false or inaccurate test could cost you a hefty price should the CBD or THC be several percentage points off what the seller is reporting.

While it’s always possible to send a sample to an accredited lab before purchase, there is too much competition in specific markets to grant this time allowance. By the time the results come through three to four days later, that same batch may have been snatched up by your competitors.

Real-time testing that can be completed on-site confirms — or denies — the accuracy of the seller’s data. It reduces the risk of open market biomass purchasing.

In Wilks’ experience, Orange Photonics’ extraction customers specifically report that the LightLab paid for itself after a single use in their purchasing decisions. Every decimal point influences market value, and with thousands of pounds of raw material on the line, inaccuracies can become costly.

in-house testing and analytics

3. In-House Testing and Analytics for Better Compliance Assurance

Compliance is the most significant concern for CBD, Delta-8, and other hemp-derived cannabidiol producers. From testing the raw material to the many stages of extraction to the potency of the final product, on-site testing for compliance ensures your entire facility falls under the strict legal measurement of hemp (0.3 percent THC) — at all times.

For hemp farmers, the value of testing is even more apparent. It allows cultivators to monitor the THC content from the field in real-time. Watch for THC spikes, measure CBD content, and most importantly, know the results well before you send it off to an accredited lab. In this case, knowledge keeps you compliant and gives you peace of mind.

4. Preparation for Federal Regulation and GMP Certification

If the federal government does follow through with eventual regulation — and we are all still holding our collective breath for the FDA’s guidance on CBD — good manufacturing practices (GMP) will likely follow suit. After all, it’s the foundation of other highly regulated industries, like pharmaceuticals.

According to the ISPE, the main tenets of GMP cover “record keeping, personnel qualifications, sanitation, cleanliness, equipment verification, process validation, and complaint handling.” Routine testing throughout the cannabis cultivation and extraction process fits neatly into this picture of verification, validation, and compliance.

Simple In-House Testing and Analytics Drive a Better Cannabis Industry

In-house testing and analytics is a growing requirement for any stakeholder operating in the cannabis industry. But until recently, it required significant investment into analytical equipment and human resources. Not everyone has the technical know-how to operate an HPLC — but now, they don’t need it.

With new technologies like the LightLab 3 bringing straightforward liquid chromatography into cultivation and extraction facilities, the cannabis industry only improves. It means stakeholders have the tools to make risk-free purchasing decisions, improve and refine their processes, and ultimately produce a better, safer, final product.