CFN Media Interviews Guy Setton of GemmaCert
July 11th, 2018
Laboratory testing is already a critical component of the legal cannabis market. Producers are expected to maintain rigorous standards in order to prevent sub-standard products from reaching the end consumer. GemmaCert is a table-top testing device that analyzes cannabis flowers in a smart way in order to achieve an accurate potency reading – without the need to grind a single bud or send a sample to a third-party lab. The sleek and easy-to-use unit is disrupting the cannabis space by allowing anyone to analyze their flowers within a matter of minutes. The company recently announced a new funding round, seeking to raise an additional $5-6 million (US), having already raised $3 million to date.
CFN Media sat down with GemmaCert Co-founder and CEO Guy Setton at the recent Terpenes and Testing World Conference to learn more about the company’s innovative device and how it is could be a game-changer throughout the cannabis supply chain.
CFN Media: How was GemmaCert developed?
Guy Setton: We knew from the beginning that we wanted to do something in the analytical side of the cannabis industry because we understood that current laboratory potency tests are lengthy and costly, making multiple tests impractical. By contrast, FDA approved spectral examination methods offer a quick and cost-effective way to leverage multiple tests.
Cannabinoid content varies widely, even within a single commercial crop. Research has documented this variability but a casual survey of products for legal sale shows that cannabis doesn’t lend itself to potency standardization. It’s well known that potency differs between cannabis strains but, in fact, potency varies between plants of the same crop and even between flowers taken from the same plant. So, the concentrations of the active ingredients of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) in an individual commercial batch range widely.
We decided to add apply NIR-spectroscopy, along with image analysis, to overcome the need to prepare a sample for analysis. With multiple sensors, we’re scanning the flower in a comprehensive manner, and that’s how we’re overcoming the need to grind the flower.
CFN: Who can benefit from owning a GemmaCert unit?
GS: Everyone along the supply-chain who is growing, buying or selling cannabis can benefit from a GemmaCert device. First, there are growers out there who want to have in-house testing capabilities for their own QA/QC and for their own breeding, and as well to know what they’re sending off to the market. At the end of the day when you look at all the tests that cannabis flowers have to go through, the only one that determines the price and use of a product is potency. All the other tests determine whether or not a product can go-to market. Potency determines the value, and therefore when you empower the grower with the ability to know what they have in their hands at any particular moment, they know how to best price the product. It becomes a critical decision-making tool.
Processors or distributors who are buying a raw material from multiple growers need this device to validate the quality of incoming goods onsite and in real-time. They can ensure the quality matches the specifications of what they desire, because the last thing they want is to over-pay for poor quality or lower than expected potency.
For dispensaries handling flowers, receiving them in bulk, and then packaging them, same case. Test what’s coming in, know what’s the value. They can also better serve their customers because if a customer walks in and wants something specific, and they can assure them what they’re giving them has been specifically tested, that ultimately boosts customer loyalty and also enables them to differentiate from other dispensaries who are not able to do so because they do not have the technology.
We’ve also had interest from medical practitioners who wish to know more about what they’re recommending for their patients. At the end of the day, if you get the potency wrong for someone who’s suffering from a chronic illness, it’s the difference between them functioning or not functioning in a given day. That’s very important.
CFN: What sets GemmaCert apart from other testing devices on the market?
GS: First of all, there’s the technology itself. The integration of multiple sensors has resulted in a proprietary hybrid solution, which avoids sample preparation and destruction. GemmaCert is easy-to-use, sparing the costs of employing skilled analytical personnel to run tests and interpret results. It is eco-friendly and does not require solvents or other unsafe additives; there are no expenses for removing hazardous waste after testing, while keeping the environment clean.
If you look at most of the solutions out there, their starting point was the analytical world, the professional lab. We came in with a device looking at the customer side – the customer being someone on the supply chain. And for them, again, what’s important is knowing what’s in the batch, not in the specific flower. When you understand that, then you understand the importance of not destroying the flower. That makes us different.
CFN: Why should potential investors consider your company?
GS: Firstly, for those who are hesitant and on the sidelines, you get exposure to the global cannabis market, without being totally immersed in it. You’re not touching the flower and there are a lot of investors out there who want that exposure but don’t want to dive in too deep. Furthermore, our proprietary technology is relevant for other herbal medications, such as Traditional Chinese Medicines, so there’s great upside potential outside the cannabis world.
We have a strong and experienced team of biotechnologists, data scientists and programmers who have successfully taken new technologies from the early idea phase through to commercialization in other industries. Our team has accumulated decades of experience throughout their careers and generally speaking, I think this sort of experience is lacking in the cannabis industry.
Inevitably, the cannabis industry is going to go down the same road that, for example, dietary supplements went. Regulators are going to require compliance with Good Manufacturing Processes (GMP) from seed to sale, which means companies will need managers with GMP expertise.. Testing will inevitably become common practice onsite as the necessity for potency and other tests increases far beyond a single laboratory test at the end of the process.
In the foreseeable future, cannabis supply chain stakeholders may be liable for potency labeling errors; and as cannabis moves into clinical acceptance, labeling will naturally be held to higher standards, as is the case in the health and nutrition industries. If pharmaceutical corporations were to sell products with active ingredient variance similar to cannabis crops, class-action lawsuits would soon arise. Accurate potency labeling will be a priority for retailers, if only for the reason of self-preservation.
At the end of the day, we believe there’s an unmet need in the market for onsite testing and we have a very well made, affordable and reliable solution that addresses this unmet need. That’s what makes GemmaCert such an interesting investment opportunity. The GemmaCert business model is to generate revenue from device sales and recurring income, which we are already doing. Investors who come in now are getting in with a company that is growing on a global scale with a steady influx of sales from North and South America, Europe, Israel and Asia. . With a focus on technology, investors also don’t have to worry about all of the regulatory obstacles that accompany businesses involved in the trade of cannabis flowers and products.
CFN: What’s next for GemmaCert?
GS: In the long term, we want to take our technology and adapt it to automated sorting and packaging lines. This industry, as it grows, will inevitably go through consolidation. Obviously, there will be always be smaller, boutique growers, but the industry will be dominated by the bigger, well funded growers. For them, economies of scale will come into play. Efficiencies will be critical for profitability. Therefore, like with mainstream agricultural crops, automation will be in high demand. We believe the ability to scan flowers in real time on a conveyor belt by their potency will become common practice by the market leaders. We see our technology enabling that automation.
From a medical perspective, every flower has a unique spectral fingerprint, which basically expresses all the compounds that exist in that flower. It’s going to take years, if not decades, for scientists to not only identify each one of those compounds, but to know what each and every one of those compounds does when consumed. We hope scientists will learn as much as possible about the flower. But until then, with our technology, we can assist the medical community in determining which variety is more or less effective for treating a specific health condition by correlating the need with the spectral fingerprints in our database.
Imagine a situation where someone walks into a dispensary and gets a product with a QR code on the packaging that contains the spectral fingerprint tested by GemmaCert. The patient scans the QR code with a smartphone app that already contains their health condition profile. The app will then generate either a green light or a red light. The green light means the spectral fingerprint of the cannabis product in their hand is similar to the spectral fingerprint they need to treat their ailment. A red light would indicate the opposite and warn the patient not to consume the product. In order to achieve this, we still need to do a lot of work with data analytics, but it’s a project we plan to advance over the coming years for the wellbeing of patients worldwide.
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