Where Innovators Meet Investors—The Annual Emerald Scientific Conference


Mark Collins

March 11th, 2019

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Sunny San Diego hosted this year’s 5thannual Emerald Scientific Conference – one of the industry’s marquee events.  The Emerald Conference is a highlight in the increasingly crowded cannabis events calendar.

This year’s conference was again San Diego where it has resided recently since the conference’s original inception in San Francisco in 2015. CFN Media caught up with Emerald Scientific’s president Wes Burk at this year’s event.

From humble origins of a handful of people at their first conference, Emerald Scientific’s conference has grown each exponentially in size and scope. In fact according to Burk, it has doubled in size each year.

Burk said the conference was originally intended to simply connect scientific companies to cannabis companies seeking scientific equipment but evolved from that point to meet the needs of the industry.

According to their own literature, the Emerald Conference is the longest running and most technical conference in the cannabis science sector. Emerald Conference brings together top industry scientific, extraction, production, and cultivation professionals, cutting-edge scientific companies, visionary business and technical professionals in a collaborative environment that fosters groundbreaking advancements enabled by connections.

The conference is both scientific and technical, but also has the all the businesses associated with the science of cannabis attending too.  For the conference’s scientific standards, Emerald Scientific have appointed professional science director and advisors who coordinate and oversee the sessions.  Their Scientific Director, Dr. John Abrams as well other the leading science advisors ensure the conference is at a world class standard.

Arguably, Emerald Scientific can now be called the premier scientific and technical conference in the global cannabis industry with almost 800 attendees this year in San Diego.

I had picked up the buzz surrounding the conference.  Not being a scientist myself and being in the cannabis industry since 2016, I was only vaguely aware of this conference.  As I learned more, I was impressed that these year’s key note speakers included some very dynamic people.

Speakers included Jessica Kristof, M.Sci, VP of Research and Development, Phylos, Kalev Freeman, M.D., Ph.D., Co-Founder, CASE Institute, Monica Vialpando, Ph.D., Founder, Vialpando LLC, Chris Hudalla, Co-Founder & Chief Scientific Officer, ProVerde Laboratories, and Swetha Kaul, Chief Scientific Officer, Cannalysis

Before attending, in my mind at least, Emerald was an important conference where all the key scientific officers of companies and the PhD’s in the lab side of the industry would disappear and congregate each year to discuss, explore and advance the science of cannabis.

However, having attended this year’s conference, I noticed it’s much, much more than just a science of cannabis conference.  Many of the key CEO’s of the industry were attending the event to learn about the innovations in cannabis – but were not speaking at the event.  Also, I noticed too that many of the investors in cannabis who also subscribe to CannabisFN were there too.  I thought maybe the sunny weather or San Diego’s fame as a biotech explained the high-profile attendees.

I slowly realized to my own astonishment that not only is Emerald Scientific conference about the science of cannabis, Emerald Scientific Conference is where important cannabis investors meet cutting edge cannabis innovators.  I was intrigued to learn more.

Core to the Emerald Conference’s success is the origin story of the business.  Dialing back the clock to 2013, Wes Burk, a successful entrepreneur and expert business scaler, got chatting to his neighbor Ken Snoke,an expert in lab equipment. Together, they both found cannabis companies struggling to find cannabis scientific supplies, let alone FDA approvals and guidelines. Because of the limiting federal legislation, it was incredibly challenging for cannabis companies back then to scale their labs and get basic chemicals and equipment. They also discovered too that there was no real forum for scientific discussions in cannabis.

From that was born Emerald Scientific equipment and later, the Emerald Scientific Conference to foster knowledge and ideas exchange for cannabis science, innovative ideas and research.  They found a major need and filled it.  So was the Emerald Scientific Conference born.

But that significant growth now comes with challenges for Burk and his team: namely how to maintain the intimacy of a science-based almost residential event. Intimacy in the sense where people can do business in an around the conference as well as attend the plenary sessions.  But at the same time there’s a need to grow to accommodate the exploding growth of the cannabis industry.  Burk said that profiting from the conference is secondary to Emerald Scientific’s primary business of selling equipment to the industry.  Burk said that Emerald Scientific started their conference for several reasons: it would potentially be good for business; they’d meet industry players and better still, encourage collaboration and networking in the cannabis industry.

Wes Burk president of Emerald Scientific with Mark Collins of CannabisFN at the fifth annual Emerald Conference that took place  Feb. 27 through March 1, 2019 in San Diego. (Authors photo)

I bumped into Raymond Navis and got his take on the event.  Owner of the eponymous RWNavis & Associates, Raymond is one of the leading search & recruitment leaders in cannabis as well as a financial media journalist. I asked what made the event special for him as a frequent conference goer. ‘’It’s a combination of things’’.  Navis listed off some insights.  ‘’The event is very professionally run; a beautiful setting right on San Diego Bay. Attendees seemed genuinely interested in the interaction between each other which was non-stop for the duration. The relatively remote location kept conference attendees together throughout the event.’’

The fifth annual Emerald Conference took place from Feb. 27 through March 1, 2019 in San Diego. Pictured from left Jeffrey Stanger, ITB Solutions Canada ; A.C. Braddock, CEO Eden Labs and Raymond Navis, Managing Partner R.W. Navis & Associates. (Author’s photo)

A.C. Braddock of Eden Labs, a market leader in cannabis extraction equipment concurred: ‘’having an event this size and scope is perfect – not too large but not too small.’’

Another attendee, Jeffrey Stanger from Canadian capital markets specialists ITB Solutions, felt the conference was a big success ‘’Where else can you meet scientists and businesses from cannabis together in such an amazing location?’’

As Burk darted in and out of our interview to open various sessions of the conference and attended to his nearly 800 guests, I asked him what’s next for Emerald Scientific and their Conference. “This year in we have nearly 800 attendees,” said Burk. “The conference has grown quite a bit, but it’s a constant challenge to keep it a boutique conference.” I also asked him about any plans for more expansion of his organization.  He said ‘’Emerald Scientific are growing internationally, and we expect to expand into European Union, Spain as well as the Americas.’’  When asked whether any of CannabisFN subscribers could invest in Emerald Scientific he said that was definitely on the cards.  ‘’We are expanding and as our strategy evolves so no doubt so too will our funding needs.’’

As I roamed around the event like a discoverer of a new world, I dropped into several of the plenary sessions and found they were very accessible even for a regular business person such as myself.  As I left the venue into the balmy San Diego evening, the breakthroughs and developments being discussed made me ever more confident that with groups like these in our industry the sky is truly the limit for the global cannabis industry.

CFN Media has the largest financial network in the cannabis industry including CannabisFN.com

Mark Collins

About Mark Collins

Mark Collins is the VP of Business Development at CFN Media. Before joining the cannabis industry in 2016, Mark was global managing director of in-home coffee machines at Jacobs Douwe Egberts. During his time in cannabis, Mark started up several successful cannabis companies before joining CFN Media. At CFN Media, Mark helps companies seeking capital to achieve outstanding results using CFN Media's own media platforms. Mark holds his MBA from London Business School and lives with his family in California.


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