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Twisters, sealers, and giant buds: Pot expo shines light on future of cannabis

Dozens of the latest gadgets and technologies are on display at the Lift and Co. Cannabis Expo. But with so many businesses vying for a slice of the pie in this budding industry, which ones will survive?

Dozens of the latest gadgets and technologies on display — but which ones will last?

Hundreds of products were on display at the Lift and Co. Cannabis Expo, including display cases. Manufacturers look to sell these items to cannabis retailers, allowing them to showcase pot flowers to customers. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

Take two steps inside the cannabis expo and it's easy to get lost in the swath of green gadgets, gizmos, and elephant-sized machines.

The Lift and Co. Cannabis Expo has filled up the Vancouver Convention Centre in years past, but the 2019 event marks the first time it's been held in the post-legalization era.

From industrial-sized trimmers to miniature greenhouses, there is no shortage of business ventures looking to cash in on the so-called "green rush." 

If you ask Nick Pateras, enthusiasm for the budding industry is at an all-time high. "Everyone is vying for their slice of the pie," said the Lift and Co. VP of Strategy.

But even he admits there's only so many slices to go around.

Sebastian Bethell of the cannabis retailer Choom scouts out potential display cases for his stores. Among his search criteria: making sure the casing allows customers to smell the product. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

Go big or go home

Maximizing profits is the key to success for any business. And according to Keirton's Jocelyn Prefontaine, the Twister Trimmer, which it developed, is helping some of the biggest cannabis producers do just that.

Jocelyn Prefontaine, of Keirton Inc., stands in front of one of the largest industrial-scale pot trimmers on the market. Ten units have been sold across the world as producers look to ramp-up production. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

The stainless steal Goliath looks like a giant kitchen spiralizer, taking in swaths of cannabis stems and trimming off the bulk of the buds.

The Twister Trimmer T-Zero model almost works like a giant spiralizer. Workers feed large stems into a spinning grated tube which trims off the bulk of the buds. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

"The average hand trimmer — and I'm saying average — can do about a pound-and-a-half to two-pounds in an eight hour period," Prefontaine told CBC News. "This will do 500 pounds in an hour."

She says the machine is expensive, with some models costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. But she claims return on the investment comes back soon. So far, 10 have been sold worldwide, and more purchase orders are coming in.

She says companies that have the capital to purchase standard-setting technologies like the trimmer will be the ones to succeed.

"Just like any industry, [the cannabis industry] is going to grow — and then it will contract," she said. "Some major players will be the big fish, like any major industry,"

This machine is called Vitalis Q-Series Extraction System and converts bulk cannabis into CBD, also known as cannabidiol, and THC oils, using carbon dioxide as a solvent. Carbon dioxide is considered a cleaner alternative to other solvents like butane and ethanol. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)
Jaesin Hammer, Marketing Specialist for Vitalis Extraction Technology, is buried behind the pipes of the cannabis oil extractor — which can convert over one hundred pounds of raw product into oils in a single day. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

Strategic partners

Sometimes getting the inside track on your competitors means saddling up with a strategic partner.

That's exactly what Lyle Oberg and the Flowr Corporation did.

The Kelowna-based marijuana producer recently signed an agreement to supply medical cannabis to Shoppers Drug Mart, with products soon to be available online and eventually at the pharmacy, pending federal regulations.

Lyle Oberg, chief policy and medical officer for Flowr, stands next to a giant bud at the Lift and Co. Cannabis Expo. With many companies seeking cannabis production licences from the government, he thinks only those with superior products will survive. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

"If you're going to be buying medicinal marijuana, Shoppers is certainly the place you want to go to, because you can trust them" said Oberg, Flowr's chief policy and medical officer.

Oberg admits there's been supply hiccups with the rollout of legal cannabis. But when the dust settles, he says there's going to be one major factor that separates the winners from the losers: quality.

"Whoever markets it the best, whoever can grow it — and whoever can grow quality — are the one's that are going to win."

The Flowr Corporation, which displayed these giant buds at the expo, is one of several cannabis producers that have partnered with Shopper's Drug Mart to provide medical marijuana. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

Trust your instincts

Food equipment sales manager Wes Lund has spent much of his career showcasing gadgets that are useful in the kitchen — in particular, the famed Henkelman vacuum food sealer.

And as the cannabis wave picked up steam, the 29-year-old knew the patented sealer would also work to improve the shelf-life of marijuana buds.

Wesley Lund, Sales Manager at GBS Food Service Equipment, says vacuum sealers that have been used to preserve food are also being used by major cannabis producers. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

"I wrote a report to the boss saying 'get me a booth' [at one of the cannabis expos]," he said. "He got me a booth, and it's been nothing but success since."

For two years, Lund has pushed the patented sealer into the cannabis realm. He says in order for people to succeed in the industry, they need to trust their instincts — and be ready to put in the work.

"Some of the biggest guys here use this product — I can't say who ... but some of the golden sponsors here use this product," he said.


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